© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Keith Strudler: Big Wait For Big Game

This is the first of two weeks preceding the Super Bowl. Which means we now have two weeks to discuss things that could be dealt with in a matter of hours. For example yesterday it was reported that the Broncos selected to wear white uniforms instead of orange. Apparently that's a big deal, both because they could have chosen orange, but also because it seems they win more in road white uniforms then their home orange ones. This is what you write about when you have two weeks to discuss one game.

As a sports columnist, I find myself both enamored and disturbed by the volume of nothing and the responsibility to talk about it. On the one hand, I really don't want to talk about the Super Bowl for the next 11 days. On the other hand, writing a commentary on the nuances of Australian tennis right now feels a bit obtuse. It's kind of like going to Sesame Place for the food. Sometimes you just have to sit and watch the parade.

Fortunately, this year's game has provided one delicious storyline, perhaps nourishment enough for this near fortnight. As professional football goes, quarterbacks are its true and essential leading men.  This year, that is particularly true. On the one hand is Cam Newton, the young, exuberant, celebratory leader of the Carolina Panthers, the presumptive league MVP and bright future, despite his oddly polarizing persona. On the other side is Peyton Manning, the 17 year veteran and son of football royalty, the singular quarterback that everybody loves and, outside of Tom Brady, perhaps this generation’s greatest player. He, unlike Brady and certainly Newton, has reached what we all assume to be the end of his football career. In fact, most figured he wouldn't finish this year after being benched for an injury, and essentially playing back up to his younger counterpart Brock Osweiler. But time and legacy are funny things, and after fighting his way back into the starting role, Manning’s football career has reached a truly epic finale, leaving him the rare opportunity to complete his sporting life on our nation’s most grandiose platform. In other words, he might get to do something that only happens in movies and dreams. He might go out on top.

Manning admitted as much last week after beating the rival New England Patriots to advance to the big game, telling Pats coach Bill Belichick this might be, as he termed it, his last rodeo. And to extend the metaphor, Newton, who’s maybe not young enough to be Manning’s son, but definitely a nephew, referred to him as the Cowboy, which I believe is a term of endearment. The storybook ending is far from certain, especially since the Panthers come in as Vegas favorites, if not sentimental ones. Denver’s defense will have to contain the same Carolina offense that put 49 points up against Arizona last week, the same team that’s one bad day from being undefeated right now. As logic goes, or as I like to say, if you had to bet your house on the game, I’d go with Cam and Carolina to avoid eviction.

Yet public sentiment won’t likely follow. As the common think goes, Newton will have plenty more chances. This is it for Peyton. And by the way, Dan Marino thought the same thing when he lost the Super Bowl his first year. But throughout the next several days, you will read, watch, and hear countless stories about the Cowboy winning one in his last rodeo, about how great it would be to get his second ring and send him off the right way. You may even feel compelled to root for the Broncos despite having never watched a Denver game, nor ever having visited the state. This is what happens in the Super Bowl. We pick sides because we have to, because anything else is un-American. It’s like Donald Trump reminds us. This country is all about winning.

That said, as you prepare for the next 12 days of menu planning and convincing your partner that a 70 inch flat screen won’t overpower the room, I’d implore you to do this. Don’t fall for the easy mark. Beyond Peyton’s final show – and by the way, just remember, he may not retire. I think Ricky Henderson is still playing baseball somewhere – there are 100’s of stories, of players, coaches, parents, siblings, all with conviction and emotion, all who’ve made enormous sacrifice, up to and including their future health, none as financially secure as Manning, and a whole lot who might last a year or two in the league – not 17. So instead of rooting for the guy who’s got it all to get more, I implore you, find something else. A lineman, a receiver, heck, even a fan. Heck, root for the uniforms, which are now officially set. Rooting for Peyton Manning is easy. Picking someone else – that’s the real challenge.

And don’t feel like you have to rush. With 11 days left until the big game, and literally thousands of stories to come, there’s plenty left to discuss.

Keith Strudler is the director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication and an associate professor of communication. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

Related Content
  • If Peyton Manning had known six months ago that he’d be on the bench backing up an unproven fourth year quarterback who had thrown all of thirty passes in…
  • Being a head football coach in the National Football League is the complete opposite of having tenure as a professor. First, you get paid a lot, as a…
  • The wait for the good people of Los Angeles appears to now be over. That is, to the extent that many people were truly waiting. But if you’ve spent the…
  • When you’re upset, sometimes you say things you don’t really mean. That’s what I’ve been told. So we’ll just have to hope that Sarah from Seattle was…