Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Peyton Manning’s Sloppy Seconds Super Bowl

Okay, people. It’s time again to talk about football. Like a dependable locust, arriving once every 12 months to devour all the snack food in your local grocery store, the Super Bowl arrived as predicted this past Sunday. And it was messy. (And before you tune out completely, don’t panic non-sports fans. I’m going to talk about the halftime show as well.)

Football! Now even 50-ier!
Before I get to the mess that actually unfolded on the field, here’s the obligatory background: This years’ teams were the Denver Broncos, led by quarterback and commercial star Peyton Manning, against the Carolina Panthers, led by one-man self-hype squad Cam Newton. If these names sound familiar to you, non-sports fan, it’s because Cam Newton got a lot of press for being the first person ever to win a Heisman trophy, a national championship, and be a first round draft pick in one year. Peyton Manning you know because there’s not a product on TV he hasn’t considering filming a promo for. Manning is also the oldest son of former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and the older brother of current New York Giants QB Eli Manning. The Mannings are sort of like the Lannisters of the NFL.

Google Image searching "Lannisters and Mannings" actually returns a surprising number of results

Look, I could write a doctoral thesis on the oedipal dynamics of the Manning family. Suffice it to say the comparison to the Game of Thrones dynasty is important because at age 39, Peyton Manning is an old man in pro football terms and one seen as desperate to claim his place in the family glory. When he stepped on the field for this Super Bowl, he was officially the oldest QB ever to play in the game. He’s also been somewhat eclipsed by his younger brother who has won two Super Bowl rings. When Peyton played in the Super Bowl two years ago, it was seen as his last chance to win a second ring for himself so that he could retire on top. When the Broncos lost spectacularly that year to the upstart Seattle Seahawks, Peyton was on shaky ground. This game was his for real last last chance. And, like two years ago, he would be facing an upstart team fronted by a young, fresh face that had no qualms about strutting wherever he walked.

So what drama did we actually see in the game? Well, put it this way: I’ve had to consult a thesaurus when writing this to make sure I didn’t overuse the words “sloppy” and “messy.” And not to bury the lede anymore than I already have, but Denver eventually emerged as the winner. And though the score makes that win look decisive, let me show you exactly how not the case that was.

The thing is, Super Bowl 50 was a record breaker. Not in a good way. Denver made only 11 first downs and gained less than 200 total yards in the entire game. That’s the lowest for any Super Bowl winner ever. Over at the Carolina side, Cam Newton only had 18 of his 44 passes reach their targets, about a 44% success rate. Newton was also sacked (tackled to the ground by the opposing team before he could throw the ball) seven times, which ties him for first place in the number of sacks in the Super Bowl. Between the two teams there were 18 penalties for a total of 153 lost yards. Carolina had four turnovers (unintentionally losing the ball to the other team) and Denver had two. Both sides literally were tripping over themselves trying to run the ball. There was so much fumbling, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was actually a basketball game.

One of the more dignified examples of utterly shitting the bed, professionally speaking.

It was also a relatively low-scoring game. Denver won 24-10, which by pro football standards is a very modest end result. It also doesn’t really reflect the reality of how those scores were won. Denver’s first touchdown came quickly at the start of the game, but only because Carolina somehow fumbled their own ball and Denver recovered it in the Carolina end zone. Which is sort of like when Wile E. Coyote would try to kill the Road Runner with a bazooka only to have the bazooka blow up in his own face. You can’t exactly say that the Road Runner won that exchange.

Carolina itself didn’t even score until about a third of the way through the second quarter. Denver came into the game with the highest ranked defense in the country, but Carolina didn’t exactly make them use it much. This is doubly surprising given that Carolina had a remarkable season, coming almost out of nowhere. In fact, Carolina was favored over Denver going into the game, a prediction that probably made for some fun times in Vegas on Sunday night.  

It’s tempting to see an analogy here: the upstart, anti-establishment team comes roaring out of relative obscurity to capture the media’s attention, which initially ridicules said team before taking more note of them, predicting their demise, becomes dismayed when team continues to rise, and finally all but preparing the coronation before the older, establishment team delivers the crushing blow. Not sure where else I could have seen that story.

I'll tell you what, it would be YUGE.

I’ve just been reminded by Maggie Cats that I am obligated at this point to talk about Beyoncé and, specifically, that I must use the word “fierce.”

Look, I’m not convinced that Beyoncé is an actual person. I think she’s a next-generation hologram precision-designed in a corporate lab somewhere in Heidelberg to give the world something to care about. I’m also pretty sure that Beyoncé Corporate has formed a contractual agreement with the Internet that the Internet must at all times speak of BeyoncéTM in only exaggerated, breathless terms. The Pepsi commercial halftime show kind of underscores that. In the parlance of the Internet, she “slayed.” Which, I guess? I mean, when your competition is Bruno Mars wearing a hefty bag and that one guy who Gwyneth Paltrow contentiously uncoupled from it’s not that hard to land, is it? I do think Beyoncé Corporate was smart to schedule their product’s performance literally hours after dropping another stealth song and video as a lead in to her World Tour/Adele Assassination Strategy. Well done, team! Take a long lunch today for coming up with that creative synergy.

For me, the halftime show is more notable for what happened afterwards. Which is to say, horrible people on the Internet continued to be horrible. Did you realize that all those psychedelic colors and outfits were actually secret number generators that were beaming stealth messages DIRECTLY INTO YOUR BRAIN and that Nobama knows about it and it’s all part of his plot to replace your guns with gay people? IT’S TRUE! Behold:

Your voters, America.

So, yeah. That was pretty much the halftime show.

As I say every year when I write this post, the Super Bowl is not about excellent sportsmanship or athletic prowess. It is about showmanship. The Super Bowl is event television where the only unforgivable sin is to be boring. In that sense, Super Bowl 50 lived up. Disheveled as it may have been, it was entertaining to watch the players messing all over themselves in the same way that it is entertaining to watch Japanese game shows, albeit with less crushing pain in this case. It also should give lots of support to struggling junior high school football players out there. “You see?” their parents will say to them, “It doesn’t matter if you fumbled into your own end zone. It was good enough for Cam Newton!”

Always next year?

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