Monday, February 8, 2010

Drew Brees’s tears most memorable to me; On to next slate of sports events

There are a lot of bad things about living in America’s new snow belt. Losing power is no fun. Seeing people losing their minds in the grocery store is comedic but just a little bit scary. But not getting the newspapers in the morning makes me crazy. Sure, I can read online but it’s NOT THE SAME. I spend enough time sitting at the computer most days without having to sit here to read the papers.

Okay, that is today’s whine-du-jour. Suffice to say it hasn’t been a fun winter in these parts and apparently there’s more to come. The roads still aren’t clear (largely because there’s just no place to put the snow) and more snow is expected tomorrow and Wednesday. The only ones who are happy right now are the kids.

I did manage to make it home from West Point last night—although the last 35 miles was treacherous and frightening—in time to see most of The Super Bowl. My first comment on the game and the telecast is this: Have all the smart advertising execs retired? I did not see every commercial and I probably wasn’t completely focused on a lot of the ones I saw, but it certainly appeared that the days of the memorable Super Bowl commercial have gone the way of the low-key postgame celebration.

Enough already with the talking baby.

Onto the game. Most Super Bowls have three or four moments that stand out and are replayed forever and this game was no exception. The Saints recovery of the onside kick to start the second half will be shown a million times along with announcers crediting Sean Payton (correctly) for taking such a bold gamble. The Tracy Porter interception will always be the signature play of the game, not only because it broke the Colts back but because it rendered Peyton Manning human again. Now we’re going to hear over and over again that Manning has won the same number of Super Bowls as Mark Rypien and Brad Johnson, not to mention little brother Eli.

But for me, the most vivid memory will be Drew Brees’s tears, first when he was holding his one-year-old son Baylen during the (overblown) pre-trophy presentation celebration and then as he stood on the podium waiting for Tom Benson to stop blathering so Payton could finally hand him the trophy.

His voice never cracked on the podium or in his postgame press conference but his emotion was apparent and clearly quite genuine. He talked about feeling as if he was meant to land in New Orleans and to be a part of the rebuilding of the team and the city and the region, but there was no Joe Gibbs/Kurt Warner evangelism just a clear picture that this was a man of faith who felt that his presence in New Orleans was part of a plan he didn’t need to understand but had been able to help carry out.

Good for him. Good for the entire city which suffered the modest angst that comes with a consistently bad football team and then the tragedy of Katrina. It’s a little harder to feel good for Saints owner Tom Benson who was ready to yank the team from New Orleans and move it to San Antonio or Los Angeles after Katrina and is now taking bows for all that has gone right the last couple of years, culminating with Sunday’s victory.

You can’t help but wonder how hard Manning will get hit by his critics for this loss. He did not play poorly by any means—he never plays poorly. But the defining moment of the game was the Porter interception. I don’t think there’s anything that can happen that will remove Manning from the pantheon of great NFL quarterbacks. He’s certainly somewhere on the list although the talk that he is THE greatest will quiet now until he wins another Super Bowl.

I have one other question on the subject of great quarterbacks. Whenever people talk about Joe Montana as the best of all time, they talk about his four Super Bowl wins—as they should. Tom Brady’s three Super Bowl wins puts him in the conversation and then names like Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, John Elway and old-timers like Sammy Baugh and Otto Graham get mentioned. I never hear Terry Bradshaw’s name. Sure, the Steelers of his era were built around a great defense but Bradshaw was awfully good and his teams won four Super Bowls. Shouldn’t that merit at least a mention, regardless of how many bad commercials he’s made?

Just wondering.

For me, there’s always a sense of relief when The Super Bowl is over. The hype is behind us for a while and we don’t have to dodge every single ex-player on earth, “breaking down the game.” What the playing of the game almost always proves is that all the, “breaking down,” is meaningless. The consensus among the experts was that sooner or later Manning would be too good for the Saints defense. I was among those who thought that, the only difference between me and some of the others is that I don’t consider myself an expert. I’m just someone who has been around football a lot and I think I know SOMETHING about the game but I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone to go out and bet his house on what I think about the outcome of a game. I thought Navy was too beat up physically to go into Notre Dame and win this past season. Shows you how much I know.

Now, unless you are an NFL Network geek who can’t wait for The Combine, football is behind us for a little while. The Winter Olympics begin Friday. I can live without the opening ceremonies and ALL the figure skating. But I enjoy things like speed skating, luge and bobsled and Alpine skiing, even if I don’t completely understand them or know any of the athletes. The hockey should be fun and the best thing about it is that the Islanders can’t lose any more games while the Olympics are going on. (The Caps, if you’re paying attention, may never lose another game. I didn’t get to see the comeback on Sunday but if they didn’t lose that game, that’s it, they’re never losing again).

It is also less than five weeks now to Selection Sunday. I went through the conference standings this morning and I have to tell you, coming up with a list of 34 teams that are absolutely, without question deserving of a bid wasn’t easy. Which raises this question: If coming up with 34 teams is tough, how the heck does the NCAA propose to come up with 65 at-large teams with a 96 team field?

This is the worst idea anyone has come up with since New Coke. Even Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and I agree on this and we agree on NOTHING. Of course that probably means that it is a lock to happen.

Okay, I have to go and find food for my family before it starts snowing again tomorrow. I wish I was joking.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe Johnny Unitas ever won a Super Bowl. He just won the greatest pro football game that's ever been played! How about those Terps!

Anonymous said...

No love for curling John?

Anonymous said...

Great quarterback are always a marriage of a strong talent with a system (coach, team and organization) that is around him.

The easiest example is the dramatic improvement that Steve Deberg had at the 49ers when Walsh became the head coach. Swap Deberg out for a better player (Montana) and improve some of the pieces with wise draft picks and you have the greatest quarterback ever. Excuse me for thinking that timing and circumstances have a lot to do with it.

In our own careers, everyone recognizes that those who are successful are all talented, hard working and also, fortunate for many of their breaks (company they choose to work for, situation that arose, etc..) It would be refreshing if we recognized that a players talent is only a small piece of what makes them successful.

Jim said...

John Unitas did indeed play on the winning side for Baltimore in Super Bowl V but was knocked out of the game with a rib injury shortly after throwing a 75 yard TD pass; Earl Morrall came in and led Colts to a 16-13 last-second victory.

Two years prior, in Super Bowl III against the Jets, Unitas replaced an ineffective Morrall and led the Colts to their only TD in a 16-7 loss, a result that undoubtably made a young Mr. Feinstein rather happy.

Mark said...

As long as we are talking about Johnny Unitas, let us review a few facts. Unitas played great in both the 1958 and 1959 NFL championship games, both Colt victories. Then, from 1960 until 1972, he NEVER played a great postseason game. From 1960 to 1963 his team did not make the playoffs, in 1964 they lost to Cleveland in the NFL championship (Unitas was completely ineffective, 12-20, no touchdowns, final score 27-0), and in 1967 Baltimore needed to beat Los Angeles on the last game of the season to win their division and make the playoffs. Again, Unitas disappeared in this game that the Rams won 34-10.

As far as the two Super Bowls he played in, Unitas did drive the Colts to their only touchdown of Super Bowl III but also threw a 4th quarter interception in the end zone and could not get a score after the Colts recovered an onside kick.

In Super Bowl V, before he was hurt Unitas had completed 3-9 passes with both an interception and a fumble. His touchdown pass was one of the flukiest plays in history - just watch the film.

Yeah, Johnny U was a great quarterback but from 1960 on, he never played even a good post season game. His last one was a playoff game against the Dolphins in 1971. Three interceptions and a Dolphin win, 21-0.

Tony said...

John

I read Peter King's MMQB article this morning and he believes that Pierre Garcon's drop in the second quarter was the key play in the game.

Is the fear of writing something negative about Peyton Manning so great and thus losing access to him - that journalists will talk about every other play BUT THE INTERCEPTION RETURNED FOR A TOUCHDOWN!!!. (ie - is it similar to how Tiger Woods is treated and feared by the golf media)

Thanks

Anonymous said...

I read that too on everyone (including Dungy) calling Garcon's drop one of THE key plays.

One things - the Saints also had a huge drop on 3rd down in the first half, by Colston, didn't they? It would have put the ball across mid-field, if my memory serves me correct....therefore, the Saints overcame their huge drop, the Colts didn't. Both teams had missed throws and drops, but one overcame theirs, the other didn't.

What a scrum that must have been in the on-side kick pile.

Mike said...

In the pantheon of great QBs, I would take Montana and Bradshaw as first and second, but in no paraticular order. The rap on Bradshaw was that he was dumb. Yet, I seem to recall that he called his own plays. The other great QB of the 70's -- Staubach -- did not (again, if my memory is correct). And, like Montana, Bradshaw would make clutch plays.

Mark said...

You are quite correct Mike. Tom Landry always called the plays for the Cowboys when Staubach was qb. And Bradshaw certainly called his own plays. Look at the stats; Bradshaw played great in his four Super Bowls; it was the Steeler defense that was not at their best in three of the four games. Without good games from Bradshaw, no way do the Steelers win four Super Bowls.

Jim said...

Tony:

Are you being fair and accurate in your implied criticism of Peter King? After all, in that same column he did name Peyton Manning as his "Goat of the Week". How could one be more critical?

Frankly, I doubt Mr. King "fears" Manning, let alone any other NFL player. Does he shiver before Tiger Woods?

Hard to tell.

I think we could agree that it is only important that he "Fear the Turtle".

Anonymous said...

Bradshaw certainly always merits mention in the discussions of great QB's. Reasons he rarely is mentioned:
The myth that the Steelers were only about defense. How many Hall of Famers came out of that dynasty? On defense there were four (Greene, Ham, Lambert and Blount). On offense there were five! (Bradshaw, Harris, Webster, Swan and Stallworth) The offense was most crucial for those Steeler teams but the defense had the glamourous nickname.

Reason 2: myth that Bradshaw was dumb. This became news when lazy writers perpetuated this myth throughout the 70s and when Hollywood Henderson got so much attention for his blast against Bradshaw (can't spell Cat).

Reason 3: Bradshaw is a clown on Fox TV and that diminishes his reputation as a player; rightly or wrongly. Also, I think broadcasting rivals don't want to give credit to someone from another network who is an active broadcaster.
Rich in Denver

Gordon said...

I'm so sick Payton Manning and all the "best ever" talk. He is a .500 quarterback in the post season, 9-9, including 1-1 in the Super Bowl. Brady has three and "Big Ben" has two so Manning is, at best, third best currently playing.

I will give Payton credit for giving the Saints the credit they deserved. He also "owned" the interception.

Bradshaw is in fact in the conversation, although most don't want to include him for reasons that confound me. The man who "Couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the c and the a" used all his weapons to win four Super Bowls.

And don't forget Bart Starr who won 3 championships prior to the Super Bowls and then the first two Super Bowls. All told five straight championships.

Manning and Farve are the two most overrated quarterbacks of all time NOT named Fran Tarkington

Anonymous said...

Was it just me, but was this one of the few Super Bowls in recent memory that looked like their was true rooting interest going on inside the stadium? The whole thing seemed more like a true game rather than 'event' this year, at least moreso than past years. One play to point to in actually seeing the crowd interest was the int return for a td - the end of the stadium he ran towards was going crazy (I guess it could have been the Saints end, where they actually got tickets to fans).

Anyone else see it the
same way?

Tony said...

Jim,

I guess what bothered me about King's analysis (and many other TV talking heads) is that he went out of his way to find other plays that were the "critical" play. Yes, he made Manning the "goat". But in the same section, he talked about how miserable Manning would be and would be focused on the game now, and not making cheesy commercials.

Top sports stars (like Manning and Woods) do carry influence in their coverage by controlling access. Peter King's recent top source, Brett Favre, has maybe one year left of will he/won't he in him. King had a cover story, profile of Manning this year from Manning. If he writes a critical story, maybe the next profile story goes to ESPN Mag, or another SI Writer.

John has told us this is how Woods has controlled his image. Not by making them shiver, but by controlling who he gives interviews to. Manning can control the story to a similar degree.

John - I'd be curious of your thoughts?

And yes, I do fear the turtle - and so should Virginia on Wednesday.

Jim said...

Tony,

I think it's far and away easier for a great athlete to control/manipulate his image in golf --an individualized sport -- than in a team sport such as football.

Tiger Woods has undeniably been the BEST golfer over the past 14 years. As such he has been able to greatly influence the nature of his media coverage, perhaps even manipulate it. Yet the rising tide of his success has led to greater interest in golf, better attendance/ratings, and larger paychecks for tour members. Most professional golfers haven't complained too much about that.

Football is a different animal. As was adroitly noted by an earlier poster, it takes a marriage of a strong TALENT with a sound SYSTEM to yield a great quarterback.

What's more important, talent or system? On the one hand, (as was noted) replacing Deberg with Montana preceded four championships. On the other hand, Joe Gibbs won three rings with three different QB's.

Even if Peyton Manning is as talented at his craft as
Tiger Woods is at golf, the fact that Manning (and all quarterbacks) deal with more uncontrollable variables leads me to the conclusion that no QB -- be they Manning, Favre, Brady, Warner, Rivers, or Brees -- can influence their personal media coverage as much as Tiger Woods has. Individually they can't be as relatively dominant as Woods.

Now there may be a team sport where a star was indeed able to "control the story" to a similar degree. If you want to tell me Michael Jordan was on "par" with Tiger with regard to media manipulation, I think I'd agree with you.

Mr. X said...

Got my Saturday and Sunday WaPos mid afternoon on Sunday. The Post did send me an e-mail prior to the storm resetting expectations about delivery.

JT in Maine said...

Amen, John. The game was great, Brees was admirable and the ads atrocious and, mercifully, forgettable.

Sorry, too, about all the snow. But we in New England have had it for the past few winters and this year it was the Mid-Atlantic's turn, anyway ...

Now, given that it's likely you'll still be marooned inside anyway, is there any way you could phone in a guest-hosting job for Jim Rome on President's Day? The show is better for your presence as you easily are the most intellectual and listenable guest host on his call list. (If I again have to listen to the Sklar brothers or Jason Whitlock, my radio's not going to survive the day.)

Hugh said...

Gordon, Green Bay did not win 5 straight NFL championships. They won 1962, 1963 and 1965, Cleveland won in 1964.

KP from Winnipeg said...

Judging players by the number of rings is not only wrong, it's lazy and inaccurate. Please don't mention Big Ben's 2 rings without the context that the biggest pass in the first one was thrown by a wr, and Ben's biggest contribution was a goalline fumble that wasn't overturned.