With a bit of the flu this week, I’m very fortunate to have Zeus bail me out with today’s entry; enjoy!
This and That (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead)
1. The Final Four – There’s a pretty broad consensus that The Tournament has come down to the four best teams in football. This weekend’s matchups have the league, the networks, the idiot press and fans alike salivating. With New England-Denver up first, I anticipate 3½ hours of heart palpitations, fainting spells, gastrointestinal distress, priapism, near death experiences and the full spectrum of emotions (angst, rage, dread, mortal terror, ecstasy, confusion, disorientation, fear and loathing, revulsion, bewilderment, joy etc.). I am planning to watch the second game, but only if I survive and have sufficient faculties intact to maintain a minimal degree of sentience.
The Broncos are favored by as many as six points over the Patriots Sunday, depending on where you shop.
2. This week’s trivia question:
What do Mrs. Dion Phaneuf, Archie Manning and Eli Manning have in common? (Answer below)
3. The Rivalry – Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are The Rivalry that has defined the National Football League in the new millennium. Their annual showdown is routinely the most anticipated game of the year, with this bonus rematch having a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Ostensibly, the game is all about Manning, if only because Peyton is The Black Hole of Media Attention whose unique gravitational field literally sucks away awareness of everything else in close proximity. A hint for those who do not wish to be distracted by this circus: in the NFL playoffs, the more physical team usually wins. That will more likely be the difference for whichever team is the victor.
4. Good vs. Evil – Manning, the pizza pitching, Bud Light slugging every-man (see below), is the darling of the press, while Brady is vilified as a spoiled whiner who is the favorite of the league’s crack officiating staff. There is considerable irony in this comparison. Manning was born to football royalty, the undisputed linchpin of the Tennessee football program, the eventual #1 pick in the NFL draft and the putative savior of the Colts. Brady’s route to stardom was more circuitous – an unremarkable middle class upbringing, the victim of inexplicably poor coaching and personnel management at Michigan, drafted in the 6th round by a mediocre team that had just signed its franchise quarterback to a huge contract. That Manning’s opportunity was clear from the outset while Brady had to scratch and claw to even be noticed gets scant consideration. Why all the hate for Brady? Perhaps it’s his marriage to a supermodel and the resulting jet set lifestyle that fuels the resentment. Brady clearly adores his wife, but he does bear the burden of her propensity to dress him in the fashion of the day, something that is admittedly difficult for sportswriters, other players, even his biggest fans and anyone with vision correctable to 20-20 to completely fathom.
5. Say What? – Did Peyton’s post-game statement last week that his biggest concern was “how soon I can get a Bud Light in my mouth” strike you as staged and phony? Do you know anybody who talks like that? Of course, The National Sporting Press Peyton Manning Sycophant Marching Band ruptured themselves in gales of convulsive laughter. Now if you or I were to go to a bar this weekend and say “Hey bartender – I need a [insert name of your favorite beer here] in my mouth as soon as possible,” how long would it be before the local Animal Control Officer was summoned to the premises?
6. Under Pressure – Leading up to the Colts-Broncos game in Week 7, Irsay Jr. spent a good bit of time trying to get under the skin his former QB, a transparent gambit to ratchet up Manning’s blood pressure. Once Tony Dungy weighed in (“I think what [Irsay] is trying to do is have him make it such a big game he doesn’t perform well”), the cat was out of the bag. Here we had Peyton’s former owner and former coach confirming what we have all long suspected – Peyton has a Huge Case of the Yips. This week, the normally hyperbolic Sporting Press is in the process of churning out hyperbole at previously unobserved levels, with the so-called Legacy Game now a referendum on Manning’s very existence as a human being. One can well imagine that the panic stricken Broncos must be taking every possible precaution to insulate their increasingly overwrought QB from exposure to television, radio, newspapers, magazines and (most of all) the ubiquitous and omniscient Intertoob. Despite all this, there’s little question that by Sunday, Manning will be a walking time bomb, a tightly coiled bundle of nerves and tension, leaving him prone to a random embolism or explosive diarrhea or spastic seizures during the snap count (the latter a frequently observed if wholly unpleasant phenomenon routinely described by announcers as “coach-on-the-field”) or, better yet, several boneheaded interceptions.
7. Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead – Hard to understand the story leaked this week that the continuation of Manning’s career beyond this season hinges on an examination of his surgically repaired neck to assess its stability. If this is such a grave concern, why not examine him now rather than waiting until March? Either the neck is stable or it isn’t, and there’s nothing that’s going to happen in the next three weeks that is going to make the situation any better. The timing of the story is curious to say the least. Is Peyton looking for a trap door, an excuse to lessen the sting of another playoff gag job? Or is he secretly yearning to retire so he can while away the hours letting his kids show movies and play racquetball on his forehead?
8. Suicide Watch – While a loss against the Patriots Sunday night would be tough on both (the legacy of) Peyton Manning and Wes Welker, it would be crushing to CBS announcer Jim Nantz who would have little reason to go on living.
9. Street Fight – The genesis of the fledgling Seattle-San Francisco rivalry extends back to the Pac10 where Coaches Harbaugh and Carroll first butted heads. While they claim there is no animosity between them, it’s quite apparent to the casual observer that Harbaugh and Carroll F*****G HATE EACH OTHER.
Pete Carroll is the anti-disciplinarian coach whose goofy, laid-back sensibilities and apparent unwillingness to hold players accountable led to short, resoundingly unsuccessful gigs with the jets and Patriots. With a rare third opportunity, Carroll’s found success in Seattle, at least until the inmates finally take over the asylum, at which point, Coach Jacked and Pumped will find himself trampled by the orgiastic excesses of the PED-inhaling Seahawks.
Jim Harbaugh is an emotional wreck who seems perpetually on the verge of a cerebral hemorrhage over delay of game or marginal encroachment penalties. By all appearances, Harbaugh’s interest in officiating transcends his desire to actually coach the game. Since his wife abhors his cheap khaki-chic wardrobe, perhaps a striped shirt and a whistle would be more appropriate, although it won’t be long before it’s strait-jacket required for Coach Harbaugh.
Expect this game to be a street fight, where two of the league’s most physical teams attempt to pound each other into submission in what should be a barbaric spectacle of utter mayhem. If this game were not being televised around the world, most of the players/perpetrators would be subject to criminal prosecution because this kind of behavior is almost always considered highly illegal, for good reason.
10. Trivia answer:
They all share the same first name:
Elisha Cuthbert (actress, married to Phaneuf)
Elisha Archibald Manning III (retired NFL QB, career record 35-101-3, 125 TDs, 173 Ints)
Elisha Nelson Manning (intercepted)
11. I can honestly say that I have done my level best not to get too worked up about this weekend. This of course is an utterly futile undertaking. But the 2013 New England Patriots are playing with the house’s money, so I believe that I will be able to accept the outcome, whatever it is, with grace and equanimity. Unless they lose. In which case, I’ll probably go out of my mind and will in all likelihood be unable to sleep or eat until at least St. Patrick’s Day.
I do have have two sincere wishes for Sunday: 1) that you all get to watch and enjoy the game with people you care about; and 2) that my 25 year old son who will be at Mile High with his girlfriend’s family, returns home more or less intact.
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