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Published:November 5th, 2006 10:02 EST
Brady and Manning are stars, but not the show

Brady and Manning are stars, but not the show

By Zach Crizer

Saying this game is about Brady and Manning is inexcusable tunnel vision. Not only will they never step on the field at the same time, but they genuinely like each other. There is no emotional tension here. They are good friends. This is a rivalry that may be starred in by Brady and Manning, but it is not created of them.

Rivalries happen when two franchises repeatedly battle each other for ultimate supremacy. It also requires a little antagonism off the field. Former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri signed with the Colts this off-season, much to the delight of Colts executive Bill Polian. Polian’s genuine hate for Bill Belichick from their days in Buffalo was no coincidence in this signing and his giddiness over it.

While the Colts have been defined by their heartbreaking losses in elimination games, twice via missed kicks by Mike Vanderjagt, Vinatieri has defined clutch kicking, winning two of the Patriots Super Bowls with final second boots. Everything in this rivalry can be compared to something to the effect of the current Yankees-Red Sox war. Front offices as well as players and fans battle for the bragging rights. It does not matter if either team wins the championship, because each time they play it feels like a championship game.

While Vinatieri could be called the Johnny Damon of this rivalry, there are yet more subplots. Laurence Maroney was the prized pick on the Colts draft board this season, and he was expected to fall to them, right before the Patriots snapped him up as their chosen successor to Corey Dillon. With the loss of Edgerrin James, the Colts chose Joseph Addai. They will face off to see who got the better rookie running back with Maroney splitting time with Dillon, and Addai as the Colts main rusher. They will probably get about the same amount of carries, seeing as the Colts rely on their passing game due to lack of success in the run.

Not to be forgotten, the match up of Belichick’s brilliant football schemes against the watchful eyes of Peyton Manning are always captivating. With the Patriots strong front seven, the Colts will probably go to the air even more than usual, and Manning’s ability to outsmart the most highly regarded coach in the league is just as interesting as debating whether Brady or Manning is better.

This is a game and a rivalry for the ages. The game will be played in New England, at Gillette Stadium, where the field conditions are notably bad, and not changing before this game, not an accident on the Patriots part. This is in response to Polian’s numerous protests of league rules pertaining to the Patriots.

While the Patriots have won 3 of the past 5 Super Bowls, the Colts have been denied of a championship during their tremendous stretch. They have started 5-0 three years in a row, but have not yet even gotten to the Super Bowl.

The war of words between Pats fans and Colts fans is predictable. The Pats fan speaks of the Super Bowls won with Brady. The Colts fans speak of the great Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison combo and their undefeated record. The Pats fan brings up the fact that New England has won 6 of 7 games played in the Manning-Brady era, and the Colts fan blames it on their “stupid kicker” and reminds the Pats fan of Vinatieri’s current residence. Then the game starts, and everything speaks for itself.

Is this the Super Bowl? No, but in the minds of Pats and Colts fans, it is better. This is a natural rivalry that does not need to have a name to hype it. This game will decide the AFC favorite.

Even the media cannot remain.

Drama will adorn this game, with stars and plots abounding, but it games like this, there is always a twist. Like a great movie, the anticipation is always silenced by the thrill of reality. Can the game match the hype? Will Brady and Manning each have 400 yards passing in an epic duel?

Sunday night, the mudslinging and speculation will cease. The players will step onto the field, and a new episode in this era’s best football rivalry will commence, forgetting the build up and letting the plots create themselves. It's that stop everything and watch game. It is a season defining moment, and most likely, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will both have large impacts on the game. However, when it comes down to it, a single play will make the game, and either one or both will have nothing to do with it.

It was the Celtics vs. the Lakers, the Red Sox vs. the Yankees, the Bulls vs. the Pistons and Ohio State vs. Michigan. Nothing overrides winning the game. Manning and Brady are stars of the show, but no show is complete without the twist and the guest star. There is your TV Guide, now I am ready for the show. Colts vs. Patriots, a modern epic.