Having just watched Vermont's upset bid at Duke fall seconds short, I'm settling in on the couch with a nice Malbec for a night with Peydie Pie and Pretty Boy.
This Denver/New England Sunday Night Football matchup pits the dork against the dark side. Peyton Manning is endearing and geeky and runs like a giraffe with cramps. Tom Brady is emo-haired and dimple-chinned and married to a supermodel.
I much prefer the former.
Before we get into why Peydie is what's right with the football world and Brady what's not, some statistics: Brady holds a 9-4 head-to-head advantage against Manning, including a 2-1 playoff mark. In those meetings, Manning has thrown for 300 or more yards seven times to Brady's two.
Career-wise, the two have combined for six NFL MVP awards (four for Manning) and four Super Bowl championships (three for Brady). Both are destined for the Hall of Fame (Manning, without question, on the first ballot). Manning, the top pick in the 1998 draft and a starter as a rookie, has thrown for 63,059 yards and 470 touchdowns, averaging 269.5 passing yards per game while being intercepted 215 times. Brady, a fifth-round draft pick in 2000 who sat for most of his first year behind Drew Bledsoe, has thrown for 47,358 yards and 348 TDs, averaging 253.3 passing yards per game and throwing 130 picks.
Many fine articles have been written in advance of this game digging deeper into the by-the-numbers matchup. You can google them. I don't want to talk about that.
I want to talk about the red spot roughly the size of Jupiter that blossoms across Peydie's forehead when he took his too-tight helmet off. I want to talk about his daddy, Archie, who toiled for years in what he no doubt wished was obscurity for the 'Aints in New Orleans' paper-bag days, and about the eldest Manning brother you may not have heard of, Cooper, a wide receiver who had to give up the game in high school because of an injury to his spinal cord.
The Mannings' New Orleans house is on the Garden District Tour. I saw it years ago and remember tall windows and lots of light and green leaves. I also remember the tour guide telling us that each year, time and tide claims a fraction of an inch of the house and surrounding structures, erosion in the sea-level city eating slowly but stubbornly away at the closest thing America has to a royal palace.
The year Peyton Manning finally won the Super Bowl, I threw a party. I made my Super Bowl chili and plastered the walls of my house with photocopies of the Sports Illustrated cover featuring his goofy mug and the words "Yes He Can." I laughed and drank beer and shouted at the television with friends I don't see nearly enough anymore.
Peydie is film-room nerd turned superstar, self-deprecation made art, hope for every kid wearing thick glasses in the front row who eagerly volunteers every answer but can't work up the courage to talk to a pretty girl. He's Cut That Meat and the hilariously sadistic SNL coach (though his latest dalliance with Papa John's sets my teeth on edge). He's three years younger than me and a tie to the football that I remember most and loved best.
Brady is 36, but he's of a different time. A slick time of hair gel and GQ threads. I'm sure he's a fine person and player - albeit one with a recent public propensity for calling out his teammates - and that there is substance to his flash, but it's just not my style. His rise from fifth-round pick to perennial all-pro is admirable, but his brooding glare when he's losing grates almost as much as his Hollywood smile when he's winning - again.
Give me Peydie awkwardly half-hugging his brother at midfield, or getting a full inch and a half on his vertical when he celebrates another TD, any day.
These are all superficial, personal preferences, backed up in no way by anything having to do with football itself. Except that right now, Peydie Pie leads Pretty Boy 24-0.
To me, that's beautiful.