Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
Bart Scott had heard Jets fans on Thanksgiving night, when they understandably turned on the team during a 49-19 rout by the Patriots. And he had heard about a YouTube video of spectators profanely taunting players as they walked off at halftime, crossing a line beyond common civility.
So late Wednesday afternoon in the Jets locker room the linebacker -- himself a target of fans for his play this season -- made himself heard, bitterly expressing frustration over how the team has been treated.
"They never stop to put themselves in our shoes, to see where we're coming from and understand what we're dealing with and understand what we're trying to do and what our job really is and how difficult our job is,'' Scott told Newsday.
"They don't care. They just call us bums. Like they could ever play or can understand the pressure. They couldn't make it through my high school practice, so why explain it?''
That was how Scott ended a two-minute monologue. I started with the grand finale for dramatic effect. But there was more where that came from when I asked him about the fans' behavior.
"The first obligation is to the man you sweat and bleed with,'' he said. "I'm sure the fans are frustrated but imagine working your butt off all week and not having the result. It's frustrating for them, but it's frustrating for us, too, because we are the ones who are paying the price with our bodies.
"At the end of the day they don't have to get in a cold tub. They don't have to face dementia. They don't have to face arthritis. They don't have to face surgery. So it's easy for them to pass judgment.
"They get to cheer or boo or do whatever with no consequences. We're paying a price, and a bigger price than they can even realize.''
Taking on the public is dangerous territory for coaches and players, because their job is to win games and collect paychecks that one way or another come out of fans' pockets. But Scott spoke his mind anyway. So did center Nick Mangold -- far more diplomatically.
"People get frustrated and you hear it but you obviously have to do your best to block it out and focus on the task at hand,'' he said. "At times that can be difficult because it can be a loud presence, but for the most part it's a small minority.''
While Scott spoke, a few feet away journalists surrounded Mark Sanchez for his weekly inquisition, during which he was asked about the matter of "Fireman" Ed Anzalone, the longtime Cheerleader-in-Chief who resigned in a huff during the Pats game, citing abuse from fans because he has worn a Sanchez jersey this season.
Does Sanchez believe the Jets must reclaim their fans in the last two home games -- Sunday against the Cardinals and Dec. 23 against the Chargers?
"Really, if we're focusing on the right stuff and we're focusing on playing well, then all the other stuff will fall into place, and that's with the fans as well,'' he said.
The Jets might as well seek to repair some of the damage from three blowout losses at home before the beleaguered ticket sales staff tries to sell everyone on better times ahead.
Rex Ryan downplayed the idea the Jets have to "win back'' fans. "No, but I will say this: I think, obviously I know, the fans were upset, just as we were,'' the coach said of the loss to New England. "Like I said after the game, the fans deserve better. We all deserve better . . . Let's put that behind us. I'm excited about the opportunity in front of us. I believe we'll play good football.''
Maybe. But either way, Scott doesn't expect them to get it.
"All they see is we won or we lost,'' he said. "So why try and explain it to them? Among football players we say, 'They don't know that they don't know, so why explain it?' "