Are we all watching the same game?
By Mike Salk
I guess I must see the world in my own weird way.
I guess I’m nuts.
I guess my game narrative was just different from the one seen by many of you and the good folks at NBC.
Patriots WR Wes Welker reacts to a missed catch from Tom Brady during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI. (AP)
I saw a game that turned on one play: 2nd-and-11. Patriots up two points and driving with just over four minutes to play. Tom Brady looks downfield and finds Wes Welker open. Brady lofts it up, and hits Welker in the hands. If he catches the ball, the Pats have a first down at the New York 22-yard line with four minutes left on the clock, which would have been running. In all likelihood, a field goal forces the Giants to score a touchdown with limited time remaining and a touchdown ends the game.
Welker caught 122 balls in the regular season and is generally considered to be one of the surest handed receivers in the league. And yet…
He drops the ball.
Deion Branch drops the third down pass (which also hits his hands) and the Patriots punt. Minutes later, Eli Manning becomes a Super Bowl legend once again.
Pardon me, but every person who made Baltimore receiver Lee Evans a goat two weeks ago needs to be even harder on Welker. Evans had the ball knocked away by a defender – debatably even his fault! Welker dropped a ball that hit his hands. Was it an easy catch? No. But it needed to be caught.
I’ve heard all the opposing voices on this. Brady could have been more accurate…Welker had to turn his body…you don’t know what would have happened if he had caught it… None of those arguments are wrong and yet none of them put the blame where it needs to be: on the player who had the chance to, as Bill Belichick says, “just do his job.”
If we are assigning roles, Welker is my goat.
* * *
Minutes later, we all witnessed one of the greatest clutch catches of all time. Mario Manningham (MANNINGHAM!) has body control for days. That catch he made to set up the final score of the game was immense. And I understand the desire to compare it to another great play in history.
Fortunately, we saw it’s equal just three years ago when Santonio Holmes used every millimeter of his 5’11â€ frame to haul in Ben Roethlisberger’s bullet, dragging his toes just inside the boundary to set up the Steelers’ win over the Cardinals.
That was a fair comparison. But to compare Manningham’s heroics to David Tyree’s helmet catch? That is just plain unfair to Manningham! One was amazing skill. The other was amazing luck.
I guess I just don’t see the comparison, unless it’s as obvious as the same white jersey with red numbers. But we’re better than that, right?
* * *
What does this teach us? That while the quarterback is still the most important position in all of sports, the quarterback can’t win it alone. If Welker catches a ball he cathauls in “100 out of 100 times” according to Chris Collinsworth, Brady wins and is likely known as the greatest ever. If Manningham doesn’t find a way to drag his feet in bounds, Manning isn’t surpassing Big Ben and joining the elite ranks in the NFL.
Both quarterbacks put the ball where it had to be when it had to be there. Only one of their receivers made the play that needed to be made.
Maybe the national media narrative will change in the next few days, but right now it’s hard to see Eli (and his hangdog look) labeled a hero.
* * *
Finally, I don’t understand why people were upset about Madonna and the halftime show. Yes, she lip-synched. No, I don’t care.
Salk doesn’t understand why people were so upset about Madonna’s halftime show.
Last year, everyone complained about the Black Eyed Peas NOT lip-synching. People were shocked that they didn’t sound great as they leaped around on stage shouting something akin to the lyrics of their hit songs. Now, the same people are upset that Madonna didn’t have that problem?
What am I missing?
The halftime show is an opportunity to appeal to the masses, to throw a bone to non-football obsessed viewers who fill out the party. It tries to appeal to the greatest cross-section of the population so as to make the day an even bigger event.
How do you do that? Easy. Choose pop singers.
Pop is not rock. It isn’t about the purity or difficulty or complexity of the music. The goal of a pop concert is to create an amazing spectacle. The music isn’t complicated, but the dance and the presentation is just as important as the singing itself. If the best way to get the best sound is for a pop star to lip-synch, that works for me just fine. Good on you, Madonna!