Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Peyton Manning to...

Peyton Manning to…
The franchise player or the franchise? In the twilight of the great Peyton Manning’s career, Jim Irsay calls time and says we can’t have it both ways. Reflecting on this “release.”
By Rick Olivares

It's not Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison. It's now Peyton Manning to.... hmm. I’ll get back to you when we find out if Washington, Arizona, Denver or even Kansas claim one of the NFL's all-time great quarterbacks once he clears waivers.

We’ve seen “the pass” and “the catch”. We’ve also seen “the fumble” and the “Super Bowl Shuffle.” Now even before the NFL season kicks off, there will be “the catch” or “who will catch Peyton Manning?” It’s not a sweepstakes thing but Peyton will be a great addition to teams needing a tested QB to help in the short term while helping out the young bucks in waiting. We’ll know the answer in a few weeks.

I figured that even before the last NFL season was done, the Indianapolis Colts were going to part ways with Manning. At some point, the injuries (aside from the money owed) to the quarterback had become a concern. While team management loves Manning, they know that they have to put a winning team on the field.

When the franchise player is on his way out, teams try to quickly surround or put some new players in place in hopes that they can sustain a playoff run or even a winning record. But did the Colts take a knee too early on Manning’s career and worth?

Growing up, I was a huge Philadelphia 76ers fan beginning with Doug Collins and World B. Free then with Doc and later Charles Barkley. Doc came from the ABA New York Nets before moving to the NBA (with the merger) and the Sixers. To me, Doc was the Sixers. To actually hear that the team was thinking of trading Erving at one point in his career was ludicrous. But he was clearly on the downside of his career. There was one game where Larry Bird was taunting him because not only was the Birdman from Boston scoring on him but he was also razzing him about his age. Erving lost his temper and a fight ensured.

Luckily, the trade didn’t push through. I didn’t understand it back then (maybe because I was a kid and I didn’t understand the business side of sports) and now I do. Somewhat I think.

Watching the press conference where Manning bade an emotional goodbye to Indianapolis I thought it was surreal. For one, it was not a retirement press con but one where a player was being released. I am trying to wrack my brain where I saw a similar instance. Oh, there was LeBron James and his insipid Decision.

I always thought that certain players should play their entire career with one team. Some were fortunate enough to do so – Bill Russell, Larry Bird, and Kevin McHale with the Boston Celtics; Jerry West and Magic Johnson with the Los Angeles Lakers; John Elway with the Denver Broncos; and Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Don Mattingly with the New York Yankees; and Paolo Maldini with AC Milan (for three decades where he followed his father Cesare Maldini in the San Siro) to name some.

And there were those who went away – Michael Jordan from Chicago to Washington; Joe Montana from San Francisco to Kansas City; Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton to Los Angeles to St. Louis then finally to New York. And there was Luis Figo controversially leaving Barcelona for Real Madrid and LeBron James made-for-TV/ratings/ego departure from Cleveland for Miami.

Save for Figo, the other left because of money concerns or disputes with management. Figo did this all for himself. And let’s not get into James. Please.

Manning should belong to the first. He is a Colt. He didn’t have to say it but he did. And we all know he is. Unfortunately, he is not one anymore.

Whether Manning is healthy or not, all those injuries must have weighed heavily in Colts’ owner Jim Irsay’s mind. He probably thought of those late 1980s Boston Celtics teams where their top players suffered from the ravages of time and injury until they bounced from title contender to lottery team. Irsay thinks that by going on a limb (not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars and maybe more) by going with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin will help his team reload and get back on track.

This sort of reminds me of the time when Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause did what no Chicago Bulls opponent could do on the NBA hardcourt, beat and destroy the six-time champs with a rebuilding process that took them more than a decade (and seven coaches) before they returned to the NBA Finals with head coach Tom Thibodeau.

I do think that the Colts could be taking the route that the Bulls took. The release (as it was the breakup of the Bulls dynasty) makes great business sense. But it does not make sports sense.

It’s not like the Colts have a Steve Young waiting in the wings for Joe Montana to retire, or an Aaron Rodgers ready for that play-action when Brett Favre rides off into the sunset. The Colts will be rolling the dice on hoping that they get lucky with Luck or that the sports world has room for another Griffin not named Blake.

I think that Indianapolis is losing a great weapon. How great? He has four NFL MVP Awards, one Super Bowl titles, more yardage than anyone not named “Favre” and “Marino”, and well has put Indiana on the pro football map.

It’s one thing for doctors to clear a player for game duty and it’s another to actually be in one. I know it’s a gamble that a hit on Manning could derail the season. That is why you trust and build the defense to protect the quarterback. I believe that there is still some game in Manning’s Golden Arm.

But it’s done. The rice (Oh, Jerry Rice was traded as well), er, dice has been rolled. Even if Manning did not want to leave Indianapolis. Both teams will go their own way. Manning has an opportunity to follow Montana who led the Chiefs into the playoffs and Favre who also led the New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings to a modicum of success. He will get to prove Irsay and the naysayers wrong.

I guess, in sports, as it is in life, the only thing permanent is change. Now we’ll know how this all pans out by December.

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