Sunday, May 16, 2010

A tale of three quarterbacks, part one

Something I've been wanting to say for a while concerns Peyton Manning, the lanky, hunky quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. Manning is probably the most prominent, or recognizable NFL QB; Tom Brady, just as famous and even more accomplished, dwells in a kind of stone tower, good-natured but inaccessible, like a European nobleman. In Stupid White Men, or the book he wrote before that, Michael Moore, writing a little outside his purview (snark watch on the rapport!) but well nonetheless, likens men's bodies to Chevys: we're built for speed and horsepower in the short run, but then we break down in middle age, laying on the junkyard of our couches. I think that the reason Peyton Manning is so easy for American men to identify with is that he embodies Moore's idea of the American car: he's got all the touchdowns, long passes, and regular season victories that we like to watch, but then he often breaks down, and kind of spectacularly, in the playoffs. Manning has won a Super Bowl, but it was against a Bears team led by Rex Grossman, the equivalent of a Yugo to his 'vette.

The most recent Super Bowl, won by the Saints over the Colts, seemed to feature a classic Manning performance: hot out of the gate, playing like he's all world, and then, sometime in the 4th quarter, you could see the breakdown begin when he was almost picked off by a Saints defender. The gears were starting to get stuck, parts were beginning to come loose. After that, it wasn't much of a surprise when Manning did throw an interception (which was returned for a touchdown), basically sealing the game for the Saints. By throwing it, he was able to have a mostly brilliant game, and also fall apart at the end. Exciting and vulnerable to collapse, he's All-American, that Peyton Manning, and that's why he fits so well into NFL telecasts and commercials alike.

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