Football, Sports

Rocky XLI

02.07.07 | Comment?

So I was reading some reactions to the Superbowl over at Football Outsiders, and it occurred to me why I always rooted against Peyton Manning: because he’s Ivan Drago.

(Drago, of course, was Rocky’s opponent in Rocky IV (The Undiscovered Comedy), in which Rock ends the Cold War single handed.)

Drago was prepared with the latest scientific methods and machinery until he looked like he’d been tooled from a piece of steel – surely intended to emphasis his similarity to a robot. And actor Dolph Lungren had the skills to deliver an equally robotic performance. Oh, wait…

But when he got in the ring, and got socked in the face a few times, he wilted. Which brings us to Peyton Manning. Manning is known for his fanatical preparation, his desire to keep practicing until he can run every play exactly right. The Colts’ offense is an exercise in efficiency, methodically picking apart opposing teams and overwhelming them with sheer firepower.

This emphasis on perfection cuts both ways. When a big game is on the line, when ill-tempered 300 pound linemen are coming after Manning like a pack of wild dogs, when his receivers have been hit so often they’re crying like 9-year-old girls, that perfect execution breaks down, and Manning has not shown an ability to adjust. When the going gets tough, he goes home.

Until this year. I noticed early in this season that something seemed different about the Colts (and, dammit, meant to post about it). They were winning games in which they played poorly. They kept coming and never quit, and Manning was a big part of it. They were finally playing with some heart.

Then Houston ran them out of the stadium, and I figured they were toast. Shows what I know about football.

My point is that people don’t like rooting for Ivan Drago, the perfect machine. We like rooting for Rocky, the underdog who just hangs in there with nothing but guts and determination. That’s what Manning showed this year. He finally lived up to his billing.

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