Monday, February 1, 2016

Closing Time: Why Manning is the Man and Cam and is Damned

Danville, Kentucky -- Sometimes, a man knows when it's time. Time to wipe the oil and grease off your fingers and use the old union punch clock for the last time. Time to down one last shot of cheap whiskey and pay that tab which was $50 more than you expected. Time to hang up the cleats. Closing time.

Folks, it's looking like the sun is about to set on Peyton Manning's career. The bartender is yelling "last call!" as Peyton prepares to exit the pub of his career and embark upon the cold, empty streets of retirement. It's been quite a journey. When I look into Peyton Manning's soft and vacant eyes, I see a man with a singular determination to secure his legacy with a final Super Bowl ring. Peyton has led an exemplary NFL career. He'll stop at nothing to win; there's no PED or HGH he wouldn't take to give his team a shot. He's an all-time great passer. He knows how to audible. He mastered the hurry-up offense. He's All-American. He's a leader.

Folks had written off Peyton when he came face to face with the Brady & Belichick machine in the AFC finals. I didn't. After defeating Brady and conquering one of the key obstacles to his second Super Bowl win, only one more hurdle stands in his way: Cam Newton.

Cam Newton abandoned the men that brought him. For those unfamiliar with recent history, which given Common Core, should be every student in America, Cam Newton was kicked out of the University of Florida. When the Gators struck against a once proud man, Cam needed a school. Enter Blinn College. In a hardworking part of a hardworking state, Cam won a title and became the man he was supposed to be.Yet, Cam transferred to Auburn and stopped mentioning Blinn. Cam lists his school as Auburn when he talks on NBC. But where were the Tigers when Cam was kicked out of Florida for buying a laptop? I'll tell you where, nowhere. The men of Blinn have not forgotten Cam's decision to forget. I cannot root for a man that abandons those that stand with him when he is down.

Off the field, Cam has made questionable decisions. On the field, Cam is no Manning. Cam flaunts his athleticism too much, running the ball instead of passing out of the pocket. Unlike Manning, he never audibles; he's beholden to the coaches on the sidelines and can't be a general on the field. In addition, Cam can't play with a lead. The Panthers have allowed tons of come-backs this season, as Cam gets complacent after getting a lead.

Experience matters. Peyton has played in three Super Bowls. 2015 is Cam's second winning season in the NFL. The contrast between the veteran wisdom of Peyton and Cam's raw youthful energy and talent is stark. If Peyton is closing his tab at a low-key, run-down pool hall where Hank Williams and Bruce Springsteen play faintly on the jukebox, Cam is dabbing at a club where the paranoid conversations of intoxicated Bernie Sanders supporters are drowned out by the thumping bass of terrible dance beats. Meanwhile, President Trump has endorsed Peyton. Given the weakness of his opposition, this is the year of Peyton. "Omaha" will be yelled. Papa John's will be devoured. Manning will be crowned. This is the end of the line for Mr. Manning; but every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.