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With Peyton Manning announcing that he has been cleared to play next season, there has been no shortage of coverage on the topic. And it’s not without justification–an NFL with Big Manning is probably a more exciting NFL. Good for him. What is curious, however, is the fact that the news was announced just days before the Super Bowl in which both his rival, Tom Brady, and little brother, Eli Manning, will be duking it out. Shouldn’t the focus be on that?
This type of stunt isn’t new to anyone. In fact, two other names come to mind: Alex Rodriguez and LeBron James. What else do Manning, Rodriguez, and James each have in common? At some point in the past five years or so, each have been considered the best player in their respective league. You know what else they have in common? I don’t particularly like any of them and use opportunities like these to defend my opinion. I don’t think I’m alone in this sentiment, but in situations like these, I always seem to wonder if I’m spinning possibly meaningless situations to feed into irrational dislike. Is there another reason I always find myself rooting against the best?
The Peyton Manning story is fresh in everyone’s mind. Instead of debating whether Brady or Eli is the superior quarterback or wondering if the Patriot’s defense can manage another half decent performance, it becomes the Peyton show. Will the Colts trade him or cut him? If so, who would be interested in him and what would they give up? Will the Colts draft Andrew Luck regardless?
In 2007, A-Rod tried to grab the spotlight on the World Series stage. While the Red Sox and Rockies were battling it out, Ken Rosenthal decides to report mid-game that Rodriguez had opted out of his contract to become a new free agent. Yay? What happened next? Despite the fact that Rodriguez had failed to help his team to succeed, this was much more important than the event to decide the MLB champions. The fact that this was about the Red Sox? A non factor. The biggest moment to date in Rockies history? Irreleveant.
For old times’ sake let’s review what happened next. The Red Sox won it all, third base counterpart and World Series MVP Mike Lowell took a team friendly contract, and no one showed much interest in Rodriguez. The Yankees eventually signed him to a ridiculous contract and still have him under contract for like 20 more seasons. Have fun with that, guys.
Then there’s LeBron. The whole 2009-2010 season was a subplot compared to the buzz about James’ impending free agency. The man was on a quest for a ring. Too bad he had meltdown (Thanks, Delonte) and the mean, old Celtics had other plans in mind. Nevertheless, the classic Celtics-Lakers matchup was second fiddle to everyone awaiting “the decision”. Of course, LeBron became a national villain, so I guess everything worked out in the end.
All of these scenarios can be argued one way or another, but the fact of the matter doesn’t change. They are all selfish cries for attention, but can you blame them? At the time of these incidents, the media fawned over every little thing these players did. All of these situations just make Manning, Rodriguez, and James look like poor sports (But somehow they’re still good role models for the kids). If these guys wanted the attention so badly, I say this: If you want the spotlight during the championships, how about you play well enough to get your team there?
Of course there are other reasons people can point to: the awful Peyton Manning commercials, LeBron’s televised slap in the face to Cleveland or even the steroid accusations. I can twist them to appear arrogant, jealous, and self centered, but all of that is just further fuel for the possibly irrational fire. Being as objective as possible, I can think of only one reason:
Each of these players have come in direct conflict with Boston teams one way or another.
With Peyton it is always the great quarterback debate. I think Patriots’ fans have had enough of it. Brady is going to his fifth Super Bowl while Manning still has a below .500 playoff record. Does anything else matter? I’m sick of hearing about it.
Alex Rodriguez was supposed to come to Boston so maybe my 12 year old self is just bitter about that. Throw in the sissy slap and the lip gloss and what else do we have to say? However, with injuries and steroid accusations, Rodriguez has fortunately seemed to have fallen out of public favor. Nevertheless, I just can’t help but imagining Rodriguez eventually making the Hall of Fame because he’s a “good” guy, while Manny won’t because he’s a “bad” guy. But I’ve been known to make false predictions before.
Then LeBron. With the exception of last year, the Celtic’s have thrown James like a rag doll in the playoffs. But what really put me over the edge was when he refused to watch the Celtic’s raise their championship banner to start the 2008-2009 season after the Celtic’s humiliated him. That was classless. Throw in the fact that the Celtics’ preach Ubuntu, while the media hones in on LeBron (and LeBron only) and his quest for a ring. The Big Three during their prime and LeBron could not be more different.
It’s that simple. I like Boston teams winning championships. If someone gets in the way, I’m going to do what I do best to stop them–Complain really loudly, even though it has no effect whatsoever. In a city as dominant as Boston has been, it’s not that surprising that the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots find themselves at odds with the best athletes of the MLB, NBA, and NFL.
Curiously enough, Albert Pujols, arguably the best player in today’s MLB, doesn’t seem to fire me up. He keeps his mouth shut, won two World Series, and didn’t seem to bask in the free agency spotlight. Of course he was in the National League, so how often did the Red Sox have to deal with him? But the Angels play the Red Sox a lot more than the Cardinals.
Memo to Albert: You’re 0-1 in playoff series against the Red Sox. The Angels haven’t done much better. Play your cards right and you’re well on your way to joining the club.