- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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One of the latest skirmishes in the ongoing standoff between fans of New York's two NFL franchises was sparked this offseason by two simple initials: "L" and "T."
For Giants fans, with infinitely more Super Bowl titles than the Jets in the past 40 years, those letters will always refer to venerable and combustible linebacker Lawrence Taylor. The problem started when trade rumors began flying about running back LaDainian Tomlinson possibly coming to the Jets. Fans of the Jets on Twitter, which limits comments to 140 characters, started abbreviating Tomlinson's name.
Hey now, said Giants fans via cyberspace, how about showing a little respect and calling Tomlinson LDT or LT2? Too late. It was LT's numbers versus TJ's -- as in Thomas Jones, the back whom Tomlinson replaced. It just had a ring to it, though one Jets fan said he could relate to Giants loyalists.
"Don't be calling their quarterback Broadway Eli," said Erik Manassy, who runs the JetsTwit blog.
The LT takeover is but one of the ways the Jets and their tribe of followers have tweaked the Giants in recent history. It leaves New York's NFC team in the predicament of being upstaged by a franchise it has been pretty well able to ignore for the last 30 years, except when the rent was due.
Which of the two will generate more buzz once training camp arrives? It's so close, you might as well flip a coin -- making sure a representative of each team is there to witness the outcome.
Let's outline the way the Jets were able to close the image gap. Gang Green added a coach in Rex Ryan who predicted his team would visit President Barack Obama in the White House, went to the AFC championship in his first season, was caught on camera flipping off some dude in Florida and had lap-band surgery to lose weight.
Whatcha got, Tom Coughlin? What up, son?
If Coughlin wants a headline in this town he'll have to employ some mild profanity for starters, maybe consider developing a medical condition, because the ante has officially been upped.
Ryan isn't the only personality on the Jets. The team traded up to get a marquee name in quarterback Mark Sanchez, who made his shirtless debut with a pictorial in GQ, winning over the ladies but inadvertently giving his teammates material to mock him with for years.
On the Giants, the hard-living, brash-talking LT has been replaced by players like quarterback Eli Manning, who is polite and mild-mannered and zzzzzzzz, what was I saying? Right, Manning isn't about to guarantee a Super Bowl victory.
"He's a mayo sandwich," says Jets fan Naomi Lindower. "When he comes in for a press conference you have to make sure there's enough coffee."
But Giants fans might not be so interested in having their coach act like an angry driver who just got cut off on the Cross Bronx Expressway. Coughlin and his dignity have gotten the Giants yet another Super Bowl win. Eli may not be posing on some island beachscape, but when the Giants win, he is lauded for his steadiness under pressure.
"I don't hate the Jets," says Giants fan Jason Mollica. "I mildly detest them, but they should stop talking until they win a Super Bowl."
To which a Jets fan like Lindower might say, "Weren't the Giants like 31st in defense? Honestly, I think the Jets' front office could have scored on the Giants last year."
The Giants were actually ranked 13th in the regular season in team defense, but Big Blue really did win the most high-profile honor at stake recently: hosting the first regular-season game this fall at the new Giants Stadium, or whatever they're calling it. The Giants won a coin toss, apparently held after midnight at NFL headquarters, where all participants were reportedly initiated, sworn to secrecy and given back tattoos in the shape of the late Wellington Mara.
Jets owner Woody Johnson was outraged that not a single representative of the organization, not even his caddie, was allowed to verify the outcome. Rather than seethe quietly into his cognac, Johnson had his legion of minions draft a press release and an objective news article to voice his displeasure.
That got him nowhere.
But days later word got out that his team will be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks," meaning that each inappropriate hand gesture will be filmed in HD and beamed into living rooms across America, a real boost to the Jets' image.
For Jets fans, the days of being second-class NFL citizens might be over, or at least taking a hiatus. Who needs titles like "classy organization" when you have captured the hearts of NFL fans outside your base, in a PSL year no less?
"Everybody is going green," Lindower said, adding that going blue sounds like something requiring medical attention.
Let the fireworks begin.
Jane McManus covers the NFL for ESPNNewYork.com.
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