Monday, February 8, 2010

On the Big Game, the Losing Quarterback, and Google's Ownership of Our Lives

1. I don't want to say I was the only person in America who saw that onside kick coming, but I am happy to make such blind assertions, because that's what blogging is all about (See No. XXII). And on that note, I'd have to disagree with Pat Yasinkas' assertion that the onside kick was not, in fact, a true gamble because Sean Payton calculated the odds to be better than 60 to 70 percent. Even if those were the odds, this was the SUPER BOWL: Payton was not only potentially risking the entire season on a complex play in which several variables (including a visibly freaked out kicker) had the potential to spontaneously implode; he was also defying tradition, spurning conservatism, and metaphorically expectorating in the face of John Facenda and Vince Lombardi and Hank Stram and George Allen. Payton made several decisions that would have been unthinkable 10-15 years ago, the onside kick foremost among them. And I'm not sure why the Super Bowl has suddenly gone from the most boring major championship game in any sport to the most exciting, but maybe this defiant shift in the coaching paradigm has something to do with it. This was football's liberal cerebellum, making itself more blatantly apparent than ever before. Never, I'm guessing, has there been an NFL season in which the two most exciting and memorable plays were a fourth down conversion that didn't work and an onside kick that did.

2. I open this question up for discussion: Who are athletes, in any sport, whose careers have advanced from "disappointing" to "transcendent" ... only to slip backward, and once again become "disappointing"?* Is this how we will now be forced to define Peyton Manning? Does one errant pass disqualify him from the moniker of Greatest Quarterback Ever? Are we judging too harshly, or does Manning's lone Super Bowl victory now stand out as the glaring exception in a career otherwise marred by an inability to finish? Honestly, I think we probably need some time to allow this one to settle before we judge. And of course, Manning still has at least 4-5 good years remaining in his career ... I have to imagine his impact on the way the game is played/called will most likely outweigh even a mistake as crushing as this one. But I could be wrong.

3. Am I the only one who found that Google ad inherently depressing? Because the underlying message had nothing to do with a love story between a boy and a girl--it had to do with our dependence on the Internet for everything we ever do. What Google was saying, essentially, is that our entire lives will, now and forever, be dictated by the results of what we type into a rectangular box. The message of the Google ad was that they own us, and they know they own us, and we know that they own us; ideologically, it was a bizarro version of Apple's 1984 ad, only this time Big Brother wins.
 *Honestly, there are none that immediately come to mind, especially when it comes to Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. Maybe Jim McMahon, but the Bears were never really good before the '86 Super Bowl. Maybe Mark Rypien, but if I remember correctly, his opportunities were pretty limited before the '92 Super Bowl. The only other Super Bowl-winning QB with such an arc of possibility is ... Eli Manning.

(Photo: Getty Images)


Jim said...

The Google ad wasn't saying that everything we do now and forever will be dictated by the internet - It was saying that now and forever our lives are assisted and enhanced by the internet.

For me, that makes it much less depressing. Whether it has that effect for you or not... It wasn't a glimpse of the future - we're already there.

Your escalator operator said...

I hated the Google ad also, and I hate it more every time I read/hear/see that someone says it was the best ad of the bunch.
I need to be emotionally connected to a ubiquitous online search engine that is already the de facto site for every search I perform?

Anonymous said...

Someday, 20yrs from now, Google will be able to separate out the impact of offensive line play from quarterback ability. Then it will be clear that -- after what was probably approaching 20min of cumulative time sitting back in a massive pocket and serenely picking out receivers -- Peyton's freakout when he faced mental pressure (rather than the type that comes from a D end) did in fact represent the line between Great and Disappointing.

WCS said...

The Google ad just made me happy the Internet exists, however dependent we may be on it. Is dependency a bad thing if you've become reliant on something that is super helpful and time-saving?

WarningTrack said...

Anyone who starts labeling Manning "disappointing" is just confused, or one of those people who think that Championships Won is the best measure of one's skill and talent at playing football.

Manning played a very good game. Until the pick, he'd played a *great* game. Brees just happened to play an *unbelievably great* game. And if anyone chooses to reply to this thought with anything that involves the phrase "when it counts," I have no interest in talking to you about it.

If you look at some of the more advanced offensive and defensive metrics, they're unanimous in one thing: the two offenses and defenses played at almost exactly the same level, but special teams were the difference. Manning started with something like an average of 10-20 yards less of field position all night. That's the difference, people.

Manning just can't win with some people. We get all this nonsense for years about how he can't win the Big Game (and really, the idea that such things are embedded in our genetics is a silly one that needs to die, yesterday). Then, he DOES win the Big Game, and he does it by beating the Patriots in last-minute dramatic fashion beforehand. And because he fell just short of a SECOND Super Bowl, we have to dispel this nonsense all over again? Good grief.

Michael Weinreb said...

Oh, even as a part-time Luddite, I understand that the Internet has made many things much easier--I suppose if I didn't believe this, I would choose to secure one of those yellow page directories currently languishing in the lobby of my apartment building. My concern is that we are essentially entrusting every important decision we make in our lives to the algorithms generated by a single monolithic corporation ( Even if you love Google--and I often do--there's something vaguely Orwellian about the way they operate.

And now I'll go back to generating empathy for millionaires.