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Published:February 10th, 2010 11:05 EST
The Super Bowl Handshake That Wasn't

The Super Bowl Handshake That Wasn't

By Geoff Dean


 If you have read any of my sports contributions (and are enough of a glutton for punishment to be reading this one, too), you will know that I am an undying Colts fan. You might expect me to be devastated by losing the Super Bowl (I didn`t actually play, mind you). Disappointed, yes. Crushed, not quite.

 Like most football fans, even in Naptown if they dare to admit it, I have a soft spot for the Saints. All teams have bad years but no city`s football fans have ever had to put up with what the New Orleans faithful have. Year after year, decade after decade. Most people are quick to bring up Katrina as they discuss the "meaning" of the Super Bowl but long before that disaster, the Saints were one themselves.

 For them to win, therefore, even for me, is not such an unhappy occurance. And in the Circle City (another semi-clever Indianapolis nickname), many people are still a little steamed about the decision to toss aside the perfect season. The team that played every game to win beat the team that didn`t go all out the last two weeks. Coach Caldwell, who was famously "unfazed" by what the fans thought of his decision to bench the starters, lost, while Payton beat Peyton. The man who said it was all about winining the Super Bowl, regular season games and regular season fans be damned, didn`t. I can`t bring myself to complain all that much.

 Except one thing.

 Why didn`t Manning shake hands with Drew Brees and other Saints players and coaches? And why are some people excusing it on the grounds of his "fiercely competitive nature?"

 We all know that Manning is competitve and strongly motivated to win. But then again, which professional football player isn`t? If they aren`t, how "professional" are they? And since when does "the powerful desire to win" preclude a congratulatory hand shake?

 Manning, himself, tried to downplay the controversy by saying, after the loss, he felt "the field belonged to the Saints", so apparently, he should get off the field as quickly as possible. Besides the fact that shaking a few hands and wishing congratualtions to a few key people takes a negligible amount of time, he, on TV, didn`t exactly seem to be rushing off the field. He left normally. It wasn`t a matter of time or of who "owns" the field, was it, Senor Manning? Not really now, was it?

 Inevitably, comparisons have been made to LeBron James` similar snub in the NBA playoffs. And similarly, many have defended both of them as "super competitive" as I am sure they are. Does that mean that handshakes and congratulations to the opponent are not needed if one is competitive and motivated enough? If you are devastated by a loss, does that excuse "poor sportsmanship?" (Yes, that`s what it is!) Is this the example we want to give to young athletes at all levels, primary school and up? If he is the "mayor of the NFL" as one blogger put it, I demand a recall.

 Manning did call Brees later to congratulate him, and Brees said that he was fine with that and that Manning is a "classy person." What Brees proved to me, intentionally or not, is that Brees is a classy person and Manning is not.

 Sorry, Peyton. I will be rooting for you next year and hoping "we" win the Super Bowl next time around, but in the offseason could you please add a little class and humility to your undeniably superlative football skills?