Burn the Peyton Manning bandwagon

It’s never easy rooting against All-American apple pie, but in today’s world courageous stands against ignorance and myopia have never been more important. And so the time has come to point accusing fingers at those of you who have happily drunk the Peyton Manning Kool-Aid. The sports media tell us at every opportunity how great NFL quarterback Manning is – the love and adulation heaped on this guy at times feels on a par with the praise lavished on Michael Jordan in the 1990s. Which is just ridiculous – Jordan won six rings, Manning’s won zero. Put simply, this is the time when all good men and women must begin to root against aw-shucks good-‘ol-boy Peyton Manning.

Herewith are five reasons why Manning deserves none of your respect.

1. Manning is paradoxically overrated. If you look at how much Manning’s accomplished, you’d be suitably impressed. Number one pick in the 1998 NFL draft. Co-MVP in 2003. NFL single-season touchdown leader with 48 in 2004. And yet, when it comes to big-time, high-stakes clutch performances, Manning has been very, very mortal. The Colts are typically extremely good in the regular season only to have the wheels come off in January when the post-season begins. Manning’s thus a combined 3-6 in NFL playoff games. This lack of success in Big Games has dogged Manning since his college days – give him credit: at least he’s consistent in his choke artist tendencies. To be fair, it’s okay to never win a Superbowl – there have plenty of outstanding quarterbacks who have had solid careers without doing so – but it has to be more than a little embarrassing to continue to fail when so many have anointed you as the one of the smartest and most gifted passers to ever play the game. Let’s also not forget the bank Manning makes – the Colts in 2004 gave him the biggest NFL salary ever at the time: $99 million over seven years. So much expectation, so few results.

2. Manning never met a play he didn’t want to audible. Have you seen this guy when he’s under center? It’s nothing but hand gestures and finger pointing taken to hilarious extremes. One wonders if he ever sticks to the play that’s called in the huddle. Certainly there are times when an NFL quarterback sees something in the defense that demands an audible, but it’s only Manning who’s developed this reputation for frantic scrimmage-line arm waving. Frankly, there’s something a little smug and arrogant about it, as if he’s buying into all of the talk about his intelligence and making sure everyone sees how clever and astute he is in reading defenses and adjusting at the last moment. That nonsense can come at a price, of course. A few seasons ago it was reported that Manning’s infinite audibles weren’t only confounding the defenses, but his own teammates.

3. Manning is apparently the only NFL player advertisers want to employ in their spots. There are plenty of recognizable faces playing football (including some, like Tom Brady, who've won Superbowls), but you wouldn’t know it from the advertising. You can’t watch a single commercial pod during an NFL game these days without seeing Manning’s mug working for one sponsor or another. There’s the ESPN Sportscenter and NFL spots with his father and brother (an irritant in and of itself – see #5 below), the Sprint commercial with his stupid mustache disguise (“laser rocket arm”), the DirecTV spots in which he talks to the camera from the field, and the - genuinely amusing - MasterCard spots featuring Manning cheering on everyday workers like paperboys and waitresses. Most of these spots trade on Manning’s purported mild-mannered affability. So it’s particularly jarring when Gatorade Rain uses Manning in a spot that requires an intimidating bad-ass. This is absolutely absurd. Rather than find a truly menacing NFL bully like Brian Urlacher, Gatorade went back to the goofy-faced Louisianan who intimidates with… his brainy audibles? Truth be told, these companies should probably all be boycotted, if only to teach them a lesson.

4. Any problem with the Indianapolis Colts offense has nothing to do with Manning. Watch Manning when a pass goes incomplete or the team fails to convert on third down. He slings his arms around and shakes his head like a petulant four-year-old. It’s never his fault (which seems odd since he’s the one making all of those audibles). He’s brilliant – it’s teammates who fail to elevate themselves to his level that leads to trouble. This tendency was particularly obvious in 2006 following the Colts’ predictable exit from the playoffs – at the post-game press conference Manning awkwardly suggested the real problem lied with his offensive line not giving him time to work his magic. Classy.

5. Manning’s part of a supposed football family dynasty. Not only do we have to endure all of the attention paid to Peyton, but we also have to hear all about his father Archie and brother Eli. This doesn’t just mean having to sit through cutesy big-lug advertising spots that feature all three, but also the annoying inevitability that every article and TV piece about Peyton will sooner or later make the obligatory mention of the family. We get it – they’re all quarterbacks. (Archie never won the big one, either, so maybe it runs in the family.) As a post-script, the true Manning sensibility was perhaps best displayed with daddy Archie got involved in baby Eli’s temper tantrum about wanting to be drafted by the Giants, even though the Chargers had the number one pick and decided to draft him. The look of disgust on Eli’s face holding the Charger jersey (moments before they traded his underachieving ass to the Giants) is priceless – to be so upset to have just been guaranteed millions. What a bunch of jerks.

In sum, let us all join forces to hope that Peyton Manning goes the way of the NFL quarterback who is so far most like him: gunslinger Dan Marino, a guy who racked up lots of honors and statistics but never won a Superbowl. Now that would be something to cheer about.


Heroes "Homecoming"

Cool: Mohinder finds a list in his father's computer of all the world's heroes. A great moment, yes. But how exactly did Chandra Suresh find these people? There’s some throwaway technobabble dialogue about using the human genome project, but how would that allow a scientist in India to know if I can breathe underwater or not? Seems like a cheat, but we’ll let it slide. Also, did it strike you as kind of funny that all Mohinder had to do was click one button to get to that list? (Do you want to quit? No. Okay, then here’s all of the heroes.)
Cooler: We wonder at what point someone at NBC will get the idea to try and market and sell a mock-up version of Chandra Suresh’s Activating Evolution book.
Huh?: What high school takes one of the most dramatic social events of the year – the announcement of homecoming queen – and reduces it to a flyer stapled to a commons bulletin board?
Falling: Sylar, who was built up as this unstoppable force of gory evil and telekinetic power. But he was neutralized in just a few short minutes after tussling with irritating wimp Peter and mind-control pixie Eden. Feels like a letdown.

Lost "I Do"

Cool: A gold star for actor Michael Emerson. As dastardly as his Ben may be, Emerson still manages to stir genuine sympathy with his (probably phony) hangdog vulnerability in the scenes involving his fatal cancer.
Cooler: We really should mention Kate and Sawyer’s bear cage sex scene. And now we have.
Coolest: Jack springs into action once again, ignoring the Hippocratic Oath to put Ben in mortal danger on the operating table to force the Others to release Kate and Sawyer. Too bad Jack doesn’t realize they’re on a different island and have nowhere to run.
Huh?: We understand the importance of sweeps to ABC and appreciate that the second half of the “Lost” season will air without repeats. But February 1, 2007 sure seems like a long way away.
Falling: Kate. We learn she married a cop, apparently forgetting that she’s, like, a fugitive on the run from police. That said, this development is a nice callback to season 1 when during a game of “I Never” with Sawyer she revealed that she’d been married.

Battlestar Galactica "Hero"

Cool: Tigh finally gets himself a cool eyepatch.

Cooler: This is an episode with a lot of twists and turns as the truth is slowly revealed about Bulldog’s secret mission and Adama’s role in ending it. Adama’s clearly upset about the choices he made, but what choices were they? At first it seems he’s upset that he left Bulldog behind, then it seems like the problem is that he shot Bulldog down to preserve the mission’s secrecy, then later we find out that Adama’s mission across the Cylon Armistice Line may have been the provocation that started the entire war. This is good stuff, exploring the costs of command and the price of war.

Huh?: The Cylon base star scenes continue to mystify us. But that's why TiVo has a fast-forward button.

Best Line: “Sometimes surviving can be its own death sentence.” – Tigh to Bulldog, neatly summarizing theme of the entire episode.

Rising: Adama, who turns out isn’t a perfect leader with an unblemished record. His transfer to Galactica (the oldest battlestar in the fleet, remember), it turns out, was the admiralty’s way of offering him a graceful retirement following the disastrous mission with Bulldog.

Battlestar Galactica “A Measure of Salvation”

Cool: Baltar gets tortured. Finally. The Cheese Fry can’t wait for the reruns.
Cooler: The Cylon debate. Apollo and Roslin see this virus as the perfect opportunity to wipe out the Cylons, but Helo (and to a lesser extent, Adama) worry what such a decision will mean for humanity. How is Apollo’s plan any different from the Cylon’s nuclear attack on the 12 colonies? Are the Cylons a “race” worthy of preservation? Bonus points to Adama for insisting that the decision rest with Roslin. He doesn’t want his hands dirty.
Coolest: Helo makes the bold decision to put his money where his mouth is and sabtoage Apollo’s genocide plan. This guy’s something else.
Best Line: “I have determined the Cylons be made extinct.” – Roslin’s edict to pursue Apollo’s plan to infect the Cylons with the virus.
Falling: Baltar, whose arc continues to be the most confusing part of the show. What exactly is going on in all of those Cylon base star scenes? More importantly, do we care to do the work required to find out?

Heroes “Seven Minutes to Midnight”

Cool: Ted the firestarter and Matt the mindreader compare weird neck marks. Are the marks something Horn Rim Glasses burned onto them when he studied them or are the marks clues to what gave them the power? Mohinder’s dad thinks it’s a natural evolutionary process, which would seem to contradict the idea that the heroes were kidnapped, marked, and given the powers.
Cooler: Horn Rim Glasses explains Sylar is killing heroes. This not suggests that maybe HRG isn’t the villain we’d suspected him of being. Even better, this suggests the show may ultimately be more satisfying that something like “Lost” that can seem so stingy with doling out plot details and backstory secrets.
Coolest: Eden isn’t just a pretty spy. She’s got a fun hero power of her own: suggestive whispering, Jedi-style.
Huh?: If HRG and Eden know Isaac can only predict the future when he’s high, why clean him up? It seems they do this just so Eden and HRG can have an argument about forcing Isaac back onto heroin. By the way, painting the future? Not as groovy as mindreading or time-travel or flying. But we suppose it was necessary for plotting purposes.

Battlestar Galactica "Torn"

Cool: Sharon’s new call sign is Athena (Boomer is no more), which was the name of Apollo’s sister/Adama's daughter on the original series. Some have suggested this is the writers’ way of subtly underscoring Adama’s growing connection to Sharon. All the more to make his betrayal of her regarding Hera all the more dramatic.

Cooler: Suggestion is made that the Cylon virus was deliberately planted – booby-trap style – by the 13th colony as it headed for earth long ago. We’re not sure what to make of that, but it’s interesting.

Coolest: The old Starbuck may be on the way back, what with the dramatic knife-blade haircut she gives herself. (Check out the worried expressions on her fellow Colonials when she whips out that knife in the communal bathroom.) It would seem that, unlike Tigh, Starbuck is ready to try and get past the pain she suffered on New Caprica.

Huh?: What the heck is this babbling-in-a-milk-bath Cylon hybrid thing? It’d be kind of cool if it wasn’t so clearly a ripoff of the pre-cogs in Minority Report.
Best Line: “That man doesn’t exist anymore, Bill.” – Tigh to Adama. A response to Adama’s demand that Tigh be the man he once was. Murdering your wife can do that to you.

Rising: Tigh, who’s becoming the show’s most compelling character, so happily succumbing to his burning hatred and self-pity (and the attendant alcoholism). Despite what he tells Adama, no doubt some future crisis will allow Tigh to redeem himself.

Lost "The Cost of Living"

Cool: Jack and Juliet continue their flirting and, honestly, The Cheese Fry can hardly blame him. Juliet may be the Bad Girl with a Heart of Gold that Kate only wished she could be - our zeal for Evangeline Lily continues to wane.
Cooler: Juliet’s clever tactic to communicate a secret message to Jack. She tells him how great Ben is while she runs a silent videotape for Jack in which she holds up contradictory handwritten signs, which includes “Some of us want a change.” Is she telling the truth? Is it a set-up? One of those goosebump moments at which this show excels.
Huh?: Yes, the integration of new cast members Kiele Sanchez and Rodrigo Santoro continues to be embarrassingly ham-handed and clumsy, but far more awkward is the sudden and rather anticlimactic demise of Mr. Eko, inexplicably felled by the black smoke monster.
Best Line: “Don’t mistake coincidence for fate.” – Locke, delivering one of those polished Big Theme gems.
Falling: The original castaways, who have become rather boring, don't you think? So far this season, all of the thrills and intrigue comes from the Others and their interactions with Jack, Sawyer, and Kate.