“I keep teasing him that I’m going to make him cry,” Brian Boyé, fashion director of Men’s Health magazine, said in an ode to Oprah as he sat down to interview New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez during an event at Neiman Marcus in White Plains.
“Mention Tebow,” one female fan joked.
Ah yes, the 800-pound gorilla – make that the gorgeously chiseled 245-pound backup quarterback/cultural icon – in the room.
Though Tim Tebow was not present at the Q&A – a collaboration among Hugo Boss, Men’s Health and Neiman’s, located in The Westchester – he was a presence at the start. To their credit, Sanchez and Boyé addressed what everyone was thinking head on, albeit gracefully.
“He’s been as good of a guy as anybody says,” Sanchez observed of his new teammate, traded to the Jets March 21 amid much fanfare. “I’m thrilled to be working with him.”
Noting that Tebow is a “big, strong guy,” Sanchez said that he himself would be putting on more muscle mass during this the conditioning and strengthening portion of the Jets’ off-season, perhaps the better to withstand the onslaught of the archrival New England Patriots’ front four.
Sanchez also acknowledged the disappointment of the Jets’ mediocre 8-8 season last year, in which his leadership was questioned by some teammates.
“It’s just so good to get back in the element (of football),” he said of the off-season training program. “When the season is over, you have to have decompression time, especially after last season.” Here Sanchez laughed, adding, “Hang in there, Jets’ fans. It’s going to get better.”
That drew cheers from the supportive throng of about 100, mainly children sporting Jets’ jerseys with “the Sanchize’s” No. 6, women in high heels and higher skirts and men with cameras who were most definitely not fashion paparazzi.
Hugo Boss has been conducting similar dialogues with athletes of other teams in other Neiman Marcus cities. For the White Plains event, Sanchez cut a darkly handsome figure in a black Hugo Boss suit, white shirt, skinny black tie, black lace-up shoes – and for a bit of edge – teal and gray horizontal-striped socks. (Ironically, Tebow wore a pale gray off-the-rack Hugo Boss suit with a green tie for his introductory press conference that made up in Jets/springtime/regular guy iconography what it lacked in proper fit.)
Though the California-nurtured Sanchez described himself as a T-shirt, shorts and sandals kind of guy off the field, he acknowledged that dressing well is part of the job.
“When you become a professional, you’re part of a bigger brand,” he said. “It’s important when you’re a quarterback and not just any quarterback but the quarterback of the New York Jets. It’s important to me.”
While he acknowledged that New York fans are “passionate” in their feelings, “They let you know right away,” he noted that being a Jet has its perks – the Empire State Building lit in Jets green; actor Adam Sandler, a huge Jets’ fan, down on the field.
The price of those perks has been a discipline acquired in youth. Sanchez painted a picture of strict but loving parents who expected good grades, proper grammar and respect for elders, along with two teasing older brothers who kept his ego in check.
Such discipline has served him well under the microscope of the New York media. Contrary to the popular portrayal of the Jets as a team that puts the “fun” in dysfunction (see HBO’s “Hard Knocks”), Sanchez offered a revelatory portrait of a team where players are expected to thrive under the intense public glare and to snap to when coaches offer instruction.
He did an amusing impersonation of Tony Sparano, the Jets’ offensive coordinator – he of the wildcat option that brought Tebow to New York –in which Sparano sounded a lot like Joe Pesci.
“Ya got it? Ya got it?” Sanchez quoted Sparano as saying.
To which, apparently, the only response is “Yes, sir.”