Monday, February 8, 2010

It ain't Oprah, til' it's Oprah

So, he is human after all. For awhile there, he had me going. The needlepoint precision, the Alexis Carrington shoulders, the ability to appear in four television commercials at once. Peyton appeared to be the Bionic Man -- until late in the 4th quarter of yesterday's big game. Down by 7, having been knocked from his perch by an onside kick that can only be described as chutzpah-dic, Peyton did the unthinkable. On the verge of tying the game, he threw a Brett Favre Special -- a Pick 6 to end what had, until that moment, been a high stakes gunfight.

No one could have predicted it. It was so unlike him. Something a less polished quarterback would do. Not Peyton. Not the golden boy.

So goes the story that people will be telling of last night's Super Bowl at water coolers around the world.

The questions abound as to the impact on Manning's legacy -- and what this means for Indianapolis' future. Can everyone just take a breath? He threw an interception. It happens. To lesser quarterbacks, it happens a lot. The man is not yet 34 years old and is in seemingly excellent health. In my opinion, the book on Manning's legacy is far from closed.

Yes, it's true. I wasn't on the Saints bandwagon. But today's story should be about them. Who Dat? Nation is finally getting attention for something positive. People are talking about New Orleans in terms other than destruction, racism, and, that amalgam of them both, the Ninth Ward.

So, I'm gonna head down to the Big Easy, at least in spirit, and be happy for a city that has waited to taste victory for far too long. And, thanks to Drew, Reggie, and some other guy named Payton -- it's just as sweet as a beignet from Cafe Du Monde.

Nota Bene:
If, like Dockers, Coke, and, Jason Sehorn had known that pants were optional at the Super Bowl, he might not have given up that touchdown in 2001. Just a thought...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Peyton's Place

Yesterday was a big day for pop culture media. Not only were this year’s Oscar nominations announced at 5:30 AM Pacific Time, but it was also Super Bowl Media Day – a Miami based circus with Peyton Manning in the center ring.

Over the past decade, Manning has become one of America’s most popular athletes. He has whored himself out to everyone from Visa, to DirecTV, to Oreo and, with the recent downfall of a certain unnamed golf wunderkind, he might just be the most likable guy in sports.

You see, Manning’s talent is immense and undeniable, but he remains a man, or, more precisely, a good ole boy, of the people. Unlike his stuffy New England counterpart Tom Brady, Peyton doesn’t take himself all that seriously. Not only does he don a Bjorn Borg sweatband to pound DoubleStufs with brother Eli and Donald Trump, but he happily displays his goofy “dance moves” in front of Justin Timberlake and the world in those insufferable Sony ads. While Brady comes off as a tool who is only interested in his chin dimple and getting home to Gisele, Manning is the loveable guy next door – a decent-looking doofus who happens to have a God-given gift.

I spent several years trying to hate Peyton. I labeled him a thorn in the Jets’ side and resented his talent. But in this almost perfect season, Manning has proven himself irresistible to love. Despite the inexplicable inward turn of his chest (don’t tell me you haven’t noticed), he is climbing the ranks on my favorite QB list. What I have found most impressive about Peyton is the grace with which he handles himself in front of the press. I have no doubt that this is a skill he picked up from his parents, Archie and Olivia.

This week has seen a deluge of articles on the Manning family, their relationship to New Orleans, and their undisputed NFL dynasty. Archie is so beloved in the Big Easy that, despite having one of the League’s worst records for a starting quarterback, he remains New Orleans’ favorite son. The family’s housekeeper spoke out recently about Olivia’s down-to-earth nature and class. In fact, Mrs. Manning recently hosted the wife of current Saints quarterback Drew Brees for a meal in her home. Baby brother Eli has managed to keep his wits and his cool despite playing in the most hot-tempered sports market on earth and Cooper Manning, who without a career-ending injury may have hit the NFL as well, is a community pillar and respected businessman.

Certainly it is possible that Peyton may one day suffer from a Tiger-like fall from grace, but I doubt it. One of the things I respect most about him is his loyalty to those who have gotten him to where he is today. He is utterly appreciative of his fans in Indianapolis and with good reason. He is the king of Lucas Oil Land. Think about it. Manning has single-handedly brought more excitement to the (pretty boring) city than anyone in history. Sure, Reggie Miller was fun to watch in his day. But the Pacers never came close to creating the kind of fervor that the Colts inspire nowadays. And, yes, others have made contributions to the team’s success. Dungy, James, Harrison, Addai, and Wayne have all had an impact. But these princes of the gridiron are almost afterthoughts in King Peyton’s Court. Afterthoughts to everyone but the king himself. Manning, unlike many of today’s egocentric players, always plays up the contributions of his supporting cast and plays down the almost supernatural efforts of his own.

So despite the overexposure and the chest concavity, I’m rooting for Peyton to nab his second Super Bowl ring. Besides, I really hate Jeremy Shockey.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tourists: Milk 'em for all they're worth...

I know what you're thinking..."She abandoned us." After months of begging for comments and insisting that we read her inconsequential thoughts on the world, she cast us aside in pursuit of better things. Maybe you're right. I'm not going to argue. But can't we put the past behind us? Winter Break shook me from my routine, but I'm here now and I'm ready for duty.

So...submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I hereby present: A Vignette.

If any of you are ever fortunate enough to go to Italy, think twice before ordering a latte. Rather, think twice before ordering a latte if you're looking for a caffeine fix. You see, ordering a latte in Italy will yield you a nice hot glass of steamed milk. If you'd like espresso with that, be sure to order a Caffe Latte. That's one Euro I'll never get back.
On that (EU Treasury) note, contrary to my cinematically derived notions, Italian taxi drivers do not all look like Robert De Niro. Many do, however, share his occasional gumption. As I sought a ride from Stazione Termini to the Trevi Fountain (yes, that same landmark of film at which Lizzie and Gordo shared a kiss in "The Lizzie Maguire Movie"), one driver quoted me a price of 30 Euros. Knowing that I was getting the tourist treatment, I walked away only to be pursued by another driver offering me a deal at 20 Euros. Still skeptical, I finally found a driver willing to abide by the law and the meter ("moneh b'vakasha," anyone?) and -- God bless him -- the total fare? 8 Euros.
Later on that day while wandering the Villa Borghese, essentially Rome's Central Park, I saw a jogger donning a C.C. Sabathia t-shirt. My point in sharing this tidbit with you? Good taste is international.

Since I've segued into sports, I'm sure you're all itching for my two cents on the NFL playoffs. Against my better judgment, I find myself rooting for Peyton -- overexposure and all. The Saints bandwagon is just a little too crowded for me.
Lest you think I've no sympathy for the swampiest city, N'awlins will get to take credit for the Mannings either way.

To close, in the spirit of my last post and just in case you were wondering, today I'm wearing a new pair of Levi's 632 high rise skinny jeans (Urban Outfitters). Take that, AllTumbleDown...

Arrivederci, Y