As an unreformed optimist – and as someone who views sports as a fun diversion rather than a source of personal fulfillment – I see yesterday’s news that Peyton Manning underwent potentially season-ending neck surgery as a good thing. “BELIEVE!” I say. In fact, I believe so hard, I’ve gone ahead and come up with 18 reasons why you should view it as a good thing, too:
1. Now we get to find out just how valuable Manning really is. The Colts just paid Manning $69 million over the next three years. Is he worth it? Sports pundits say he’s more valuable to his team to any other player in football. But judging from the size of their necks and vocabularies, I’m not so sure. Don’t worry, though. If we find out Manning isn’t really a $69 million dollar man, there’s a bright side (See number 2).
2. The Tiki Theory. Sportswriter Bill Simmons popularized the Tiki Theory (named for former Giants running back Tiki Barber, and previously known as the Ewing Theory), which hypothesizes that when a team led by a superstar who has never won a championship loses that superstar to an injury, the team will actually play better. Peyton has won a Super Bowl, but most people would agree the Colts have underperformed under his leadership. Could the Tiki Theory come into play this season?
3. The Manning Face is officially on hiatus. Another Bill Simmons coinage, “the Manning Face” was defined by wiry-haired, hipster intellectual Malcolm Gladwell as “the look of someone who has just faced up to a sobering fact: I am in complete control of this offense. I prepare for games like no other quarterback in the NFL. I am in the best shape of my life. I have done everything I can to succeed – and I’m losing. Ohmigod. I’m not that good.” I don’t think that’s a wholly accurate assessment of Manning’s internal monologue when he puts on that expression – a sad mélange of childlike frustration and profound disappointment – but it’s probably pretty close. Anyway, as a Colts fan, I’ve grown weary of the Manning Face. I’m ready for it to go away for a while.
3. Manning’s consecutive game streak comes to an end. And believe me: that’s a good thing. Peyton has enough pressure on him already. I’m sure it kills him to break the streak, but in the long run, he’s better off for it.
4. Kerry Collins is an underdog story worthy of Indianapolis. Speaking of pressure: Peyton Manning is a man with too much – a crippling amount, really – to prove. Hence the Manning Face. But nobody in their right mind expects Kerry Collins to lead the Colts to a Super Bowl. I smell an underdog. And Indianapolis, probably more than any other city, loves a good underdog story.
5. We finally get to see what kind of coach Caldwell is. Everybody assumes Jim Caldwell is an order-taking figurehead while Manning runs the team. Now we’ll find out if that’s true or not. This should be fun!
6. The Colts now have no choice but to develop a running game. Manning wore his arm out last year as the Colts tried to compensate for their god-awful running game with a staggering amount of pass attempts. Without Manning to lean on, the offense will be forced to figure out how to run the ball. This has at least some small percentage of a chance of turning out to be a good thing, right?
7. Finally, an unpredictable offense. Lately, all of Manning’s crazy gyrations and audibles at the line of scrimmage don’t seem to be fooling anybody. I know Collins’ presence under center will technically mean a simpler offense, but even in its simplicity, I think the new offense will at least be different – and therefore at least a little more difficult for opposing defenses to figure out – than Manning’s stale smoke-and-mirrors show.
8. I didn’t draft Manning my fantasy draft. Not that I would have anyway. I prefer to hedge my gambling loyalties against my real-life fan loyalties.
9. I don’t have Colts season tickets. If my optimistic outlook on this season turns out wrong, at least I can fall back on knowing I’ve chosen a good time to not be a Colts season-ticket holder. (And yes, I realize that both this and number eight are really just good for me, and not necessarily for everybody. Sorry about that.)
10. Schadenfreude. The last Colts game I attended was in 2009 when they pulled their starters against the Jets, effectively pulling the plug on a potentially perfect season. I’ve never seen a crowd turn on its home team the way the fans in Lucas Oil Stadium did that day. And for good reason. Bill Polian, now the Vice Chairman of the team, may be able to build a good football team, but his contempt for fans makes him one of the most unlikeable men in all of professional sports. It’s hard not to consider this Peyton debacle a comeuppance of sorts for Polian – who, let’s not forget, has still lost three more Super Bowls than he has won.
11. It’s a win for local media. The only people Polian views as further beneath him than fans are the local media. So it was awesome to see local radio host JMV break this story wide open last weekend. And it was even more awesome watching a completely caught-off-guard Polian deny knowing anything about JMV’s claim that Peyton would need a second surgery – which, we learned yesterday, he did.
13. No more jimmy arms. My wife refers to our infant son’s wild, uncontrolled arm flapping as “the jimmy arms.” I also use that phrase to refer to Manning’s crazy arm movements at the line of scrimmage. When my son does it, it’s cute. When Manning does it, it isn’t only not cute, it doesn’t even work.
14. No more crowd-shushing. While on the subject of Peyton’s arms: Ever notice how he shushes the crowd when they’re all excited after the team has converted a third and long with just a minute or two left in a half? He puts his arms in the air and then gestures as if he’s dribbling two basketballs. Dude, we get it, YOU NEED QUIET. You don’t have to treat us like children.
15. Fewer Peytons. Speaking of children: Have you taken attendance at an elementary school class recently? If so, you already know about the scourge of Peytons clogging Indiana schools. Something like one in five Hoosier kids is named Peyton right now. No kid is immune – boy or girl. Just thinking about it makes me shudder.
16. And about that retractable roof my tax dollars help fund… You know, the one the Colts only retract like twice a year, no matter how gloriously nice it is outside? That pisses me off. An injured Peyton doesn’t ameliorate the problem, but it does make me feel better about it.
17. This whole thing has brought unprecedented attention to @JimIrsay. Ever wonder what might happen if you gave a millionaire who imagines himself a lost member of the Beat generation a platform to spew whatever nonsense pops into his head? If so, then check out the Twitter page of Colts owner Jim Irsay. Some recent gems: “Burn bright,thru the night,2 pockets lead the way…2 doors 2 go between,the wall was raised 2day,” “The only chain that a man can stand,is a chain his hands don’t have…keep your eyes on the prize.hold on,” and this: “I don’t know,what I’ve been told,if the horse don’t pull,Ugot2 carry that load.I don’t know whose back’s that strong,gonna find out,b4 2Long.” Yeah.
18. With any luck, Andrew Luck could be our next quarterback. Hey, I’m just sayin’.