New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan, master of defenses and sound bites, was asked by David Letterman last night about referring to football, and not soccer, as “the beautiful game” in the subtitle of his new book “Play It Like You Mean It (Passion, Laughs and Leadership in the World’s Most Beautiful Game).”

“...It’s one of the only sports that it takes courage to play. You know some of these guys -- you mention soccer, whatever -- it’s not physical. In football, the great thing about our sport is when a guy is running down on the kick team and covering the kick, you have no idea -- you’re gonna be hit by somebody. You have no idea where it’s coming from, yet you go anyway.”

Yes. It could come from anywhere, like from the left knee of a strength coach (“he’s no longer with us right now”), like Sal Alosi. (And not physical? The average NFL game contains all of 11 minutes of actual action.)

Rex misses the point. Say what you will about soccer and its popularity vs. American football, at least soccer players aren’t locked out. Teams — Barcelona vs. Real Madrid — are playing.


Preview: Real Madrid has/have (a nod to the international audience) its work cut out for it if it hopes to get to the Champions League final.

Live blog: Paul Tenorio on today’s Barcelona-Real Madrid game

Soccer Insider: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid Part II

Early Lead: The wheels on the bus go round and round — and over the Copa del Rey.

Photos: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid in pix

(H/T David Heyman and the Stangels, Eric and Justin.)