Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
Rex Ryan likely will remain the Jets' coach no matter how bad things get in the waning weeks of 2012, and now he theoretically has another four years to fulfill his long-ago prediction of a visit to Barack Obama's White House.
So even if his team is hopelessly out of it, which it probably will be if it does not win in Seattle Sunday, it is crucial for Ryan somehow to reestablish the sort of vibe that turned him and his team into a sensation in 2009 and '10.
For most of the current season, the signs have not been good. Ryan's stature has waned before our eyes, literally so in the case of his slimmed-down figure but also in terms of his customary bluster.
Early in his news conference Wednesday, he promised to travel west this weekend and "give it heck."
"My first thought," he said, jokingly, "was I looked and I saw who was second and [thought], 'Hey, I finally beat Belichick at something. I got him. I knew it would take time, but I finally got him.' "
Ryan then added this, shaking his head, "Golly, like it hasn't been a tough enough year."
Mostly, though, he insisted he was not offended, then tossed in a defiant zinger: "At the end of the year, we'll see who's overrated."
Tim Tebow, who last month was voted most overrated NFL player in a Sports Illustrated poll, joked, "It's something we have in common."
Then he grew serious, calling Ryan a "great coach" who is polarizing because of his outspokenness. "He stands up there and says what he believes," Tebow said. "Sometimes people like it, sometimes they don't, but at least he has the courage to do that, and that is something I have a lot of respect for."
The poll had to bother Ryan at least a little, given how he was viewed after his first two seasons. But after pooh-poohing it, he correctly zeroed in on a more relevant aspect of his image.
He suggested if the same players were polled about coaches they want to play for, "I'd probably be where I always am, right at the top with [the Steelers' Mike] Tomlin. It's either me or Mike Tomlin one or two where the guys want to play for [us]. I don't think that will change.
"As long as they want to come here and play and I'm overrated, that's fine. But I want them to want to come here and play."
That could be a useful factor in rebuilding the team, and so far it appears players do still feel that way about Ryan. His magic touch took a big hit when the locker room chemistry faltered late last season, and now he faces eight more games with an injury-riddled roster and a spectacularly muddled quarterback situation that even Obama criticized in August.
But Ryan vowed Wednesday not to go down without a fight, and believes his players are on board for the battle.
Or so he hopes. Excerpts from his impassioned, 130-second monologue on the subject:
"It's a crazy thing, but the fact it's there, you can't get in much tougher situations than this, maybe that's what we need. Maybe that will pull this team together. I don't think we need that. I think we're there anyway, but here we come.
"Look, my confidence will never waver, ever. I'm confident because of the people I'm surrounded by. To do great things, extraordinary things, you're always going to have your skeptics. There's no doubt about that.
"But understand this: I don't buy into it. I'm confident, will always be confident. Maybe it's the way I've been raised . . . But I'm surrounded with like-minded people, and that's just the way it is."
Sounds good. But sound always has been a Ryan specialty. We'll see if it's good enough.