Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ghost Walking

Bet your last dime. Johnny Unitas is still the Main Man...

PSAYINGS.5S.9-11. It happens once in a generation. A quarterback who commands his team like a general, regardless of physique and the odds. A half century ago it was Johnny Unitas, the stiff-legged quarterback in the black high-topped shoes who simply refused to lose in adverse circumstances. He couldn't run very well, his release was nothing like Joe Namath's, and he never registered a highlight like Randall Cunningham. But he was the Napoleon Bonaparte of the NFL. No Colt will ever again wear the number 19. They called him the "Main Man," and that's when the term entered the common tongue. He was the greatest quarterback who ever played the game in the old NFL.

Last Sunday, when there were two minutes left in the Colts-Patriots game (Colts losing, needing three to tie, blah blah blah), I said to my wife, "Now we'll find out if the ghost of Johnny Unitas still walks for the Colts." He did. He ambled onto the field and passed the upstart Patriots into oblivion. No disrespect to Peyton Manning intended. He's the one who won the game. But he is so very like the Main Man as to be...eerie. Granted, no flat-top. Apart from that, though, Peyton Manning is Johnny U. He is always, totally, in command of the offense. In person he's reliably a bumpkin, but in action he's an uncompromising marauder. His passing attack is almost miraculously accurate in the clutch, and if you are clinging to a slender lead in the fourth quarter with two minutes to play, the very last person you want to be receiving the snap from center is the Main Man.

I just talked to my wife -- the  fanatical Eagles fan who still thinks the referee decided the New Orleans game by throwing a pissant penalty after Jeff Garcia got a first down on fourth and ten. She said, "What's the point of this entry? Why would anyone care, now that the Eagles have been cheated out of their chance to humiliate the Bears?"

It didn't take more than a moment -- yes, like all men I'm in charge of measuring moments, commercials, and Roman inter-regnums -- to say, "Honey. What I'm doing here is pointing out just how doomed the Bears are. They're not just facing Peyton Manning. They're facing the ghost of Johnny F---ing Unitas."

I like Rex Grossman. It's kind of cute that he's too busy going to parties to focus on humdrum things like football games. Maybe someday he'll have a Super Bowl victory to fling in the faces of his detractors.

Just not this year. You heard it here first. Manning, Unitas, and the Colts by fourteen. Of course, my wife responded as any Eagle would: "Who gives a flying f---?"

I'm just saying... Colts by fourteen.

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