As previously established by me on this site, God has nothing to do with sports. I mean, seriously, if God exists and has the ability to look the residents of New Orleans in the eyes and be like, “Sorry about that whole hurricane situation. But, whatever; I was watching baseball,” then shoot me in the face.
That said, every so often a sports storyline so epic, so Biblical, in proportions emerges that its hard to believe that it wasn’t somehow predestined by some kind of sports deity. Take for example this years battle between the Jets and the Mammals—I mean, Fish. Forget about God. This story is practically Shakespearean in nature. (Sorry, but Shakespeare did Biblical better than even the Bible.)
Let’s start with a recap.
As with any good dramatic narrative arc, we have our villain. An awesome villain. A bumbling, sociopathic, deer-hunting, self-obsessed Southerner who can’t pronounce his own last name and, from the appearance of it, either can’t read his team’s playbook or has a depth perception issue.
As with many an evil mastermind, this particular villain is deceptive. (Think Iago.) He has made a lifetime out of tricking the public into buying into the myth of his goodness. He begins by playing for one of the most beloved team in all of football—located in the most beloved region in all the country, I might add. (You know me and that Midwest.) He charms us with his buffoonery, blinds us with his scruff, never misses a game, forces us to all but overlook the sheer insanity that is the existence of his last name. And for years this went on.
But then. Of course. Starts with an R.
After several pathetic attempts to get our attention by threatening to retire, he finally actually retires. There’s a press conference where tears are cried, a ceremony scheduled to retire his jersey, a cornfield maze designed in his honor.
Oh, but wait. Suddenly after he has milked the whole retirement thing for all its worth, he realizes that retirement is kind of bullshit because you get an awesome amount of attention all in one shot and then basically no more attention ever again.
We all know how this story ends. Decision to unretire. Annoyance over the fact that the Packers refused to give him back his old spot despite the whole announcement of his retirement. Displacement of Chad Pennington. (By the way, he’s the hero of this story.) And suddenly it's like modern day Shakespeare with a Miami backdrop. Which works because it’s a comedy.
But this is just to set the stage. What makes it interesting is that as fate—or, rather the NFL—would have it, the Jets and the Fish were scheduled to meet on both the first and last days of the season. What makes it more interesting is that they went into the last game fighting for a spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately, a win by both the Pats and the Ravens made the whole thing a little less high drama than it could have been because it meant that, regardless of the outcome, the Jets were destined to sit this January out. But whatever. For the season to end as it began—Pennington v Fav-ruh. Young screwed over player with his new team battling it out against old guy who stole his spot because he’s too chicken to retire.
There can be no doubt that Pennington has hit his stride this season with Miami. No one could have really put it better than Karen Crouse, who is a recent article for the Times wrote, “There is a lightness to Chad Pennington, as if in his move to South Florida to be the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback, he shed more than a couple of layers of clothing. The smile that was tighter than his spirals toward the end of his tenure with the Jets is now a luminous half-moon.”
OK. Not true. Lots of people could have put it better than Karen Crouse. But the imagery of the half-moon smile is truly evocative.
But it’s not just about the layers of clothing or the spirals or, you know, the half moons. Injury-free for the first time in a while, Pennington is finally living up to his potential. And, moreover, he’s helping the Dolphins live up to theirs.
Fav-ruh on the other hand—well, let’s just say that the last few weeks have really made evident just how much of a benefit he’s been to the 2008 Jets. Sure, they got off to a promising start with big victories against the Pats and the Titans. Hell, the way they were going for a while it was hard to believe that they wouldn’t manage a slot in this year’s playoffs. And, no, you can’t luck your way into nine wins. But you luck your way into a few. And I would say that on more than one occasion, a victory was earned despite and not because of Fav-ruh.
Seriously. It’s almost like the guy just closes his eyes, throws and hope for the best.
But yesterday Brett really reached new heights—I almost want to say dazzling heights—in his quest to shock and awe us with his special brand of throw-and-hope football. (Because, shucks? That’s how they done do things in the South?) It wasn’t just that he threw three interceptions, though he did throw three interceptions. For me, it was really the one in the second quarter that sort of blew my mind. You know which one I mean. The one that was so mind-boggling that it was practically epic. Even I was so flummoxed by the whole thing that all I could think to do was blink a bunch of times and say, “Really? Really?”
You’ll rarely hear me say this, but yesterday’s game did not constitute a team failure for the Jets. That’s what you call a one-man disaster.
Pennington, of course, went 22-for-30 for 200 yards and two touchdowns. I’m spacing on the number of interceptions. Oh, that’s right. CUZ HE DIDN’T HAVE ANY. And he’s obviously been the ultimate in graciousness about the whole thing. As always. I’ll tell you what. I think I have a crush.
And all's well that ends well. For almost everybody, anyway.
Mangini. We all knew it was coming. This one was always a win-or-get-packing game for Eric. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Mangini will have nightmares about Leon Washington from now until the end of time and that somewhere in the Mangini home there’s a voodoo doll with Fav-ruh’s name written all over it.
Fortunately for Brett, there's a good chance that Mangini will get the spelling wrong.