There are many compelling story lines surrounding Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. The teams’ quarterbacks, Cam Newton, 26, and Peyton Manning, 39, will receive much of the attention. Quarterbacks usually do.
Manning, the veteran elder statesman and TV pitchmen, an iconic player participating in his fourth and possibly his last Super Bowl, will answer a variety of questions, many redundant, concerning his future: “Peyton, will this be your last game? How much do you have left? Will you retire after Sunday? If you lose, will you retire after Sunday? If you win, will you retire after Sunday? If you lose, how do you think you’ll be perceived in the annals of sports history? If you win, how will you be perceived in the annals of sports history?
“I kind of think like everybody else, where you see this as possibly being the last game,” said New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, younger brother of Peyton. “I don’t know if he knows himself. When you get to year 19, and kind of deal with some injuries and things going on, it would be a good way to go out. I hope that he can win this game, and if he decides to hang it up, go out on top.”
Manning, whose physical strength and skills are on the decline, known as the NFL’s best regular season quarterback, sat out seven games this season because of a foot injury and is currently under investigation by the NFL for allegedly obtaining a banned substance five years ago while recovering from what could have been a career-ending neck injury. For him to go out on top, win Super Bowl 50, Denver’s defense must repeat what they’ve done to teams during this season, regular and post. Attempt to limit the Panthers’ time of possessions. Disrupt Newton’s snap counts. Alter his timing. Apply continuous pressure. Keep him running. Keep him out of the pocket. And most of all, maintain coverage of Panther receivers and tight ends. As Denver calls it, “the No Fly Zone,” controlling everything that goes on in the air. “Our defense has led the charge for us to be here,” said Manning, acknowledging his team’s defensive accomplishments thus far.
In his 19th year, labeled “the Sheriff” by the Panthers, Manning is football royalty, having played in three Super Bowls, winning one. His brother, Eli has won two. Their father, Archie Manning, a first- round draft pick like his sons, was also a respected NFL Pro Bowl veteran quarterback who played in the 70s and 80s.
There’s a 13-year age difference between Manning and Newton. It’s Generation X versus Generation Y. Tennessee versus Auburn. Traditional versus unconventional. Old school versus new school. And because Newton has brought up the issue of race, Black versus white.
“I’m an African-American quarterback that scares people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,” stated Newton, putting himself at the forefront of a conversation that should have been explored more intently during the first year of the Obama administration.
Though we haven’t walked in Newton’s shoes, subtract the element of race, for now. There’s no need for a “Cam’s Life Matters” campaign. It’s the NFL, the Super Bowl, not “Boyz in the Hood.” Media questions have evolved to “How do you train to become a great quarterback?” from “How long have you been a Black quarterback?” which was asked of Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl in 1988.
All things equal, a Denver loss is more like an older employee of a firm being forced to retire, getting a payout, a package to move on. Newton’s ready to do that, move Manning on, and get his now. Like any other Millennial, he just wants to express himself, do his thing, his way. Dab, be a superhero, give game footballs to kids. Manning is in his way. It’s like some Shakespearean thing, or one of those blaxploitation films about sticking it to the man. If Newton wins Super Bowl 50, sticking it to Denver, then there will be something to compare him to—other Super Bowl winners.