Super Bowl Takes

Von Miller by Jeffery Beall
Von Miller remains the truth. Photo by Jeffery Beall.

Cam, Peyton, Wade’s crew, Bill, Roger, and Marshawn headline my thoughts on this weekend of football.

One can imagine it began sometime this fall at 345 Park Avenue…

The Vice President of League Merchandising–or whatever the title is of the person on the executive team in charge of league apparel–is in a conference room reporting on the state of his piece of the NFL to the executive team.

“The only demographic we haven’t captured in the U.S. consumer market is infants. We overestimate the demand for infant apparel and we currently have a massive surplus of infant-sized shirts, jumpers, pajamas, hats, and booties.”

“What is the current plan?” asks Joseph Siclare, the league’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.

“At year’s end, we’ll donate the clothing to groups that serve the poor in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. We can coordinate with PR and…”

“I have a better idea,” says commissioner Roger Goodell.

(Cue the out of tune choir of kids singing Kiss From A Rose)

Nah. If the NFL was really thinking this way, the commercial would have shown an Matrix-inspired series of infant farms in hospitals around the world with newborns swaddled in Giants jumpers staring wide-eyed at video monitors of NFL Network as pediatric nurses gently plugged them into low-volume earbuds (only after learning from advocacy groups that the NFL’s deal with hospitals was responsible for 15 years of early onset hearing loss, but the NFL denies any knowledge or responsibility for what happened. You know the drill.).

This Super Bowl reminded me a lot of past Broncos Championship games when I was growing up in the 1980s.  Except this incarnation of Denver’s team was more like the Broncos’ opponents: Good defenses and mediocre offenses led by quarterback managers.

Cam Newton was the John Elway figure in this game; the over-matched, one man gang whose Cinderella story struck midnight against a great defense.

No shame in that game. The Panthers’ offense had less playing in San Francisco in February than the Broncos’ offense–and that’s saying something.

Imagine if Newton had just one more offensive threat (Steve Smith) for this game? It’s why I think Denver’s defense, as great as it was this season, is not in the greatest of all-time category. It shut down a great player, but not a great unit.

If Denver shut down the Steelers’ offense at its peak health, which it didn’t, I’d feel differently about them in that regard.  It was still a great game for the Broncos’ unit, and Von Miller in particular.

Cam newton by keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison.

Speaking of Newton being shut down on the field, the Panthers’ QB shut down at the post-game presser. I understand the criticism to the extent that you ideally want a leader to do what Russell Wilson did last year: engage the press, keep the emotions in check, display cool accountability, and give the critics nothing bad to say about his behavior.

How Newton behaved was what I’d expect from an intensely competitive, crestfallen young man who just lost the biggest game of his life. There’s a reason most CEOs and military leaders aren’t 26.

The quarterback-as-CEO idea is dumb. Jerry Richardson is the CEO of the Panthers, not Newton. The Panthers quarterback is more like a director.

The NFL, as much as the league likes to swaddle itself in military and corporate imagery, is not one of these entities. If it were, the operations director or commanding officer who fumbled away two chances to reach its goal would not be thrust in front of the media minutes after the errors were made before the public eye; a public relations director or CEO would be reading a media statement and answering questions on their behalf.

I’m going to give Newton the same room to mature as Peyton Manning has earned after he stuck is private parts in the face of a fellow student at Tennessee, after he retorted to Mike Vanderjagt with an equally tabloid-worthy response (liquored-up kicker), after he stormed off the field and didn’t shake Drew Brees’ hand when he was nearly 35, and I’ll continue to downplay the fact that he told a national audience that he was going to get drunk off the beer that just ran a commercial during the game about responsible drinking since he owns two distributorships.

It kind of adds a little perspective to those down on Newton for a phony smile (can’t win either way), dabbing, giving footballs to kids in the stands, and pouting after the biggest loss of his career, doesn’t it?

No? Then I can’t help you, Bill Romanowski:


But it’s all about frame of reference, isn’t it? Romanowski was among the dirtiest players in the game and he divided his own locker rooms with acts like spitting on J.J. Stokes that prompted teammate Shannon Sharpe to threaten Romanowski with a whooping if they ever crossed paths in public.

I think I’ll take the 26-year-old sulking quarterback after the biggest loss of his career over the former player with nearly half a century of living who is still ignorant (or hateful until called out) enough to call a black man “boy,” in this country.

But that’s just me.


By the way, I’m a huge fan of Manning on the field. I can compartmentalize that I dislike Denver as a fan and still respect the team and the player as an analyst. If my Team to Defend the Planet had reliable advanced scouting of its opponent, Manning would be on my short list of candidates.

What he did to return to the field after his career ended in Indianapolis is remarkable and the fact he could bring Denver as close to a championship as he did before John Elway and company constructed a great defense is a testament to Manning’s on-field application of football knowledge.

I don’t know if he’ll want to be a coach, but I would love to see Manning as a pro football lifer. Would his expectations be too high? Would he have a gift for tailoring a system to individual talents? What type of schemes would he favor?

I’m hoping for this new chapter one day soon.


Lynch cleats

Marshawn Lynch, my favorite active player who was the reason I became a Seahawks fan the moment they acquired him from Buffalo, hung them up last night. If you haven’t read anything I’ve written about Lynch over the years, now’s your chance:

Note to NFL and NFL fans, the league is more interesting when it has individuals in it. Lynch was the ultimate individual, but also the ultimate teammate. Both can, and do, coexist.

Keep Earth Weird.


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