FOXSports.com writer Joel Beall examines the sporting itinerary for the upcoming weekend.
By Joel BeallFoxSports
Welcome to the Weekend Warrior, your web-based congregation for water-cooler discussion. We will get you up to speed on what you missed over the past few days and what’s on this weekend’s itinerary. At worse, this will give you a five-minute respite from being productive at work or school.
If football is America’s religion, what better way to welcome it’s holy season by a christening from one of its patron saints. But if that previous sentence made you barf in your mouth, don’t worry, this is not a #HOTSPORTSTAKE: MANNING, AT AGE 37, IS BETTER THAN EVER piece. Rather, it’s an appreciation for a master of his craft. For while I marveled at Manning’s evisceration of the defending Super Bowl champs last night, it was not at the seven touchdowns or yardage accumulation. As Denver kept lighting up the scoreboard, this thought kept turning in my head:
This dude is running on fumes.
I don’t care what the Denver staff or Duke coach/Manning trainer David Cutcliffe says about the nine-time All-Pro’s arm strength. Truth is, the guy’s limb potency is more macaroni than mortar, evidenced by the numerous underthrows and his wobbly trajectory. It’s not a reach to say Manning, last season’s MVP, owns the weakest cannon in the NFL.
Yet the guy threw seven touchdowns last night. Most quarterbacks don’t find the end zone seven times in a MONTH. Manning is not working on athletic prowess, but intuition, deception and cogitation. The second trip to pay dirt last night, a hit to Julius Thomas over the middle, derived from hours of study on the Baltimore defense. As Cris Collinsworth pointed out, the play was a variation of a scheme run by the Broncos last year. Knowing the Ravens would recognize this, an added wrinkle to the design threw Baltimore into a tizzy, leading to a wide-open Thomas. Even for Tom Brady or Drew Brees, that cognizance seems like a stretch.
An encompassing grasp of a game’s nuisances and fundamentals aren’t necessarily a revelation. Plenty of baseball pitchers are able to stick around past the expiration date of their fastball thanks to embracing this concept. It’s the reason Kobe Bryant endures as one of the NBA’s superstars entering his 18th season, and why Phil Mickelson is having a career renaissance at age 43.
But this theory is not supposed to apply to football. Sagacity facilitates only so much accomplishment on the gridiron before the game’s physical nature takes its toll. Hell, just 20 months ago, there were legitimate questions if Manning’s health would impede him from ever seeing the field again.
At his age, Manning is expected to be tossing the pigskin against buddies in a Wrangler commercial, not a top-ranked NFL defense. And someday, that juncture will come. As the great columnist Paul Daugherty often says, “Father Time remains undefeated.”
But the venerable Manning is putting up quite the fight, and for that, we rejoice.
Julius Thomas - HIGH Did I mention him in this week’s Fantasy Basement article? Damn right I did. Did I start him in any of my leagues? Well…don’t worry about such semantics.
UNLV Athletic Department - LOW The Runnin’ Rebels posted a billboard with football coach Bobby Hauck next to basketball coach Lon Kruger advertising ticket sales. Slight issue – Kruger has not been the coach at UNLV the past two years. That would be Dave Rice, who has taken his team to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. Most schools would find this embarrassing, but given this university trotted out Jerry Tarkanian for 20 years, officials are calling this latest slip-up “progress.”
Joe Maddon and Jim Leyland - HIGH When defending Max Scherzer’s record, which some believe is inflated by his team’s run support, Leyland dismissed the critics, saying, “Some people could find a flaw in Bo Derek.” For you movie aficionados out there, Derek was the attractive female lead of the movie 10…which came out in 1979. That’s EXACTLY how I like my baseball managers: old, crusty and dropping non-relevant cultural citations in his wisdom.
Also how I like my managers: with a beer in their hand, a position Maddon found himself in when he invited Rays fans to join the team for a cold one after their victory over the Angels this week. Better yet, the round was on Maddon’s tab. Truly a man of the people.
Dave Chappelle - HIGH Fans of the funnyman were apprehensive when learning, in one of his first comeback events, Chappelle walked off stage due to crowd hostility. Was the comedic virtuoso too erratic to regain his stride? Chappelle put those fears to rest, as he returned to the stage this week with a bang.
Athletes on Twitter - LOW Unless your name is Logan Morrison, best for professional athletes to stay off the Twitterverse. No matter how much mental fortitude one has, everyone has their breaking point. Too many trolls and psychopaths on Twitter to NOT let it affect you, seen by Purdue quarterback Rob Henry and Reds outfielder Jay Bruce leaving the social media network this week after too many complaints about their play.
Besides, do athletes every say anything remotely engaging or stimulating on Twitter? What’s that, you’re going to GO GET IT today at the gym? Thanks for the heads up.
Will Smith - HOLD Big Willie Style might be back in for the Independence Day sequels. This news should be greeted with delight, but considering he passed on Django Unchained to make After Earth, Smith hasn’t made the greatest decisions of late. Let’s up he revives that dynamic Goldblum-Smith duo in the summer of 2015.
Time Magazine - LOW The publication’s front-page exposition this week: “Should college athletes be paid?” Thanks for joining the party, you guys. Next week: “Baseball: does it have a steroid problem?” No wonder this industry is dying.
Weekend Safety Tip
Though I’m a firm proponent of the equation “good + good = awesome” when it comes to combining culinary delights, refrain from dipping your smoked meats into chili-cheese dip at your tailgates. Trust me, your system will hate you for days.
Weekend Watch List
One of the downsides of college football is the uninspiring slate in the early weeks of September. Sure, tomorrow’s schedule is littered with games that, on paper, sound enticing: West Virginia at Oklahoma, Florida at Miami (FL), Texas at BYU, Oregon at Virginia. In truth, most of these contests will be blowouts. Luckily, there’s enough beef on our sports plate to set-up shop on your couch and marinate:
Atlanta vs. New Orleans
The Dirty Birds are coming off a 13-3 season, have one of the best receiving corps in the league and improved their running game with the acquisition of Steven Jackson. (This is how I imagine Jackson feels after spending nine years with the Rams before joining one of the best offenses in the NFC.) The Saints welcome back head coach Sean Payton, and best believe Brees and company are seeking vengeance for last year’s Bounty-gate sanctions. Throw in shaky defenses from both squads, this bad boy could produce some fireworks.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan
Big House. Under the lights. Two of the most prestigious programs in the nation, both which boast top-25 teams this year. I don’t care what smoke Brian Kelly is trying to blow up our butts, this game’s a dandy.
St. Louis – Pittsburgh series
Forget the National League playoff implications…the Pirates are on the verge of having their first winning season since 1992! Talk about the city of champions!
The Cards coming limping in, losing six of their last eight, and RBI machine Allen Craig is sidelined indefinitely with a foot strain. If St. Louis harbors aspirations of avoiding the one-game Wild Card quarrel, it will need its pitching staff, which has been shaky in the second half, to step up against a revamped Pirates lineup.
South Carolina vs. Georgia
Jadeveon Clowney versus the Bulldogs offense is the featured matchup, but keep an eye on the South Carolina backfield. The Gamecocks rolled up 228 yards on the ground against the Tar Heels in Week 1, and Georgia’s resistance was anything but in its opening loss to Clemson. Bonus for the added intrigue of Steve Spurrier or Mark Richt saying/doing something that causes Twitter to explode.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond
I have nothing really to add here aside from the story of one of my college roommates heading to this race and getting lost for three days. Naturally, we as friends were not concerned in the least. God, do I miss being 22.
Green Bay vs. San Francisco
The Packers return to the scene of last season’s execution, when Colin Kaepernick laid the smackdown with 263 passing yards, 181 rushing yards and four scores. The Niners are the Super Bowl favorite in 2013, but don’t write off the Cheeseheads just yet. As long as Green Bay employs No. 12 under center, the Pack will always have a fighter’s chance at the Lombardi Trophy.
Saturday showdown: Mat Latos vs. Zack Greinke
Two of the best aces meet in Cincinnati as the Reds battle for the NL division crown while the Dodgers shoot for home-field advantage.
Did you know Pete Sampras’ wife is Bridgette Wilson, a.k.a Veronica Vaughn from Billy Madison? And that exhausts my tennis knowledge.