- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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Imagine this: It's early in the morning, and a helicopter swoops over a desert island somewhere off the coast of Panama. Blindfolded and bewildered, Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes are guided out and onto the sand along with a Louis Vuitton bag filled with matches, dried rice, three fishing lures and a football. Blindfolds are removed and the stranded pair watch as the helicopter heads back out over the ocean.
With a swarm of cameras recording their every interaction, it's time for some serious bonding, "Survivor" style.
It's no secret that the New York Jets quarterback and wide receiver -- whose contract became guaranteed last week, cha-ching! -- were barely on speaking terms at the end of the season. But now coach Rex Ryan is telling people that the two chatted by phone since the season ended and might get together for an extended period to try to resolve their differences.
Well, that's a relief.
Earth to Jets: This is a crisis! You just gave a pouting receiver $15.25 million in guarantees after he was benched for the last two minutes of the season in a winnable game!
These two need couples counseling. Better yet, they need to sit down with Oprah to talk about their childhood fears and whether their mothers loved them enough. Hypnotherapy, transcendental meditation, synchronized swimming classes -- whatever it takes!
Luckily, the Jets don't have to invent the wheel here, they just need to follow a formula for bonding and conflict resolution that was conceived by Mark Burnett years ago.
"Survivor: Jets Edition."
OK, so it doesn't have to be a desert island. But if you let Sanchez and Holmes plan it out they'll have lunch at some trendy eatery, texting bikini models the whole time, and nothing will be resolved. The Jets can't afford another season of the "Real Housewives of Florham Park" -- professional attention is required.
"The best scenario to bring Mark and Santonio back together is definitely something like skydiving, or scaling the Golden Gate Bridge, or rappelling off the Empire State Building," said Zap2It television critic Andrea Reiher. "They'll be bonding and crying and calling each other 'bro' in no time."
How do you think Vienna Whatshername landed Jake Pavelka of "The Bachelor"? It was the bungee-jumping date! Intense shared experiences, overcoming fears, the need to cooperate to solve a problem. The next thing you know, Jake is on bended knee talking about how their journey is just beginning. (So they broke up around the Final Rose episode. Let's just overlook that for now.)
Sure, it might be easier for Sanchez if he had two months to choose from a group of 25 free-agent wide receivers via a series of tryouts, eliminating a few each week until he offers the winner a rosy contract with the Jets. But time is of the essence here and the Jets have already bet the farm -- or, rather, the baby powder, given owner Woody Johnson's family business -- on Holmes.
After a week of fighting off polar bears, arguing about who let the fire die out and building a raft out of coconut husks, Reiher says there is always the second prong of the reality bonding experience: The booze.
"Once that task is out of the way, the next step is to ply them with alcohol," Reiher said. "It breaks down barriers and provides better moments and drama for the camera. In fact, if you're lucky, Mark and Santonio will have a fight, only to tearfully reconcile 30 minutes later."
That's the easy part, provided the Patron is sipped in moderation and the Jets employ an NFL-approved car service.
Because this is one reality show that won't need 911 calls, hair-pulling or the kind of humiliation The Situation got when Ronnie went all "Jersey Shore" on him. Sanchez, despite his scrimmage-line flinching, still has to look suave for whatever magazine shoot he has coming up.
Maybe you think a plan like this is over the top. That grown men with millions at stake and careers on the line can work out their differences on their own with eyes on larger goals, like, say, the Lombardi trophy.
To this I say: Oh yeah? How'd that work out last season?
Holmes and Sanchez need an intervention. Like on "Intervention."
Let the bonding begin.
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