Joe Santoro
For the Tribune

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January 30, 2014
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Friday Fodder: The pressure is on Manning

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear before Peyton Manning is declared the greatest quarterback in NFL history Sunday night on Twitter. If Super Bowls are the way we judge quarterback greatness, well, Joe Montana is the best by far. Montana played in four Super Bowls and won them all. He destroyed John Elway and Dan Marino in Super Bowls. He engineered one of the greatest, clutch drives in Super Bowl history. He threw 11 touchdown passes in Super Bowls without an interception. Montana is the model of Super Bowl perfection. His quarterback rating of 127.83 is the best in Super Bowl history. So don’t tell me that if Manning beats Russell Wilson in a Super Bowl that he is the best to ever play the game.

What is going to happen on Sunday in the Super Bowl? Well, one of two things. The Denver Broncos are going to win in a blowout or the Seattle Seahawks are going to win in a close, defensive struggle on a late touchdown. The guess here is that the Broncos will simply outscore the Seahawks, 34-20. Seattle is a throwback. They play great defense and their offense is based on running the ball. Vince Lombardi would be a Seahawks fan this weekend. But the NFL has changed. It’s all about playing pitch and catch and the Broncos will have the best pitcher and the best group of catchers on the field on Sunday.

Manning simply has to beat the Seattle Seahawks. All of the pressure on Sunday will be on Manning’s shoulders. He cannot afford another big-game loss. He’s supposed to win on Sunday. He’s one of the greatest players in NFL history, right? He can’t lose to Russell Wilson. The last time there was this much pressure on one team or one player to win the Super Bowl was six years ago when the New England Patriots and Tom Brady were chasing perfection. And the New York Giants, a team built very much like the Seahawks, beat them. So don’t be shocked if the Seahawks win on Sunday. We’ve seen it before. And it’s not like we haven’t ever seen Manning come up small in a big game.

One thing is certain on Sunday. Manning will be overrated if he wins and he will be unfairly criticized if he loses. Brady, for some reason, never seems to get criticized for losing playoff games and Super Bowls. Manning, though, gets vilified each time he loses in the postseason. When Brady loses, it’s because he doesn’t have enough weapons. When Manning loses, it’s because he choked. That’s why you shouldn’t believe anything you read about Manning on Monday morning.

If Colin Kaepernick had put a bit more air under his last pass two weeks ago to Michael Crabtree, we’d be talking right now about how the San Francisco 49ers were going to win this Sunday. Kaepernick and his running ability would have given the Broncos’ defense fits. The 49ers’ offense, if need be, would have been able to win a shootout with the Broncos’ offense. The 49ers’ defense is just as good as the Seahawks’ defense. The best team in the NFL doesn’t always win the Super Bowl. The best team doesn’t always even get to the Super Bowl.

The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball program is going to miss Deonte Burton when he’s gone. The senior point guard is the heart and soul of the program right now. He’s as talented as any player the Wolf Pack has ever had and he’s also one of the most unselfish. Burton has been the Pack’s best overall player from the moment he stepped on the court as a freshman. There’s nothing he can’t do on the floor and you can count the players in Pack history on one hand who fit that description. He plays with his emotions on his sleeve at all times. His teammates feed off him. The crowd feeds off him. He has simply carried this program the last four years.

The NFL now gives out 5,000 or so media credentials for the Super Bowl. About 4,750 of those media people don’t do any real work during the week except eat the free food and ruin all the interviews. Most of the so-called media couldn’t tell you Russell Wilson from Russell Brand. But that’s the way the NFL wants it. They want to make it as difficult for the real journalists to do their jobs during Super Bowl week as possible. That’s why the bulk of the stories during Super Bowl week have nothing to do with actual football. It is simply the media covering the media. That’s why the biggest stories this week were the things Richard Sherman said and what Marshawn Lynch didn’t say. The best thing about the Super Bowl is that it’s a sign that spring training is about to start.

This Super Bowl is the perfect example of how the NFL dominates this country. Put these two cities in the World Series -- the Colorado Rockies against the Seattle Mariners -- and nobody would watch. But it doesn’t matter which teams are in the Super Bowl. They could pick a celebrity team quarterbacked by Justin Bieber against one led by Justin Timberlake, call it the Super Bowl and 5,000 media people would show up and hype the game. The Super Bowl is a reason to bet, it’s a reason to throw a party, it’s a reason to buy a big screen TV and it’s a reason for 45-year-old men to buy $250 jerseys and strut around on Sunday like they are athletes. It’s the best sports day of the year. Heck, it’s the best day of the year. Nothing else even comes close.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 30, 2014 03:25PM Published Feb 12, 2014 12:19PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.