I have to be honest, it’s been awhile since my last
confession post. The hiatus was not without its reasons, notably fatigue. Another championship, another year without a dog in the fight. They tell me I had one in June, and they’d be right about my hometown, but I don’t even know how many NBA Finals have been played. With the Super Bowl, it’s in your face. Fifty of them, and we’re not even forced to translate an L into a number this year; thanks Super Bowl marketing folks. Fifty without a participation for trophy for the Cleveland Browns1To be fair, there were three they weren’t eligible for, due to not not fielding a team for some odd reason in the mid-90s., but I digress…
I don’t know if I just made this up in my head, or if I actually heard it somewhere, conversation of a Buffalo/Baltimore swap between divisions in the AFC. With apologies to Toronto and Tampa Bay, that gives you the best pieces of the American League East in a football division.2I know, I know, it’s not the same. ESPN and CBS trying to make it so doesn’t make it so. Jets-Patriots is often a fun game, but Yankees-Red Sox it is not. That’s not even what excites me, beyond the idea of not getting mandatory Ravens twice a year, it’s the fire you’d get in that part of the world if the Browns, Bills, and Steelers are all good at the same time. I don’t imagine Steelers fans would miss the purple, and I don’t much care if Bengals fans have an opinion on the subject.
Calvin Johnson is walking away from football, walking away from the Detroit Lions. This sounds familiar. I’m sorry Lions fan, just because I suffer, don’t think I forget what you also go through.
Nothing like something awful at the end to ruin what was nice. 49-15 is going to sting in Arizona, especially if the follow-up is more indicative of a hangover than a mission. Locally, I’ve heard them compare the season after, between this year and the Super Bowl, and again, the quarterback’s age limits the openness of the window. There’s also something to be said for what Kurt Warner can do on the big stage, versus what Carson Palmer has shown ails him in the moments of truth.
On to the Super Bowl…
Look, I’m white. I was once labeled by a giant Polish teammate for being as white as they come on a pretty culturally diverse high school football team. I deserved the tag, having grown up in the suburbs. I didn’t exactly absorb the inner-city, but I walked some of the same streets and breathed the same air as the lifers, though my time within the city limits was short. I’d go as far as to say that in a blind-study, I’m one big, steaming pile of privilege. Knowing that, I am not bothered by Cameron Newton, and really think we should all be past the fear of a black
I caught the 30-for-30 on the Bad Boy Pistons on ABC a few weeks ago. First of all, I miss that NBA, the game where you knocked people down when they came at you. Second, Isaiah Thomas said something silly about Larry Bird, and then he followed it up with sillier stuff. Frankly, I think Isaiah is very likeable, and at the end of the day, outside the heat of the moment, he knew there was more to Bird than being some kind of Great White Hope. That’s one of those incidents you look at retroactively, and think about the circus that would have become of a sound byte like that in 2016.
So, if Cam was white. Same skillset, same celebratory tactics, same philanthropic efforts. Wait, what was that last part? We were so distracted by his devilish dancing and mock-selfie-taking obnoxiousness, not to mention the outrageous act of giving away footballs to children, of all people, that we haven’t acknowledged the good things the man does when the cameras aren’t rolling. If Cam was white, he’d be more of a deity, but perhaps the power of what he represents wouldn’t speak the volumes that they do.
The game is the game, and the sociological issues aren’t the game, but someone once told me not to stare at the TV and tell you it’s not on. It’s an exciting time to be alive, and let me qualify this by saying that I’m far from a bleeding-heart type; we have reporters of sport revealing their sexual preference without incident, women coaching men at the highest level of professional sports, and we may be on the brink of our most prominent black quarterback to lead his team to a Championship.
If I’m Doug Williams or Russell Wilson, I take no shame in playing a different role as the starting quarterback than Newton. Not every championship is built the same way; I’d be proud to be a champion, no need to distinguish myself by race or football role there. I don’t recall either player trying to be the bad guy, and that seems to be the assertion with Cam. If that’s part of being the hero, to be rebellious, you have to let him spread his wings and say the things he wants to say when he wants to say them. Just a word of advice, it’s difficult to play the moral clause when defending lack of championships on the barstool.
Manning. There’s no right point of view on him. I’ve long believed him to be the better quarterback, when it came to him and Tom Brady, but the wins are the wins. In a team sport, measuring a player by team wins (even guys like Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson) is a fair approach, though it might seem unfair in a lot of cases. Manning didn’t get it done when he probably should have, and as likeable as he tends to be, my sadistic entertainment value seems move more favorably when Archie’s kid falls apart.
The thing is, he’s so much better than Eli. Everyone know that, even Giants fans, but Eli got it done…twice. Two for two, not two for four.
Peyton Manning’s decision to go to Denver aggravated me. The opportunities in San Francisco and Arizona just seemed too obvious. Then again, I would have preferred to see him retire, having worn a Colts uniform his entire career. He made a good argument for moving on the different pastures the last couple of seasons.
Gary Kubiak has quietly been part of just about every era of the Broncos’ success, going back to my childhood. He held the clipboard while Elway drove, he held the football as Karlis kicked it somewhere near the vicinity of the goal pasts in OT, and he held a spot on Mike Shanahan’s staff when the organization took home its first two and only two Lombardi trophies. He coached in Houston and Baltimore, proving there was more to Kubiak than just being in the right place at the right time, and it seemed like a natural add to upgrade from John Fox.
Fox won a playoff game with Tebow. He took the Panthers to their only prior Super Bowl. He was an integral part of a Giants team that reached the Super Bowl between the reigns of Parcells and Coughlin. He’s got Chicago on the right track. Don’t read too much into his former employers doing quite well without him.
This year’s Broncos arguably stumbled their way to 12-4. They were lucky not to lose to the Browns in Cleveland. Peyton Manning looked either broken or incapable, and Brock Osweiler looked well and appeared to have Wally Pipped his Hall of Fame mentor. They learned balance, and they learned to let the defense win games and stay out of the way. These curses turned out to be blessings.
Carolina playing without Kelvin Benjamin all season. Subtract D’Angelo Williams from the running game. Seventeen wins, one meaningless loss. We should have taken you more seriously, Panthers. How were we supposed to know that? I just came around to how dumb it is to refer to him as Scam Newton last October.
Carolina has its stars, and you know their names by now. Josh Norman, hopefully known nationwide for more than the dust-up with Odell Beckham Jr., him you know. Luke Kuchely is the leader of that defense, and even if you weren’t fully aware of him coming out of Boston College, you should know him by now. Thomas Davis had his arm in a sling the last we saw him; it’s okay to believe in next man up, but the injured linebacker is active and expected to start on Sunday evening.
Denver’s secondary and Carolina’s receiving corps will be an interesting matchup, but I think the way the Broncos run the ball in the second half dictates how this game winds up looking in the books. I have no desire to see Elway or his lifelong lieutenant Kubiak raise a trophy, but that’s how I see it going. For that entire region on the east coast, known as Carolina, I hope I’m wrong.
…and if Cam Newton wins and finds a way to take down White Supremacy in the process, the way Rocky ended the Cold War, I’d find that to be a mutually-desired result for the majority of us.