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Antonio Cromartie, Linguistics Hero

Athletes, by nature, answer questions in as dull a fashion as possible. It's difficult to blame them for this. Athletes are constantly berated by reporters for giving boring quotes, but the minute they say something interesting or provocative, they're torn apart for it. So, today is a day to salute Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The man has spoken his mind in an unabashed, pissed-off way, and we'll be damned if we're gonna come down on him for it.

In case you missed it — and how could you, at this point? — Cromartie had a few choice words to say about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady yesterday. And by "choice," we mean "awesome."

Cromartie was asked by the Daily News if he's ever seen Brady pointing after the Patriots score.

"We see that a lot. He does it a lot," Cromartie said. "That's the kind of guy he is. We really don't give a damn, to tell you the truth."

Okay, what kind of guy is Brady?

"An asshole. Fuck him."

Honestly, it's like a blast of cool air to the middle of your brain. Whatever your thoughts about Brady or Cromartie, a player just coming out and saying "He's an asshole. Fuck him" about another player is as close as we're going to get to a Joe Namath moment around these parts. This is what we secretly want all our team's players to think, and say.

We could wish peace for Cromartie and Brady; maybe we could remind them of what they have in common, like a propensity to have children out of wedlock. But screw that. This is an epic playoff game between the Patriots and Jets, one team that has been dominating the NFL for a decade and another that demands to be treated like they have. Fans want their team to hate its rivals the way that they hate its rivals, but teams so rarely do. And here is a Jets player calling a Patriots player — the Patriots player — an asshole. How can you not like that? God, we love that. We have no idea what's going to happen Sunday. It's possible that the Patriots will wipe out the Jets, and Cromartie will look like an idiot. But let's not worry about that just yet.

In his book To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever — which is about a North Carolina fan hating Duke — author Will Blythe quotes from a work by nineteenth-century essayist William Hazlitt called "On the Pleasure of Hating."

Nature seems made of antipathies. Without something to hate, we should lose the very spring of thought and action. ... Pure good soon grows insipid, wants variety and spirit. Pain is a bittersweet, which never surfeits. Love turns, with a little indulgence, to indifference or disgust: Hatred alone is immortal.

Hate is a nasty thing, but it is also a human thing. Everyone has it in their heart, somewhere. And it must sometimes be let out. There is no safer place for that than sports. So: Let the hate rain down over you. Soak it in. "He's an asshole. Fuck him." You go, Antonio. Today, we are all Antonio.

Photo: Dana Kaplan/Sports Imagery/Getty Images