The only thing standing in the way of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning finally winning the big one? A Florida Gator quarterback. Sound familiar, Peyton? College football fans in Tennessee who waited and waited for Manning to break through against rival Florida know.
In just a two-week time span Manning will be able to address two beasts that have burdened him since he arrived on the national stage. The first is but half completed. Like Dan Marino and others, Manning has been saddled with the ignominious label of great quarterback who can't win the big one. In previous seasons, Manning's Colts routinely fell to the New England Patriots, a team quarterbacked by what many call Manning's football opposite. While Manning (like Marino) racks up the stats, the Patriots' Tom Brady seemed always to prevail (like Joe Montana).
Of course, that part of Manning's legacy changed in the AFC championship game. Manning led Indianapolis from a deficit against the Brady-led Patriots to claim a berth in the Super Bowl. Now all he has to do is win the game. Because if Manning can't beat struggling Chicago Bears (and former University of Florida) quarterback Rex Grossman, will it matter that Manning finally overcame Brady and the Patriots? Can Manning's legacy afford a loss to a quarterback who posted so many miserable games this season that his Chicago teammates often complimented his performance with lines like, "At least he didn't blow it for us"?
Of course it's unfair. In reality, Manning's challenge is against the Chicago Bears once vaunted, then ridiculed, and now suddenly resurgent Cover-2 defense. And how the former University of Tennessee star performs against that defense may seal his quarterback legacy. But a win would be a measure of representative revenge against a quarterback whose college team initially burdened Manning with the can't-win-the-big-one label.
NFL: Never one to avoid looking outside the box, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis didn't just go young with his choice of former USC assistant Lane Kiffin to become the team's next head coach. At 31 years and 8 months old, Kiffin becomes the youngest coach in professional football's modern era. After players bemoaned former coach Art Shell's inability to relate to young men, Davis believed Kiffin was the man. It makes sense: Kiffin should be able to relate. He's roughly the same age as the players.
NBA: Just how would the two biggest ball hogs in the NBA coexist? It's a question that vexed Denver Nuggets fans for weeks following the trade that sent Allen Iverson to Denver to play alongside forward Carmelo Anthony. With his suspension for fighting finally over, Anthony got on the court with the shoot-first guard in a game against Memphis on Jan. 22. Despite predictions that one basketball wouldn't be enough for both players, the duo's debut proved successful with a 115-98 victory. Anthony took 25 shots and scored 28. Iverson needed only 16 shots to score his 23.
SOCCER: Don't expect to see soccer star David Beckham playing in the United States anytime soon, said Real Madrid official Predrag Mijatovic. Some expected Beckham to quietly leave the European league early after signing a massive deal to play for the L.A. Galaxy of the United States' MLS. But Mijatovic said Real Madrid will require Beckham to complete his current contract, mandating that he play in Europe through mid-June. -J.D.