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How Do You Root for a Player You Hate?

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It was October 7, 2007. Roger Clemens was leaving a Major League mound for the final time in Game 3 of the ALDS. He tried to battle through an injury, but he was ineffective and could not continue. I stood up in old Yankee Stadium and applauded. It would have been unthinkable for me to do such a thing nine years earlier. Clemens was the baseball player I hated more than any other. He threw out my Yankees, and didn't seem to care whether he injured anybody. What happened? Clemens joined my team and helped pitch them to a pair of World Series wins and four pennants.

Jets fans may soon face a similar dilemma if Jason Taylor decides to join the team. Taylor and Jets fans have loved to hate each other for over a decade. Taylor has taken a lot of pleasure in needling Jets fans in the press, drawing ridiculous stereotypes nobody with a brain could believe to be true. Jets fans have given him an earful more than arguably any opponent when the Dolphins have ventured to the Meadowlands. I've certainly taken my share of shots at the guy. I told you he was my least favorite Dolphin in a post last July.

Does that mean I hope any physical harm comes to Taylor? Of course I don't. Aren't there plenty of Jets fans Taylor would genuinely like if he sat down to have a beer with them? Of course there are. We don't like his public persona. He doesn't like ours. We've drawn caricatures of each other. That's part of the fun of sports. Taylor is a guy who is active doing good work in the community. Plenty of Jets fans are both intelligent and successful. It's more enjoyable to have a villian to root against. He feels the same way about us. He has used Jets fans as motivation. It's not real hate.

Despite the shots we have taken at each other, would I cheer like crazy in Week 1 if he delievered a sack? You bet I would. Would he soak up all of the love from Jets fans. There is no question he would. That is the nature of sports today. Fans root for laundry. You may not like it, but that's the way it is. Players change teams all the team and cross the borders in intense rivalries. Cowboys fans hated Terrell Owens for mocking their star as a member of the 49ers. They loved him when he was putting up double digit touchdown seasons with that star on his helmet. Johnny Damon was hated in the Bronx after his grand slam against Javier Vazquez in 2004. Those same fans adored him after his double stolen base against the Phillies in 2009.

The bottom line is Jason Taylor would be a good fit. He showed he still has something left in the tank last year. He was an excellent all around outside linebacker and would bolster the pass rush. My gut feeling is still that he is using the Jets as leverage, but there is a chance he signs. If that happens, we should welcome him with open arms. He may end up as a hero on the first Jets championship team in four decades. If not, we'll "hate" him as much as ever.