“Last of their kind” is a popular cliché pulled out of the writer’s closet and dusted off for times when a star player, who has been around the league long enough, decides to hang up the pads and call it a career. Sure, it might be used too much, but sometimes it’s true.
Manning. Brees. Favre. Last of their kind.
Brett Favre, the pride of Kiln, Mississippi, went first. Retiring after the 2010 season, putting an end to another cliché – the superstar who won’t call it quits, and turns into a journeymen to end his career. And with the season that Drew Brees just had, one would have to believe he has a few more solid years in his arm for the Black and Gold. Which leaves New Orleans native Peyton Manning – is this his last hurrah?
This group of quarterbacks will end an era. Not that other quarterbacks can’t do what the Mannings of the world have done, but it’s how they do it. Every football team hopes it can get a star, and a lot of them have top-notch talent. However, it’s not stats that separate Manning, Brees and Favre from the rest. It’s their style. When you see other teams’ quarterbacks, you can see a star. But what you don’t see is a boss.
And Manning has always been the boss. National Player of the Year out of Isidore Newman. Johnny Unitas Award winner out of Tennessee. Number one draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, and on and on. The accolades would never end, as Manning eventually eclipsed Favre in all of the major NFL passing records. And, one day, Brees might take all of Manning’s records. That’s just how it goes.
But again, it’s not about the numbers. It’s about taking responsibility, and stepping up into a leadership role. You saw it when Manning adopted his brother Cooper’s number 18 in high school, to honor Cooper’s career, which ended due to spinal stenosis. You see it post-game when Manning steps to the microphone. Sometimes he’s happy, and sometimes it’s like he’s looking at you like you’re the middle linebacker that he’s about to make look bad. You see it when Manning takes his offense to the line, and makes his pre-snap calls. Omaha, Omaha! You know the routine. Either way, you feel it – leadership. Favre improvising mid-play, Brees revving up the troops in pre-game. Winners.
Manning has been written off more than a few times since suffering his neck injury that ended his playing days with the Colts. And then he came back with the Denver Broncos and immediately went to the Superbowl. Then, this season, he suffered through rib and toe injuries, and was written off again. And then he came back again, and has led his Broncos to Superbowl 50. It’s not unlike watching those early Rocky Balboa movies. He just keeps getting back up, even when you think it might be best that he stay down.
And, so here he is again. On the biggest stage there is…again. Leading his troops into battle for the greatest prize…again. Defying all of the non-believers…again. I guess at some point we should stop being surprised. That’s just what winners do, and we’re just along for the ride. And none of us know if Manning is riding off into the sunset after this Superbowl –
It will be his call, and his call alone.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing – Tow Yard Brewing and Factotum Brewing’s “Oatmaha”
Playlist Recommendation – College & Electric Youth – “A Real Hero”
Around the Way
Tulane Tennis, anyone? I know, hilarious. But honestly, it’s on – the Green Wave Men’s tennis club is raising some eyebrows this year with their strong play. The Olive and Blue are led by the top-ranked player in the nation, Dominik Koepfer, and the team is currently ranked in the Top 40 (at No. 37). This past weekend the club travelled to Los Angeles to take on the No. 8 USC Trojans, and fell just short of pulling off a major upset, losing 4-3. No small feat against an absolute beast of a program. The Trojans are the New York Yankees of college tennis – claiming 21 total, and five of the last seven national championships.
In happier news, the Green Wave whipped the No. 33 Pepperdine Waves on Friday. Tulane swept Pepperdine, 4-0. Koepfer led the charge, defeating Stefan Menichella 6-2, 6-2.
This week, Tulane rolls to the east coast for matchups against No. 32 Harvard, and No. 41 Dartmouth. The team will then return home, and after a short break, take on the No. 29 Mississippi State Bulldogs later in February. I propose we all buy white tight-fitting shorts and polos, and the men grow mustaches and we go root on the Wave. White headbands are required.
The tale of two seasons continues at Devlin Fieldhouse, where the Tulane Women and Men’s Basketball programs are headed in decidedly different directions. On the good tip, the women are taking care of business, with a 78-73 victory over the East Carolina Pirates, in front of 1,136 Olive and Blue faithful. Leslie Vorpahl put on a shooting clinic, hitting 10-of-16 from the field, on the way to a 27-point outing. The Green Wave (15-5) take on the Temple Owls (11-7), in Devlin Fieldhouse, tonight at 7 p.m. All eyes then turn to a visit from the UConn Huskies (the Empire) next week. The Huskies are on a 102-1 (with 4 NCAA titles) scorched-earth campaign. That’s pretty good. Gulp.
On the other hand, things are looking shaky with the Men’s program. Tulane (8-13) has lost seven of their last eight games, with the only win coming against the lowly South Florida Bulls (4-17). The Green Wave have posted 15, 18, and 22 point losses in their last three games. Even worse, the club was blown out of the gym by the Cincinnati Bearcats on Sunday, trailing by as much as 40 points in the second half. The effort obscured impressive performances by Malik Morgan (23 points on 9-of-16 shooting), and Dylan Osetkowski (9 points, 10 rebounds).