Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Tale of Two QB's

Super Bowl L (I am sticking with Roman numerals even though Roger Goodell's NFL is not) has come and gone.

A competitive battle whose outcome was in doubt until the final three minutes, it was filled with everything that makes sports great -- except for dazzling offense.

But there is a reason we saw no dazzling offense, and that reason is that we were treated to dazzling defense.

The game put outstanding tackling, powerful hits, and forced turnovers on display from start to finish. Because I love strong defense and firmly believe the adages that "defense wins championships" and "football is won in the trenches," I found Super Bowl L to be one of my favorites.

The media did not ignore the role that good old-fashioned defense played in this game. Von Miller got the nod as MVP, and received a good bit of press for his dominant linebacking and the pair of decisive fumbles he forced. There has been a good bit of talk about how well Denver's top-ranked defense performed on the ultimate stage (though it would be nice if there was also a good bit of talk about how well Carolina's sixth-ranked defense performed on that stage).

However, most of the post-game media chatter has focused on the quarterbacks. This is somewhat understandable these days, especially given the dichotomy between the immobile white 39-year-old Petyon Manning and the mobile black 26-year-old Cam Newton, and I accept that even though I don't agree with it. What drives me to write this post is the uneven nature of that QB-focused coverage.

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Full disclosure #1:  I am an Auburn grad and therefore it would be fair for people to say I'm predisposed to defend Newton (even though I find it off-putting that he named his son Chosen).

Full disclosure #2:  I have a pronounced Peyton problem that I have written about before (even though it's really a problem with the media, not him).

With that said, the way the media has regarded the two quarterbacks since Super Bowl L ended strikes me as atrociously biased.

The media have praised Manning for deferring credit for the win to his teammates. They have praised him for his maturity and effused about the prospect of him ending his career as a reigning champion, which is something that in all of history has been accomplished by only one other QB.

They have acknowledged that Manning looked nothing like a Hall of Famer on Sunday night, but have converted that criticism into praise by saying it shows that he recognized the limitations of his age and opted to play within himself. Of course, "plays within himself" sounds a lot like a dog whistle for "plays smart."

Conversely, the media have butchered Newton for not performing as well as he did during the rest of the season, and torched him for cutting short his post-game interview with their holy selves... Never mind that logic dictates that every quarterback will perform poorer than usual when he faces the league's top-ranked defense for the only time... Never mind that not a one of the media members criticizing Newton has ever been in the situation he was in at that moment he cut them short; i.e., not a one of them has worked his entire life in pursuit of a damnably unobtainable goal, only to put himself within reach of that goal and then come up short... And more to the point, those in the media who have butchered Newton have done so gleefully and with a wholly unmerited air of moral superiority.

Something the media chooses not to mention (even though their own cameras captured it in real time) is that when Super Bowl L ended, Cam Newton approached Peyton Manning on the field and had a smile on his face. They also don't mention that Newton shook hands with members of the team that had just beaten his, and that he appeared to congratulate them on their success against his team and against himself.

Something else the media chooses not to mention is that six years ago, when Super Bowl XLIV ended with Manning as the losing quarterback, Manning walked off the field without shaking hands with a single member of the New Orleans Saints' team that had just beaten his -- and keep in mind that Manning was then seven years older than Newton is now, and thus logic dictates he should have acted more mature than Newton did on Sunday.

The disconnect between the way the media treat Peyton Manning and the way they treat Cam Newton (and in my opinion, between the way they treat Peyton Manning and the way they treat everybody else) is just plain outrageous.

Yes, Manning comes across as humble and ethical and I believe he really is humble and ethical, but didn't he just cap off a Super Bowl victory by saying he was about to "drink a lot of Budweiser," without a whiff of media or MADD criticism coming his way? Do you think the media would have remained silent if Cam Newton said that?

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I have no idea why it is that Peyton Manning receives so much adoration and so little criticism from the press.

I want to say it's because of his bloodline and I do believe that has something to do with it, but then again, Eli Manning gets more criticism than Peyton even though he has just as many rings and is the only QB ever to beat Tom Brady in a Super Bowl (which he has done twice!).

I can not prove than race is the reason for the disconnect between media treatment of Manning versus media treatment of Newton... after all, the media have long been soft on some black quarterbacks (e.g., Donovan McNabb) and brutal on some white quarterbacks (e.g., Jay Cutler)... but I have no doubt -- repeat, no doubt -- that race has something to do with the difference in treatment that has been on display for the last two days.

I have just said a lot, but it all boils down to this: Ignore the media, look at the facts, make up your own mind, and don't judge unless there is a verifiable reason to judge.

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