Tag Archives: football

The Good Race


Peyton Manning retired this week, bringing to a close a career that will include two dozen passing records, five league MVP trophies and two Super Bowl rings. His induction into the National Football League Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, is as certain as gravity.

But when Ken Burns and other historians wax poetic about the man, they should not overlook his other historic achievement: the greatest retirement speech in the history of sport.

Hell, it may be one of the greatest retirement speeches of all-time. Written himself and lasting nearly 12 minutes, his adieu to an 18-year-career was less a recollection of achievements than a realization of life.

I admit, I was bawling by the end, around the 11th minute, when he quoted Scripture, 2 Timothy 4:7

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

After the speech, when the cameras at ESPN cut back to the commentators, the athletes — hulking, bruising NFL greats who played through compound fractures — were sniffly with snot and blurry with tears. Lou Gehrig will always be remembered for his farewell to Major League Baseball as he entered his long night. And, given the darkness awaiting him, it may always be the most moving.

But consider: Lou uttered barely three sentences, in about a minute, to heartfully confess that, despite the disease that would later kill him and take his name, he was the luckiest man on earth.

For sheer poetry, though, Peyton’s speech is unrivaled, particularly for an athlete. Like, viral-video-graduation-ceremony-self-improvement-class good. Everyone from journalism instructors to Academy Award winners should keep that speech permanently. Not for its turns of phrase; in truth, non-football fans won’t get a dozen references to players or plays.

But watch his emotionally-wracked monologue for even five minutes, and it’s clear Peyton isn’t even giving a speech. He’s reading a love letter. To his sport, to his fellow athletes and coaches, to his fans.

Say what you will about football (and there’s much to condemn). The sport’s brutality may eventually be its undoing.

But sport — like movies, TV, Broadway, even Justin Bieber songs — are all forms of art (albeit, some more cerebral  than others).

And in Peyton’s speech, there’s no mistaking the heart behind the arm: an icon openly confessing, and weeping over, his love of an art he’s been practicing since he was strong enough to hold the instrument.

That alone is worth a reservation in Canton.

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HB Commercial of the Month (Super Bowl edition)


Every year, international corporations vie mightily for the semi-regular HB Commercial of the Month Award (celebrating its first anniversary…some day). Particularly on Super Bowl Sunday.

But before we announce the HBCMA winner (sorry for the nerve-wracking tension), a note on the Super Bowl itself. It sorta sucked a little.

But still interesting, because the story will become more dramatic over the decades as historical accounts replace actual. While it was a really a turnover- and penalty-ridden  slugfest, dramatic historians will rewrite it as the triumphant final run of Peyton Manning, finishing a Hall of Fame career with a Super Bowl trophy and a scoring pass.

So for the readers of this in centuries future, know this: It wasn’t that dramatic. Billed as a showdown between superstar quarterbacks, distanced by age, race and worldview, neither guy played particularly well. Truthfully, the game was a defensive gem, i.e., dull.

As, largely, were the commercials. If the 50th Super Bowl ads had a through line, it’s this: Pharmaceutical companies have way the hell too much money. Primetime Super Bowl ads on constipation and irritable bowel syndrome?  American poop must be big business. Budweiser commercials railing against drunk drivers? NFL ads on how the sport is really for women? You’re disqualified simply for hypocrisy.

The winning ad comes from, of all corporations, some organization called Avocados in Mexico, which touts exactly what you think. Hopefully, they’re as good as their ads. I don’t know who directed this, but said director deserves an immediate U.S. TV show, if only to counter the dull comets who orbit the reality show landscape. The ad:

The literary award, though, goes to the ad for a Toyota Prius. In just 1 minute, 40 seconds the commercial manages to tell a story (a bumbling bank heist) establish sympathetic heroes (they leave some of the stolen booty to the car-theft victim) and manage a running story that would be worth watching. The director of this commercial deserves, at least, to be Michael Bay’s well-paid life coach, just to teach the guy succinct storytelling. The big winner:


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