Before I even get into the main idea here, I want to get a few things on the table:
-The Patriots were the joke of the NFL for most of my life. Their one Super Bowl appearance ever was a 46-10 prison-raping at the hands of the Super Bowl Shuffle. You couldn't even work up a good Yankee-like hate of the Bears, who played an Old School style and were led by Sweetness- who had more class than a high school, and truly deserved a Super Sunday win before he hung 'em up.
That game didn't have the effect on me that the later Buckner/Mets debacle had. I was maybe 9 years old for the 1986 Super Bowl, and it was 3-0, Pats when I was sent to bed.
The next year, the team fell apart. It turns out that half the team was smoking crack, and the Super Bowl itself exposed the flaws of timid QB Tony Eason- who, John Hannah later intimated, should have been playing in a skirt. Noted NFL scribe Hunter S. Thompson called the team a "death ship," about 4 months after we took a young team to the edge of the championship.
He was right. We sucked, and we continued to suck right up until Mo Lewis nearly killed Bledsoe. We were a .500 team at the time, and they gave the keys to the third string QB... who promptly reeled off 3 straight Super Bowls with the same squad that both Belly Check and NCAA kingpin Pete Carroll had stunk up Foxboro with.
That was pretty much the damndest thing I ever saw. I mean, I've seen things one possibly couldn't predict- like that dude in the parasail landing in the middle of Bowe/Holyfield, Artest trying to fight Detroit (city of), or Mike Milbury beating someone with a shoe- but the first Pats Super Bowl team was simply the Wrong way to field a winning team. The fact that we got a dynasty out of it only makes it more fond of a memory.
- I've been a winner and a loser in this here game of Life myself. Who hasn't goofed something up? Keeping it sports, I've been on state-title winning teams. I'veplayed for teams that were considered dynasties. I've also taken some good beatings. Tennis wasn't my best sport, and I used to dread playing teams like Scituate, Sharon, Concord-Carlisle and other tennis factories, because I:
a) had a pretty realistic view of my skill set
b) knew I was going to be in for a straight-set drubbing.
I also talked one of my bosses into letting me make a school basketball team... despite the fact that the only league we could get into was one featuring 200 kid schools, while we were maxed at 28. We went 0-16 in our first season, and it wasn't unusual for me to have to play in games myself in order for us to have 5 people on the court.
I can recall pulling up in our van to one game, going into the gym- I believe it was the Chelsea Armory- and seeing the other kids dunking through their layup drills... while I have two 5'8" Cambridge kids and a bunch of fat SPEDsters. My team- which quickly developed a love for Gallows Humor- started laughing right there. I got 14 that night, but we lost by about 70.
So I've tasted my fair share of Loss in my time. Who hasn't?
- It's better to be the Jack in a new deck of cards than a King in an old junk-drawer deck that only has 45 or so cards. Likewise, being a career-length loser is a lucrative business. Alex Rodriguez gets a quarter billion over 10 years to spoil the Yankees chemistry, and a quarter billion people must have sat in Fenway watching us Not Win for 86 years in a row.
Even the worst schmuck of a mop-up duty, fetch-the-donuts, third string kind of quarterback in the NFL makes a half million dollars a season. He most likely has starred for 8 years in school ball, attracted national attention to himself, went to college for free, banged cheerleaders, had his smiling face all over TV, met Bob Hope, signed a fat contract and bought his Mom the nicest house in town.
That's a Winner, even if he loses 68-0 in every game. He can walk off the field with booooos raining downon him, hoist both middle fingers to the crowd, and be like "Eff you. I'll buy your business and fire you if it amuses me, peon." Not many of us can say that to win an argument.
- I'm sort of at odds with myself regarding my views on Genetics. I'd hate to punish the Son for the sins of the Father... but I can't see Mr. T having a wimpy child, either. Where I'm torn is in where to draw the line insofar as How Far genetics can reach. Can one mix the right sperm'n'egg to concoct a great soldier, or a timeless poet, or a skilled scientist? Should one?
All of these things run through my head when I settle down to write about Peyton Manning, and his punk brother Eli.
Eli was the dead-on number one pick in the draft. He actually chose the team he would play for, spurning San Diego for New York. He signed for a zillion dollars. He took a weak Giants team into the playoffs. He's the less successful brother.
Peyton Manning has torn the NFL apart for a half decade, easy. He owns or is nearing every passing record possible. If he's not starting the Pro Bowl, it's a joke. He makes enough money that they had to let other guys go. He's an old school QB, and I'm sure he looks more like Unitas back there than I realize, not being 70. He probably has 10 good years left, at 10 million per. He's a once-per-generation talent.
That's why it's so much fun watching him lose. There are indeed times that the Tortoise beats the Hare. It's usually in January.
Peyton can't win the big game. Every year, his Colts sit atop the power rankings. They go into every game as overwhelming favorites. They are always the Super Bowl favorite... right until the playoffs start, and Peyton chokes like a toddler who ate a checker. You can't set a watch to it, but you can set a calendar... it's usually not long after the Solstice.
I do have Wicca friends, and I also have NFL friends.... I just don't have a Wicca friend who shows up Sunday afternoon dressed in a Roosevelt Colvin jersey... witches must be doing Other Stuff on Sunday. Either way, use Christmas as a barometer, and the needle is in Stormy after the holidays.
Eli has the same problem, although he seems to start fudging up in late October. He's the BK drive-thru Miseryburger to Peyton's gourmet meal of Schadenfreude Steak. We already know Eli won't be winning the Super Bowl this year, but Peyton.... smiling.... that's a whole other coconut, kids.
Part of the fun when the Pats went on their run was watching Peyton trot out in a Foxboro snowstorm for like 3 straight years and gag like he just did a fat line. I'm sure he has Willie McGinest nightmares. The year we got eliminated, Pittsburgh did the same damn thing to him.
When I was working for the YMCA after I left teaching, there used to always be a little Patriots rally at whatever school the program was at, right before the Super Bowl. All the kids would come in with their Patriots gear, and I always had extra stuff for the kids who were lacking.
Talking to them, I noticed an unusual amount of confidence. Of course the Patriots were going to win... they always do. There were kids who had never seen anyone but Tom Brady win a Super Bowl. I smiled, knowing that there was some other lady at a YMCA out Indiana-way who probably had to pep up their kids..."Awww,c'mon... they MIGHT win." That woman most likely shields her kids from the Colts, sort of like a less tragic 9-11.
How do you make a Manning, a guy who could screw up and drive the girl away in his own nocturnal emissions? Start with Dad.
Archie Manning was a hometown hero who went to the New Orleans Saints and lost 12 games a year for like 10 years. He is widely considered to be man who has been sacked more than anyone. If he ever went to a Super Bowl, I hope he had a good seat.
His sons seem to be chips off the old Arch, with Peyton taking Unexpected Loss to new heights and Eli about to become the guy with the Kick Me sign when the vicious New York media start looking for someone to blame the Giants' freefall this season on. They gave away the store to get this kid, and his talent dies out in the cold weather like a lawn. Peyton at least enjoys a nice Xmas before he starts choking.
There's probably some way to start at Eli, go back to Peyton, through both of their careers into their childhoods, to the very day Archie met their mother- who is no doubt a Miss Louisiana runner-up who met Arch when she was waitressing at the local Loser's Club.
If they could study the Mannings and isolate the right mix of Genetics and Parenting- or Nurture and Nature, if you will- they could somehow manufacture Failure. Once that genie is out of the bottle, you merely have to follow him home to Success.
Billions probably died of Smallpox over the years, and it wasn't met and defeated in an open Scientific battle where Pox was wiped out with a haymaker. The reason we don't get Smallpox now is that someone figured out that milk maids didn't get it because they all get Cowpox earlier in life. This hardened their immune systems, and they were able to thus defeat Small by losing to Cow.
Likewise, the key to one day bringing about a Superman is to work backwards from whatever accident made those Manning boys into pretty much the Flying Wallendas of Loss.