The teams have arrived in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, and already the New York media is being accused of doing its job. Which is to say, they’re being accused of taking an innocuous comment out of context and trying to sell it for far more than it’s worth.
In this case, it’s Tom Brady’s speech to fans at the Patriots’ pep-rally sendoff Sunday in Foxboro, Mass., where he told a crowd of 20,000-plus, “We’re going to give it our best and hopefully we’ll have a lot more people at our party next weekend.” The New York Post headline Monday read: “Giants will make Brady pay for planning victory party.”
Now then, I think I can speak for the real party organizer here — Jim Irsay, the owner of the host Indianapolis Colts — when I say, “Bravo, Mr. Murdoch!” But hopefully, they’ll come up with something better than that talk about this week. Otherwise all anybody will be left to talk about leading up to the game is Madonna’s halftime set list and … Peyton Manning
“I’m not talking about Peyton this week,” Irsay told reporters Monday as the real media frenzy began in Indianapolis.
But we all know it’s too late for that, don’t we? Last week’s public spat between Irsay and Manning – one that began in the local paper (with some terrific work by columnist Bob Kravitz) and then ballooned in the national media — all but assured Eli Manning won’t be able to escape his big brother’s shadow this week in Indianapolis. Just not for the usual football reasons is all.
First, Manning expressed his dismay over the still-unraveling end of era for the Colts. Then Irsay, who is to NFL owners what Phil Jackson was to NBA coaches, fired back, calling Manning a “politician,” which is about as low a blow as a man can strike these days. By Friday, they were issuing joint statements the way celebrity couples generally do to confirm their divorce plans and express concern for their children to People magazine. (The Manning-Irsay statement actually included the phrasing “working together through any challenges the future may bring.”)
“When Peyton and I talked (last week), we both thought the focus should be on the Super Bowl,” Irsay insisted Monday.
Neither Manning nor Rob Lowe was available for comment Monday. But with Manning’s career likely coming to an end with the Colts, that leaves plenty for everyone else to talk about, regardless.
Irsay paid the future Hall of Famer $26 million this season and he didn’t play a down after September neck surgery. And with Manning’s heaIth still a major question mark, there’s no way Irsay will fork over the $28 million roster bonus he’s due on March 8, five days before the start of the league year. (And six weeks before he drafts Stanford QB Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.) There’s also no way to know if Manning — after three neck surgeries in two years — will be healthy enough to play in 2012, or beyond, though his family insists he’s not ready to retire just yet.
All of which means the fans and media in at least a half-dozen other NFL cities – I’ll start with the Redskins, Dolphins, Jets, Cardinals, 49ers and Broncos, though the list goes on — will spend the next few months debating whether Manning’s future includes them. And thanks to last week’s headlines, that debate begins right now, during Indy’s Super Bowl party.