The Sports Hangover: Denver's Cornucopia Destiny, David Stern's Porn Stash, The Truthers Are Out There, and More
It’s not Sunday’s beer or the bad food. It’s the end of the football season that’s bringing you down. Be not afraid! Pitchers and catchers report next week.
Did you hear the one about OJ Simpson rooting for Peyton Manning? He’s always had a fondness for old white Broncos. I don’t know what a “Cornucopia Destiny” is but judging by the Broncos performance Sunday night I gather it has something to do with a meltdown before several hundred million people. As I boarded the Cornucopia Destiny to meet the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, Titanic-like analogies kept passing through my head. The fun that wiseass scribes would have with this strange press-conference setting should the Broncos sink on Sunday! On board, they appeared not as big as the moment—or the boat. Back at the Jersey City Westin, the Seahawks had their land legs underneath them on the grand stage. Russell Wilson was Tom Brady cool, Richard Sherman was Deion Sanders loud, and Marshawn Lynch was Jimmy Hoffa missing. In other words, they were themselves. The Denver Broncos, uncomfortable before the lights’ glare that week, played like somebody else—maybe the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL championship game.
David Stern’s Porn Stash Belongs in Springfield
When you start a job sporting a porn stash and retire from it a gray-white senior citizen, you know that you’ve enjoyed longevity. David Stern became NBA commissioner in the biggest boom year of the postwar era. He departs in the fifth year of the low-growth “new normal.” America has changed. The NBA remains in the same spot. Six percent of Americans named professional basketball their favorite sport in Stern’s first year on the job. Six percent of Americans professional name basketball their favorite sport in his last month in office. The sport grew to Manute Bol heights during the late 1990s. And globally, Stern opened new markets. But the NBA’s popularity in the United States in 2014 is where it was in 1984. The NBA then versus now is the difference between Atari and Xbox, Walkman and iPod, Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars, Star Search and American Idol, Star Trek the Seach for Spock and Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s different, but it’s the same.
How good is Seattle? Apart from boasting a young team, Russell Wilson will presumably enjoy their most potent offensive weapon, Percy Harvin, next year. He’s only going to mature as a quarterback in his third season. And that swagger stick carried around by the confident cornerbacks will only get bigger. Defense is the new offense.
Seattle defeated Denver by a larger margin of victory than the winning margins in the last six Super Bowls combined. The franchise boasts more Super Bowl losses than any other. They’ve been orange crushed in their five big-game losses by a combined score of 206-55. Still, it’s record of failure envied by Browns and Lions fans.
Gotta Serve Somebody
I didn’t understand the Coke ad at the Super Bowl. Bob Dylan spoke plain in English in the Chrysler spot: the 1960s are as dead as Abbie Hoffman. Maybe they never existed—with tripped-out twentysomethings imagining deep meanings underlying a shallow, silly jingle about a yellow submersible and what not. “You can’t fake true cool,” Dylan explained in the spot. “You can’t import legacy.” Did the man who warned that “advertising signs they con” fifty years ago “fake cool” then or did he export his legacy by becoming a corporate shill? I caught Bob Dylan in concert with Wilco and My Morning Jacket this past summer. I’m glad he’s touring like he’s 23 at 73. His 73-year-old worshippers behaving as though they are 23 is another matter. His fans have always projected their fantasies upon him. Before Charles Manson discovered hidden messages in The Beatles’ “white album, Weatherman imagined the guy with the gravely twang issuing marching orders to them. It turns out that the chameleon who switched from folk to rock to country to gospel to blues and beyond can sell cars as well as albums. Let the purists shout “unclean” as they did when Dylan amped up in Newport. Let them shout “sellout.” But let them realize that Bob Dylan didn’t betray them. They betrayed their senses when they projected all of their ideals upon vague lyrics and an enigmatic busker.
Omaha Is Burning
Peyton Manning is now Kurt Warner in Super Bowls and Dan Marino in the playoffs. He displays losing records in both. If, as Vince Lombardi held, winning isn’t everything—it’s the only thing, then this loss can’t help but effect the quarterback’s legacy. In a cruel way, Sunday played as a microcosm of the knock on Manning: He set a Super Bowl completions record as he came up small when the situation called for big. As the gridiron becomes less gladiator game and more video game, the one statistic that the times and the rules can’t warp is wins. The NFL isn’t MLB. No one looks at the backs of football cards. They look at the inscriptions on Lombardi Trophy.
The Truth Is Out There
I have one conspiracy theory. Cranks were invented by the people they inveigh against. 9/11 Truther Matthew Mills crashing a Super Bowl press conference with a panting announcement that our government engineered the terrorist attacks meshes with the general idea of my sole conspiracy theory. Instead of trapping a partygoer in a painful monologue-conversation about 7 World Trade Center or Roswell, Mills trapped an entire nation with nonsense. That’s four seconds of stupid we’ll never get back. Cui bono? Certainly not the Truthers, who appear ever more fanatical with Mills’ outburst. But when do conspiracy theorists persuade their listeners of anything but their challenged mental state?
We hear the theme music to The Twilight Zone whenever Matthew Mills talks. Still, one must admire the man’s guts. It’s not exactly Hunter Thompson crashing Super Bowl 6 or that Super Bowl 38 streaker who got clobbered by Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham. Matthew Mills didn’t party crash the Super Bowl in the spirit of fun but with the intent to bore. But sneaking into the Super Bowl is surely an achievement. Super Bowl Media Day required the manufacture of a picture identification, passage through airport-style metal detectors, and submission of baggage to bomb-sniffing dogs. I would imagine getting into the game required the navigation of even more obstacles.
“I just said I was running late for work and I had to get in there,” Mills told NJ.com. “It was that simple.” Mills admits that he never thought he’d make it into the game. But, with a zealot’s commitment, he pursued his lost cause. “I didn't think that I’d get that far,” Mills explained to NJ.com. “I just kept getting closer and closer. Once I got past the final gate and into the stadium, I was dumbfounded.” Yeah, so was Malcom Smith. When the NFL released its transcription of notable quotes from the game’s MVP, they failed to include his most notable—“Check his press pass.” That’s something that layers of NFL security should have done.
Blood Seats, Dud Card
I sat in the blood seats. They should have called them the thud seats. The sound of Alistair Overeem’s fist against Frank Mir’s face emitted an audible, ghastly thud from my second-row vantagepoint at UFC 169 on Saturday. The massive Dutchman’s thunderous punches were almost as scary as walking four blocks in Newark to the train station at 2:30 a.m. The card established the record for most fights decided by the judges in UFC history, which is kind of like the Broncos setting a Super Bowl record for playing from behind for 59 minutes and 48 seconds. It’s not the type of mark anyone boasts about.
When the newsworthiness of the post-fight press conference exceeds the actual fights, it’s generally a sign that you should get your money back. Since I got in free, I didn’t press any such claims on the UFC. Leave it to master showman Dana White to get people talking not about the dud-of-a-card that just occurred but all the exciting matchups fans can look forward to. The post-fight presser addressed Anderson Silva’s comeback (December), Brock Lesnar’s ambiguous status (still, despite Alistair Overeem’s call out, retired), and a superfight between one of the UFC’s most dominant champions versus its most exciting champion (Aldo v. Pettis). Instead of talking about the crap card with no big upsets, ten decisions, and a questionable stoppage, the journalists wrote about how featherweight king Jose Aldo vocally itched for a fight with the high-risk/high-energy Anthony Pettis and how the lightweight champion had then called up Dana White with the UFC honcho still at the dais to say that he accepts the challenge. That was as dramatic as anything that went on in Newark Saturday night—at least within the Prudential Center.