"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Calling for a Moratorium on the Peyton Praise

Can we all just admit that we're very proud of Peyton Manning and be done with it? I mean, we can tune in to wish him congratulations when he eventually breaks Dan Marino's single season touchdown record and all but until then, can we maybe cool it a bit on the Peyton worshipping? Perhaps it's just me and I'm getting a little tired of the fact that outside of New England, my quarterback gets all the airtime of one of those homemade commercials for "Bob's Discount Furniture" but come on, I can't be the only one who's noticed that the NFL and everyone involved in either promoting and/or reporting on the state of it seems to be hopelessly in love with the elder Manning can I?

I spent Thanksgiving watching Senor Touchdown Pass dismantle the Lions "defense" all the while wishing someone would at least try to make it hard on him. And yes, I use the term "defense" loosely when referring to the Lions methods of stopping the ball from crossing the goal line. But you know what, Indianapolis's defense can be regarded in the same manner. Yes, Manning is all well and good, probably, when all is said and done, he will be one of the top 10 NFL quarterbacks ever, but unless I've missed something, he can't personally keep the other team from scoring 45 points.

This is why I love football. It's a team game. At least, it should be if it's played correctly. Sure, you have your "Me, me, me" guys (I'm talking to you, Terrell), and you have your blustering bad-asses, (paging Mr. Lewis, Mr. Ray Lewis), but if you're doing things right, what you have at the end is a complete football team.

The way I look at it, there are three complete football teams in the NFL, the Eagles, the Steelers and my Patriots. True, the Eagles have superstars McNabb and the aforementioned loquacious Terrell Owens, the Steelers have Jerome Bettis and rookie phenom Ben Roethlisberger and the Patriots have Corey Dillon and Tom Brady, but all three teams are deserving of the hype. While I wish dearly that Terrell Owens would shut the hell up and catch a touchdown pass without turning it into a Broadway production number, there's no denying that the Eagles are a good team. I also wish that Roethlisberger would succumb to a particularly bone-crushing hit as a "Welcome to the NFL, rookie" bit of hazing but I have to admit that, were he on my team, I would love the guy. As for the Patriots, their most popular member may, in fact, be their coach, I wish nothing but continued success, parades with confetti and endless hugs and affection for years to come. Hey, I never said I wasn't biased. My point is, there is a reason that these three teams are all 10-1. They are complete teams. The Indianapolis Colts, golden-armed Manning included, are not.

The Colts are 8-3 with losses to New England, (courtesy of Willie McGinest or, as we like to call him, Big Willie Style), Jacksonville, (courtesy of a defense that can't hold a halftime lead), and Kansas City, (courtesy of that same shoddy defense which won't allow them to win a game even when they score 35 points). This is pretty indicative of what's wrong with Indy, if you ask me. They are not a "team" in the truest sense of the word.

They'd like you to believe that the "team" consists of Manning, running back Edgerrin James, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and a bunch of other guys who put on horseshoe helmets and run around banging into things. But here's the thing, those three guys are all on offense. Defense gets no play. And no ink. And if the Patriots recent run of success and the good times that Pittsburgh is enjoying right now tell us anything, it's that defense not only wins football games, it wins championships.

Manning, as good as he is, and I am not disputing that, is not the football team. He can't be. And as smart as he is with his crazy, OCD, fake-audible, chicken dance thing at the line of scrimmage, there are still some people he can't fool. Namely, Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel. Manning is extremely talented, I would not argue otherwise. He will surely break Marino's record and more congratulations to him, it is well-deserved praise. He is a human highlight reel and is fun to watch provided he is not making your team look like a bunch of Pop Warner players. Furthermore, I am sure he is a lovely person. His United Way commercials crack me up. He seems like the kind of person that would help old ladies put their groceries in their cars. But as far as football goes, I'm beginning to think that other teams are starting to believe his hype. They're all drinking the Peyton Manning Kool-Aid and psyching themselves out, convincing themselves that he has outsmarted them and is about to pick them apart with long bombs down the field. The people that don't believe the hype, the Belichicks and the McGinests of the world, will be successful against Manning. And until the Colts front office decides that they should give him a defense to render it unnecessary for him to throw six touchdowns a game to secure a win, people should keep their Peyton praise in check. Making one player bigger than their team and, by extension, bigger than the game is a dangerous thing. And until the Colts can either score from the one-yard line with four attempts to do so or stop their opponents from scoring 45 points (Hello, KC!) they will be sporting no hardware on their ring fingers.

I hope that Peyton's touchdown record keeps him warm on those nights when quarterbacks with less TDs but better defenses are duking it out in the Super Bowl.

Don't even get me started on Eli...