Jay Feely knew what was coming.
He knew his three missed field goals that would’ve given the New York Giants a much-needed win over Seattle in 2005 were going to be a feeding frenzy for the always starved New York media. He knew he’d be plastered all over the back pages of the tabloids. He knew he’d be ripped on the radio.
But he didn’t know he’d be on "Saturday Night Live" – and not as the target of a skit.
The weekly satire show based in New York featured Feely’s misses in a skit titled "The Long Ride Home: The Jay Feely Story," in which host Dane Cook played Feely. At first, Feely didn’t think national humiliation was very funny – his wife did, however – and he refused to watch the skit for two weeks, until after he hit a game-winning field goal at Philadelphia.
“I kind of felt comfortable that I wasn’t going to get fired so I was able to go back and watch it,” said Feely, who played for the Jets and the Giants. “You have to be able to endure that. For me, when you fail that big and you have that kind of spotlight on you and you don’t allow it to break you, then it makes you a better player because then it takes some of that fear of failure away.
“I think from that moment, from that game and that Saturday Night Live skit on, I’ve been a much better kicker.”
Frank Sinatra was right. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
The media spotlight in New York shines brighter than any other city in the NFL – or the country, for that matter – and two Cardinals have experienced it first-hand. Feely and safety
It’s just how life is for an athlete in the Big Apple. Everything you do, big or small, on or off the field, is examined and ridiculed.
“When you don’t win, you’re on the back of the (New York) Daily News and have cartoons drawn about you,” Rhodes said. “It’s a double-(edged) sword.”
But at the same time playing in New York opens doors not available in other cities.
“Everything’s accessible to you,” Rhodes said. “So if you’re playing well and having fun out there, it’s going to benefit you in the long run. It’s one of those opportunity places.”
Rhodes pointed to Victor Cruz’s endorsement deal with Campbell’s Soup and Justin Tuck’s with Subway as examples of players benefitting from being in New York.
With the amount of attention paid to the Jets and the Giants, it’s sometimes harder to stay out of the spotlight than it is be under it. The media is trying to scoop their competition, so even the smallest story gets blown up. Feely, who has played in the postseason five times, estimated the amount of media at the Jets and Giants practice facilities on an average weekday is akin to that of the increased media presence for a playoff game anywhere else.
But it wasn’t always like that.
“When I was there as a player I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to that,” said coach Ken Whisenhunt, who played for the Jets from 1991-93 and then coached for the Jets in 2000. “It’s different now. I mean, there’s more coverage, there are more outlets for coverage, (and) speculation, there’s a lot more of that. But yes, it is a place where you are in the fish bowl.”
Feely and Rhodes were teammates on the Jets for two seasons before both joined the Cardinals in 2010. The move was like going from a fish bowl to a swimming pool. The daily media contingent in Arizona is a small fraction of what it was in New York and they’re not as cutthroat.
Jets linebacker Calvin Pace experienced the reverse. He spent five seasons in Arizona before signing with the Jets and he’s still not used to the amount of media attention his team receives.
“I think playing in Arizona it’s a lot easier to focus in on winning games, which we didn’t really do a lot when I was out there,” Pace said. “You didn’t have to worry about so many media outlets in the city just making up random stuff and blowing a lot of stuff out of proportion that really is nothing. It’s really unfair as a player.”
Playing in New York helped Rhodes mature quickly, he said. He had to or New York would’ve swallowed him up.
“I don’t know if you actually get used to it,” Rhodes said. “It’s one of those things where it changes so much. It’s just such a fluid thing. It can be going great. You can be on top of the world there. You can also be the lowest of the low there.
“It’s definitely a wide range of things that you get into. It’s tough.”