I’m not a sports “journalist,” so I don’t have to pretend that I’m not a fan with intense likes and dislikes when it comes to football. I couldn’t care less about the NBA these days, and baseball is only of interest because of my fascination with statistics: I haven’t really been a “fan” of those sports since the early 90s—coinciding with the arrival of Brett Favre in a Packer uniform. Thus I can state without one iota of self-consciousness that I was “rooting” against Peyton Manning more than his team in the AFC championship game. I dislike Manning because he is a fraud that the media has elevated to such stature (like Hillary Clinton) that it is sacrilegious to say the truth. His carefully stage-managed public persona is nothing but a Potemkin myth.
From my perspective, Manning is a player in love with his stats, as vain people like to preen in front of a mirror. Oh sure, since he’s been off his “game” he has feigned “humility,” but wasn’t it time and again in the past that the conceited Manning had a habit of throwing his teammates under the bus for his mistakes? Remember the incident when offensive lineman Jeff Saturday expressed dismay that instead of trying to run the ball in from the one-yard line, Manning chose to pass the ball on three straight downs (all incompletions), and wearing down the offensive line players unnecessarily? Manning was no doubt already frustrated by his failure to pad his personal stats when he went after Saturday, yelling and screaming at him like a pampered, obnoxious child being told to eat his spinach; it was a stomach-turning spectacle that revealed the real Manning. Afterwards the media aided Manning (and Saturday) in an unconvincing effort to “laugh off” the whole incident, but I wasn’t fooled by it one bit.
Yes, Manning likes to win games and maybe even a Super Bowl or two, but it is less about the “team” than it is about his “legacy”—as the Manning-fawning media has reminded us time and again.
Anyways, the results of week three of the playoffs:
Broncos 20 Patriots 18. In hindsight, it is easy to say that Bill Belichik is the goat in this game, for making the questionable decision of not settling for a field goal with six minutes left in the game with the Patriots down by eight points. The Broncos were doing virtually nothing offensively in the second half, and there was a greater than likely chance that the Patriots would keep Manning pinned down like a scared rabbit and have at least one more chance to score a go-ahead touchdown. But Belichick decided to go for it on fourth down, and failed. In fact, Tom Brady and the Patriot offense were moving the ball almost at will between the twenties in the fourth quarter, but on this drive and the subsequent one Belichick decided to forgo an easy field goal try, and lost the ball on downs. The Patriots in fact got the ball back one more time, this time scoring a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining, but failing to convert on a two-point play to tie the game; had they attempted and made a field goal on one of the two aborted drives, they would be heading to the Super Bowl for the seventh time in the Belichick/Brady era.
But that is hindsight. Certainly it was a highly questionable move not to kick the field goal on that first drive, but on the next drive there was a little over two minutes to play and hardly any assurance that the Patriots would get the ball again (they did). The bottom line is that Belichick miscalculated the potential scenarios, gambled away opportunities for points and made things more difficult for his team to pull out a victory; the Patriots thus lost this game, the Broncos didn’t “win” it.
Going into the game, we heard Bronco players telling us that “hate” isn’t a strong enough word for their regard for the Patriots—odd since there is hardly a history of “rivalry” between the two teams. Speaking as a fan rather than a fundament-kissing commentator, I will say that I "hate" the Broncos, and hope that whoever comes out of the NFC will lay a fundament-whipping on the Broncos, just as the Seahawks did two years ago—sending Manning off to a fitting “legacy.”
Panthers 49 Cardinals 15. That will be the Panthers, who laid an old-fashioned whipping on the Cardinals; instead of allowing the Cardinals some “dignity” like they did for their “brothers” the Seahawks last week, the Panthers did everything they could to embarrass the Cardinals—even going for the needless, unsportsmanlike two-point conversion with the game long since over (not that they could have embarrassed Carson Palmer any more with his six turnovers). That is the kind of arrogance that turned a lot of fans off about the Panthers, and if the Patriots had won their game, I would be favoring them easily to win the Super Bowl. But they did not, and my antipathy toward Manning is greater than it is for the Panther team. I feel more comfortable that the Panthers are the team to lay Manning and company low than the Cardinals could.