bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: The Peyton Manning drama in Indianapolis is just beginning

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A very challenging situation is developing in Indianapolis. Peyton Manning, arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, may be seeing his time in that Midwestern city coming to an end. It could, in fact, be his NFL career that is ending. The only part that is certain is that Colts fans are experiencing plenty of agita right now, and it is likely to last a little while.

Peyton Manning missed all of last season after having surgery on his neck in early September. He had actually had surgery several months earlier to repair a bulging disc, but his recovery did not go well and he ended up needing the second operation, in which he had two vertebrae fused together. The real complicating factor came two months after the first surgery, when he signed a 5-year, $90 million contract extension. He was paid $26 million for the 2011 season, during which he did not take a snap. The contract was structured in such a way that the team could walk away from it by cutting Manning before the end of the league year, which is in early March. With Manning not yet fully recovered (or even close, by most reports), it would appear to be an easy choice for the team, who will owe him a $28 million dollar payment on March 8th. Of course, it is not nearly as simple as it sounds. Manning has played his entire storied career in Indianapolis, during which he has made 11 Pro Bowls, won four MVP awards, and led the Colts to a Super Bowl title in 2007. He is one of the most popular players in the league, and severing ties with him could be disastrous for the Colts. Aside from the loss of a great quarterback, the P.R. hit alone could be catastrophic. With Manning missing last season, the team had the worst record in the league, finishing 2-14 after an 0-13 start. They have the first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and are likely to pick Andrew Luck, the quarterback from Stanford who is at the top of every draft board.

Perhaps the Colts are ready to wipe the slate clean and start over. After all, they recently fired Bill Polian, the architect of the team over the last 15 years, along with his son Chris, who held the title of general manager for the last three seasons. Head Coach Jim Caldwell was let go, along with the rest of his coaching staff. Chuck Pagano, the former defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, was hired as the new head coach. If Peyton Manning weren’t Peyton Manning, this would be a pretty easy decision. Let the new coach draft his own guy and build his own team. In a lot of ways, Manning has been like a coach on the field, calling his own plays and making decisions on the fly. That could be a challenge for a new staff looking to make its own mark on the team. When you add in the huge amount of money at stake, Manning’s age (he’s 35), and the nature of his injury, it seems to me that the Colts have to cut ties with him, regardless of the public relations hit. That said, if Manning were to go on to play for another team, what would that be like for Colts fans? What if he were to lead another team to a title? The backlash would be something to see. Colts owner Jim Irsay, who will make this decision, has to be hating life right about now. There was a bit of back and forth through the media this week between Irsay and Manning, which was very unlike these guys, who have always seemed to have such a great relationship. They issued a statement of solidarity late in the week, trying to dispel the idea that they were at odds, but the situation at hand is not one that can be easily smoothed over.

It will be fascinating to see how this situation is resolved.

Bad sports, continued:

2) 19-year-old Australian tennis player Bernard Tomic was ticketed for driving violations twice on Thursday, after which he holed up in his house in an attempt to hide from police.

3) Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek was involved in a car accident early Thursday morning when a car in which he was a passenger crashed into a concrete barrier. The driver, who is not a football player, was arrested for DUI.

4) Speaking of DUIs, Aldon Smith, who had a spectacular rookie season for the San Francisco 49ers this year, got one of his own on Friday night. He was arrested in Miami.

5) Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians had retired and would not return to the team. This week, he was hired as offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. Based on the fact that his contract with Pittsburgh was up and the team reportedly wants to return to more of a running, ball-control style of offense, it seems that his retirement was something less than voluntary.

6) Back in November, I mentioned a story about Yale quarterback Patrick Witt, who had apparently turned down the chance to do a final interview to be a Rhodes Scholar because he was unwilling to miss Yale’s rivalry game against Harvard. It appears that this was not actually true. His candidacy for the scholarship had been suspended due to a sexual assault accusation made against Witt by a fellow Yale student.

Good sports:

1) Victoria Azarenka, a 22-year-old tennis player from Belarus, had quite a week. She won her first career major, defeating Maria Sharapova for the Australian Open title on Saturday. In doing so, she took over the number one spot in the world rankings for women’s tennis.

2) Novak Djokovic picked the new year up right where he left off in the old one, winning the Australian Open in dramatic fashion. He won a marathon five set match against Rafael Nadal after nearly six hours. This was the longest final match in a Grand Slam tournament ever.

3) Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel came to the assistance of a neighbor whose house was on fire Thursday night. Cassel and his wife saw flames coming from the home’s chimney, and the quarterback ran over to the house and pounded on the door until the owner, who was unaware of the fire, came out.

4) I am not sure what would possess someone to ski across Antarctica, especially alone, but that is exactly what Felicty Aston did over the last two months. She completed her journey on Monday. I am not sure this is exactly sports, but I think it’s pretty impressive, if a bit nuts.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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