Give them their due

Colts' Manning, Dungy deserve tip of the hat

February 05, 2007|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Columnist

Miami — Miami-- --For the first time since 1971, the Super Bowl heroes wore the horseshoe last night, but if you were expecting everybody to line up on Pratt Street to do The Wave, you obviously haven't been paying attention.

Baltimore did the wave thing in 1984 - as in goodbye - so the best the Indianapolis Colts are going to get from Charm City is some grudging respect for knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs and winning their first world championship since, well, you know.

Maybe that hurt won't ever entirely heal, but at least the guy that led the Colts to a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in the 41st Super Bowl is somebody who richly deserves his place at the top of the heap.

Peyton Manning proved that nice guys do finish first once in a while, rallying the Colts from an early eight-point deficit before a sellout crowd of 74,512 at Dolphin Stadium to dismiss the mistaken notion that he is not a big-game player.

Not even the steady rain that fell all day could keep him from burnishing his reputation as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, even if the final result isn't going to play well at the Inner Harbor.

Manning completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and a long touchdown as the AFC champions wore down the Bears in the second half. Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai combined for 190 yards on the ground in a surprisingly balanced attack against the top defense in the NFC, but it was Manning who was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

"It's a great feeling because I know how hard we worked as a team," Manning said.

"In years past when our team has come up short, it's been disappointing," Manning said. "Somehow, we found a way to have learned from some of those losses, and we've been a better team because of it."

So much for the so-called Curse of Unitas, which supposedly had kept the Colts from winning the big one since those infamous Mayflower vans rolled out of Baltimore in the dead of night.

No one should be surprised that old No. 19 didn't reach down from heaven and bat away Manning's 53-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne in the first quarter. Johnny U was not the kind of guy to put a curse on anybody. Somewhere, he is lifting a glass to the young man who looks so much like him, sometimes it's almost eerie.

That sounds like a pretty good idea.

No one is suggesting that you completely forget what happened or suddenly embrace Robert Irsay. Far from it. But holding Manning or coach Tony Dungy responsible for what happened a generation ago makes about as much sense as giving Peter Angelos credit for the Orioles' 1983 world championship.

Manning is everything you want in a pro quarterback, "if you like 6-5 ... 235 pounds ... rocket ... laser arm." (That's from his Sprint commercial.) He also has that attractive Everyman quality that makes him a perfect corporate pitchman.

"Peyton is a tremendous player, a great leader," Dungy said. "He works. He prepares. People say that you have to win the Super Bowl to validate that, but I think that's wrong. This guy is a Hall of Fame player and, in my opinion, one of the greatest players of all time."

Dungy is the consummate gentleman and, of course, is the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl. Bears coach Lovie Smith would have worn that mantle with equal class, but the back story on Dungy - the loss of his son a little more than a year ago - made last night's victory even more poignant.

Of course, it must have been galling to watch Jim Irsay accept the Lombardi Trophy, even if the sins of the father should not be entirely visited on the son. The Irsay name still evokes legitimate disgust in Baltimore, and it probably always will.

The Ravens' 2001 Super Bowl victory didn't provide closure. I doubt a Ravens victory over the Colts three weeks ago would have changed anything either. It might not ever be time to forgive, but last night was a good time to forget - at least long enough to tip your hat to a couple of guys who have done Baltimore no wrong.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

ONLINE --For The Sun's Super Bowl coverage, go to www.baltimoresun.com/sports/football

inside

THE GAME -- With a patient Peyton Manning and timely defense, the Colts win first Super Bowl played in the rain. Pg 1d

STEELE -- Tony Dungy, the first black coach to win a Super Bowl, does so by staying unshakably, unnervingly cool, columnist David Steele writes. Pg 1d

FRAGER -- Media columnist Ray Frager rates the telecast. Pg 7d

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