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Tom vs. Peyton redux: One for history to conjure with as the two titans meet again

Rounding the bases while waiting for the NFL’s version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, although which of them – Tom Terrific or Peyton the Sublime – is a Clanton and which an Earp is entirely in the eyes of the beholder. All that hokey folderol aside, the big question ariseth: Does this shootout determine which of these admirable and redoubtable characters history will be regarded as the true gridiron Super Mensch of his era? The answer is “yes!”

It could also determine for the fourth time in said era the relatively minor issue of which of the teams they artfully represent ends up as Super Bowl champ. But it’s mainly about the personalities, profoundly different except in terms of dominance.

It recalls similar torrid debates of the past. In the 1940s, it was Sammy Baugh versus Sid Luckman.  In the ‘50s, Otto Graham versus Bobby Layne. Every era toys with this question for in the end, it’s always all about the quarterback. In the ‘70s it was Terry Bradshaw or Roger Staubach; in the ‘80s, John Elway versus Joe Montana.

So what of our times? Neither Manning nor Brady is a kid. This may be the last time they’ll meet at the summit. Where burning legacy is concerned, odds are this game will tell the tale. For my money, if you’re talking about the long season with its premium on constancy and survival, I’d take Manning. But if it’s all about a single crucial set of downs, one last desperate drive with everything at stake, it’s hard to resist Brady. It’s quite a choice.

Bring it on!

A-Rod Agonistes: Some call his tale tragic. Balderdash, says I. Tragedy has to do with lousy things happening to decent people. Such harm that’s been done to this guy was willfully done by himself. And to the game he professed to love, of course.

Unlike other monumental PED offenders, Rodriguez was perfectly aware of what was permissible and the potential consequences. He disdained all such cautions, his behavior rooted in pure arrogance. In his surpassing vanity he actually thought he was untouchable. There’s no other plausible explanation, nor is there any room for sympathy.

Happily, we’ve seen the last of him, at least on the field, assuming all the armchair jurists quoted in the sports pages know whereof they speak – that he has no chance of successfully appealing his year’s banishment or even delaying it. One way or another you can bet the ranch there will be no comeback at the age of 40 after he serves his year on Elba.

In the end they got him, but that neither excuses Bud Selig, purported czar of all baseball who came too late to this table, nor redeems the Yankees, who inexcusably enabled the fool and his foolishness.

But it’s a blessing for the rest of us. This circus is over. We don’t have to even think about it anymore.
 
Flying down to Rio: A week ago in this space we fretted about the shaky prospects of the Winter Olympics, set to begin in just a few weeks under conditions many deem frightful. But that’s hardly the only jock opus in peril. Is it too early to consider the even more fragile hopes of soccer’s forthcoming glorious mega-event, the World Cup, set to howl with much sass and salsa this summer in soccer-mad Brazil?

It’s the fear of terrorism that deeply rattles the Olympics. The issue for the World Cup is actually more complex, the governing question being: Is it ethical, let alone honorable, for a major nation-state to lavish many billions of bucks and vast amounts of precious attentions on a sporting festival, however beloved, when far more pressing needs clearly abound? No less a person than the pope – the estimable Francis – has raised the question publicly and passionately. That, understandably, shook Brazilians.

With mere weeks to go, construction of six of the dozen stadia Brazil was obliged to build for the matches are un-finished and far behind schedule as is all manner of preparation, including critical housing, security, and mass-transit services. Meanwhile, resentment soars.

More than a million dissenters marched in Rio de Janeiro last fall to denounce increased bus fares specifically aimed at raising Cup money. Government reductions in medical and educational services plus a glut of new taxes and tithes, all aimed at re-directing funds to the soccer matches, are stirring ever greater protest. The argument that contends these games are being financed on the backs of the poorest of the poor grows. The bloom is off this bloody rose.

The gathering mess alarms FIFA, the highly entitled bureaucracy that governs the game, and this event. In a testy critique the other day, FIFA’s haughty president, the illustrious Sepp Blatter, quite impertinently suggested it may have been a huge mistake to award the fabled soccer festival to Brazil, stopping just short of implying that he’s begun to consider Brazil a third-world banana republic unworthy of the honor. What a friend they have in Sir Sepp.

And it may only be a prelude to the even greater fuss two years down the road that the coming of the 2016 Summer Olympics, to be centered in Rio, is sure to inspire, those Games being even more complex, demanding, aggrandizing, and expensive than the World Cup. Brazil may be fast rising in the global playground and surging in strength and stature, but is it ready to handle two such frivolous burdens within three years? Should any emerging nation be stuck with such a load?

Still more to the point: is Mega Sport, epitomized by the likes of the Olympics and World Cup, careening well out of control and suckering aspiring third-world nations like Brazil? You should wonder!

Hall of Fame palpitations: The BBWA, in its wisdom, anointed the three most deserving candidates for Cooperstown. There’s no disagreement with that, although it’s not the way I would have voted. Don’t call it a complaint, just a mere quibble about the fact all three got tabbed their first year of eligibility.

Without question, Greg Maddux, long of the Braves and an extraordinary pitching artist, was a no-brainer, an absolute lock his first time around. But where is it written that it’s some sort of insult for those who, while unquestionably worthy, are not quite the crème de la crème to have to wait a year or so? Slugger Frank Thomas and the crafty lefty and local lad, Tommy Glavine, fit that description precisely. It’s an old argument but it has merit. If Joe DiMaggio could be required to wait a year and Hank Greenberg about five, why can’t Frank Thomas also be made to wait his turn, just a bit?

High among the worthies whose candidacies got waylaid in the rush to canonize Thomas and Glavine were Craig Biggio and Jack Morris. Biggio missed by the ridiculously thin margin of two votes, but with 13 more years on the BBWA ballot he’ll make it soon enough. If you do not regard Biggio as a PED suspect, which some do although there seems little basis, he is indisputably HOF worthy for having achieved the time–honored milestone of 3,000 base hits. Anybody who does that deserves the nod. Period! And if you don’t understand that you are not qualified to vote in this election.

Morris is quite another matter. Seemingly on the brink a year ago, he got avalanched by the three new guys on the ballot and back-slid in his 15th and last dance with the baseball writers. He’ll be eligible for Veterans Committee consideration in three years, unless they change the rules again. You’d think Morris would be a perfect candidate for the Vets, but it’s hard to predict what the fogies will do.

Morris patiently waited 15 years. To deny him further is needlessly cruel. He was the dominant pitcher of his era. A gaggle of relievers from his time have already been elected and he was more valuable than any of them. It’s just plain stupid! So, what else is new?