It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m sitting at the bar in the hotel waiting for the cable in the room to come back on. My wife and I are not big party people, so the plan all along was to go somewhere and watch the Burn Notice marathon on USA. Wow. Exciting, I know.
Anyway, the bartender is comping us drinks and giving us the martini and margarita leftovers because the ‘big convention’ in the hotel is a Christian youth outreach-thingy and they don’t drink and even if they did they wouldn’t buy drinks at the hotel bar because they don’t know how much anything costs and when they find out they freak out. ‘Oh my….seven dollars for a Cosmopolitan? I didn’t think that magazine cost so much.’ Yes, they are that out of touch. I worked retail for a number of years and any kind of church convention sucked eggs. They took up all your time trying to tell you about God and all you wanted them to do was buy a fucking t-shirt, which they never did because they’re CHEAP!! Not frugal, but CHEAP, with a capital ‘SKATE’.
It’s now halftime for whatever bowl game we’re watching and they cut over to Sports Center and the conversation is about the best football player of the 00’s, coming up after the break. My wife rolls her eyes in that ‘why does this matter’ sort of way, I shrug.
Now, understand something, I’m a quiet sports viewer. I don’t talk, yell, scream or throw things at the TV. I don’t high five everybody at the bar when my team scores. To be honest, I’d rather do almost anything other than sitting around watching sports on TV. Some, like hockey, are just so much better when you see them in person. Plus, no colorless commentary to put up with at the ballpark. Yes, you do tend to win when you score the most points. The battle is won in the trenches, after all, it’s why we play the game. Blah. Blah. Blah.
That’s not so say I don’t enjoy sports, I’m just a real casual fan. I sit quietly and watch intently; like I’m looking at porn. You don’t even know I’m there except for the breathing. I say this so you understand how unlike me it is to say anything to anybody at a bar about a football game or player. Clearly, I had a couple drinks in me when the guy next to us, a paunchy, white, hippity-hop wannabe, pipes up.
‘Tom Fucking Brady.’
To which I respond, ‘Peyton Goddamn Manning.’
‘Peyton Fucking Manning? Are you serious?’
‘It’s Peyton Goddamn Manning, and yea, I am.’
Let me fill you in on some backstory. I’m from Indiana, and my mom is always telling me about watching Peyton’s dad Archie shill for Bunny Bread when we lived in New Orleans and he played for the Saints. I’m kinda partial to the Mannings.
Plus, drunk or sober, I really do think Peyton’s a better player than Tom Brady (look! statistical analysis!) Tom’s somewhere down around four of five depending on my mood. Peyton’s number one and LaDainian Tomlinson is usually number two. Sometimes I put Kobe Bryant on the list to see if anyone’s paying attention.
‘But Brady’s gots the rings, baby,’ says Hippity. ‘He’s gots three rings.’
Remember, this guy is WHITE. Let me paint you a picture. Red baseball cap on sidewayz, Detroit Piston’s jerzey, Lugz, and oversized jeanz bagged at his anklez. Now picture him holding his hand over head and jangling his three fingers at me. Also, he’s drinking Grey Goose cuz that’s what hiz peepz be sippin’.
‘And two of them belong to the kicker.’
Because, if you all remember, Adam Vinateri kicked the winning field goals with time running out in the Patriots’ first two Super Bowl victories. Besides, Super Bowls are team wins, despite the crowning of an MVP. Also, I like to stir things up.
‘I said,’ I said, ‘two of them belong to the kicker. Super Bowl’s don’t count. They’re team wins.’
‘Hell yeah they do.’
‘No they don’t. Not for the quarterback. The team maybe, but not the quarterback.’ Then, for my own amusement I add. ‘Especially a system quarterback like Tom Brady.’
If he wasn’t paying attention before… he was now.
‘What’s that supposed to mean, bro? System quarterback? You trippin’.’
Again, I can’t help but mention this dude is white.
‘System quarterback. Brady’s a system quarterback. If you doubt me, I offer this as proof. Matt Cassel.’
‘What the fuck that’s got to do with Tom Brady being the best quarterback of the decade?’
And here’s what I said, more or less.
When Tom Brady went down in 2008, Matt Cassel stepped in and took over. He went 10-5 as a starter, had two 400 yard games and looked to be the Patriots quarterback of the future. Then, in the offseason, a funny thing happened. He got traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. He went 4-11 and looked lost and over his head most of the season. I know, I live in KC and got to see this trainwreck week in and week out.
So, same quarterback, VASTLY different statistics. What does this tell us? Well, I used to work with a guy who always complained about the people he worked with. The first time he complained I was right there with him, yeah, those guys are idiots. The second time, I mentioned what rotten luck he had, two sucky engineers in a row. The third and fourth and fifth time, I saw the pattern for what it was. This guy was the problem. Five or six different situations, same guy, same complaints.
Matt Cassel. Two unique situations, same guy, two very different results. He succeeds in New England, which has been a winner for most of the last decade, and nearly loses his starting job in Kansas City, which has sucked eggs for the last five years.
My conclusion, the system made Matt Cassel seem better than he was.
Extrapolate from there…Tom Brady’s a good quarterback…in the right system. Put him on another team and he doesn’t get to four Super Bowls. He’s lucky to make it to one.
The response to my logic.
‘Okay, yeah. You’re right about Matt Cassell and Brady being system guys. And I’ll give you that Peyton Goddamn Manning is a much better quarterback, but the best player of the decade is still Tom Fucking Brady.’
And I’m the one who was drunk.