Skeletor, Peyton Manning, and the Role of Baddies in Our Lives

Thursday, January 15, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

I'm a Patriots fan, let's get that out of the way at the top of this rare sport-related entry.  There is no way to begin a philosophical discussion about Peyton Manning without first making that allegiance known right off the top. As a rule, I hate Peyton Manning, I hate the Colts, and I hate the Denver Broncos.  Not only that, but I hate the whole Manning family.  I hate that baby Eli threatened to not play football for a year so that the Giants would pick him in the draft instead of the Chargers. And I hate their self-righteous father, who always seems to swoop in from the Legends suite to take post-game interviews with his children.

Yes. This is definitely a firm pass for me. 
That's a whole lot of hate, huh? People, please understand, I use such hyperbolic verbiage to drive home the point that this is all purely sports-related vitriol.  I don't cast real emotions at what are essentially glorified T.V. characters -- and I would never mistake a man in spandex with any of the everyday heroes that lend their sweat to helping our very real world flourish.  This disconnect is what allows such free-flowing loosey-goosey hate. 

With all of that out of the way, I would have to be obtuse not to recognize ol' P. Manning as one of the two best quarterbacks of this generation (with our boy Tom Brady).  Yes, Aaron Rodgers and  Drew Brees have been incredible. But they are the 1B's to Peyton & Tommy's 1A.   So when Peyton's Broncos lost convincingly to his old team the Colts in last week's playoff match-up, a whispered ripple was sent across the NFL landscape (and for once it wasn't domestic violence related!)

A few sources have reported that they suspect that was Peyton's last game in uniform -- that his 2011 fusion surgery plus his advancing age has left him without the weapons that previously gave him a mastery over any defense.  How much longer can he risk additional injury to his neck now that his other tools are also diminishing?

But those were the whispers. Out loud, Peyton, ever the class act of that family, says he needs time to absorb the recent loss that ended his 2014 season before assessing his options moving forward.  Of course he said that.  What else did we expect him to say? Did we think a sports god would retire under the cloud of a painful loss? Peyton, both as a quarterback and person, seems cerebral and thoughtful.  He'll go out on his terms -- wherever and whenever that press conference takes place.

Regardless of his retirement status, Peyton just wasn't Peyton out on the field last weekend. Could it have just been an off game? Sure, but the uneasy reaction I'm hearing from casual fans like myself no longer leads me to believe that a bad day is the most logical explanation. And, here comes the hardest part . . .

I'm sad about it.

Even though he is the most villainous quarterback in the recent history of my favorite team . . . and even though a loss to a Peyton Manning-led team stings like bee venom injected under each and every one of my finger and toe nails . . . it remains a privilege to see an athlete preform at the pinnacle of his profession.  Each time Manning and Brady occupied opposite ends of the same field, fans were invited to witness two such athletes go head to head like Dragonball Z warriors.  Lose or win, it was never a waste of time.

In the attic of my parents house I still have an oversized cardboard box full of the action figures of my youth.  Transformers, Star Wars, M.A.S.K., He-Man -- a whole bunch.  The vast majority of these  8 inch figurines depict the "good guys" from each respective cartoon series.  I have Cliffjumper, R2D2, Man-at-Arm, Bruce Sato, along with a host of other secondary characters.  Not many badies though.  My optimistic kid self never thought to hoard evildoers.  Kinda felt like asking for trouble.

But I did own Skeletor.  Even as a young child, I could tell Skeletor straddled the line between being the most evil and the most hilarious.  To wit, he has a yellow disembodied skull head, with a turquoise and purple skin-tight jump suit. Not the kinda monster nightmares are made of.  And his voice! Skeletor's voice combines the nasal twang of Patton Oswald doing an impersonation of a  Comi Con attendee with the Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk of Curly from the Three Stooges.  You just wanted to hug the speech impediment out of the most rotten guy in Eternia.  No matter which set of good guys I lined up in a row to defeat the impending evil forces, Skeletor was always riding in the back of the TIE Fighter or on the fuselage of V.E.N.O.M. Switchblade.

It appears I'm not the first person to see the humor in Skeletor
Peyton is my football Skeletor. He may be evil, but he is so good at being bad that I'm forced to forgive him. Hell, I need him. While I relish having the new look/Luck Colts come get their asses frozen off in New England this coming weekend -- a world away from their cozy Indianapolis dome -- I'm already nostalgic for Peyton's oblong head bobbing down from the Patriot's visiting locker room.  Those catchy-ass State Farm jingles ring out during the commercial breaks like another of Skeletor's empty threats.  And I'll miss that moment at the end of each game, especially any loss in New England, when you got to watch Skeletor step up to the microphone, with the flames burning gasoline behind his eyes, and listen to him reminds us that while he may be vanished this time, he'll be back, and he'll be stronger next time.

But that's not what happened last Sunday in Denver.  Peyton's last press conference ended, unexpectedly, like an episode of Scooby-Doo. Instead of teleporting back to his underground lair to recharge, Skeletor had his mask removed by those pesky young Colts, and we were all shocked when they revealed that number 18 was Mr. Manning the innkeeper all along. Just an ordinary dude disguised behind a mask of cackling bones.

Instead of a gasp in relieved recognition of the guy behind all the ruckus, the football world took the unveiling hard.  No one had come  for an unmasking. In a world filled with larger than life protagonists, we require an equally powerful force to oppose them, and Peyton has put the "super" in super-villain for as long as I can remember.  It's not only our heroes that fade away.

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