Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On Football, Robots and Schadenfavre


Here's how I see it: The most depressing sports week of the year is the day after the NBA finals end in June (or July, or upon the inauguration of David Stern, whichever comes first). This is an indisputable fact, because even if you happen to still cling to the illusion that baseball is a major American sport (sorry, I can't help it--at this point, taking shots at baseball is more of an American pastime than baseball), you would admit that baseball season, from late June to mid-August, is essentially inconsequential, and matters far less if anything else of note happens to occur during that time period.

Anyway, the third most depressing sports week of the year--and this is more a matter of personal taste--is the day after the BCS Championship, because college football season goes by far too fast. But this very week is the second most-depressing sports week of the year, because now only the Super Bowl stands between ourselves and six months of yearning for Hard Knocks to begin. Also, it's cold, and in Brooklyn, at least, even the dogs seem surlier than usual.

My point is, the Super Bowl is not a football game. The Super Bowl ceased to exist as an actual football game in 1985. At that point, it became an event, which means, for Americans, it became an to excuse A.) Consume store-bought french onion dip, and B.) Attend a party where at least 33 percent of the audience is entirely unaware a game is actually being played. If the game is not a blowout by the third quarter, that's just a spiritual bonus.

That said, here are my preliminary thoughts:

--At some point during Sunday's game, I Twittered the term, "Schadenfavre." I presumed this was a very clever turn of phrase, until I realized that I was approximately the thirty millionth person to come up with it. Moral of the story--Originality is dead ... but thankfully, so is Brett Favre's season. And I'm not going to lie: That game was cathartic. It feels kind of craven to root for violence, but it seemed unfathomable that any 40-year-old quarterback, in this day and age, could make his way through a season and not end up with the motility and general color of this dude. Somebody needed to hit him, and the Saints did it, and you can't tell me those hits--and the fear of a future spent mowing his lawn with a walker--weren't running through Favre's mind when he made that final decision to gunsling a pass across his own body and straight into no-man's land. I don't even remember the precise details of when or why we started to dislike Favre so much in the first place, but it just felt like he deserved that ending for holding us an emotional hostage all these months.

--Also, let's just confirm what I said earlier this season: Peyton Manning, if he wins this game, could very well be the greatest quarterback of all time. Don't get me wrong--Favre is undeniably great, and even his late-career shenanigans can't keep him out of the top five. But if Favre was a throwback,* Manning is a pure projection of the future, a cool-thinking cyborg who operates with such precision that even James Cameron probably finds him a little ridiculous. I'll be rooting for the Saints, because I am a human with a beating heart, but it's hard not to feel like, at this point, that Manning, by utilizing his giant programmable brain, has probably changed the position more than any quarterback since Unitas. He may not be a gunslinger, but brilliant robots are far more interesting.

*If only an overzealous television broadcaster (or four hundred) had thought to refer to Favre as a "throwback." Imagine the possibilities!

1 comment:

WarningTrack said...

Great entry. Random thoughts in response:

1) I, too, partook in Schadenfavre (and I retweeted your use of it), and I make no apologies for it. The guy handled the situation with the Packers terribly, lied about his motivations at least once, and was horrendously indecisive even though knowing whether or not he was coming back would've helped the team plan ahead quite a bit.

Also, if the rumors about him shunning the typical mentor role in regards to Aaron Rodgers are true, it easily outweighs all the other good things about him. Nobody can confirm that, obviously, but if accurate, it's pretty messed up.

2) I think the perverse joy so many (including me) took in his downfall is that he's constantly getting credit for taking risks, without much acknowledgment that they're not always good risks. Now, you're talking to a Steelers/Roethlisberger fan, so I understand the double-edged sword that is the playmaking QB, but Favre is on a level all his own. He routinely just DECIDES to throw to someone with no regard for whether or not they're covered.

3) I think Manning is probably already the greatest QB in history, and it's kind of sad that he has to win another Super Bowl for people to think so. When are people going to understand that the team as a whole, and not some genetic "winningness" quality, determines Super Bowl victories?

4) Couldn't agree more than Manning is the QB of the future. The delineation between the QB and the offensive coordinator is unnatural and inefficient. It's all well and good for most offensive players, but a QB that runs the offense both in terms of the playbook and in terms of actually executing the plays is vastly superior, for a variety of reasons. In two decades all the league's top QBs will have a major hand in their offensive playcalling.

5) Related to #3; like you, I'll kinda be pulling for the Saints, but another Manning win would be a lovely punch to the solar-plexus of the notion of "clutch," which is pretty tasty in its own right. I'm just glad that I like both teams in the game, for once.