Why I’ll root for Denver

Peyton Manning.

There really doesn’t need to be any other reason than that to root for the Broncos on Sunday. Take all the other “story lines” for Super Bowl 50 and put them aside. This one is all about Manning.

Sunday’s game, in a way, hearkens back to the build-up to Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII, when John Elway was in the twilight of his career with Denver, just as Manning is now. Elway, of course, won both of those games — beating Green Bay, 31-24, and then Atlanta, 34-19.

Elway will also be part of this year’s Super Bowl, this time as Manning’s boss.

Manning, of course, has already won a Super Bowl (29-17 over the Bears in No. 41 with the Colts) and played in two others (losses in 2010 with the Colts and in 2014 with the Broncos). But this time around, he’s got perhaps the best defense Denver has had in a number of seasons, which means Manning won’t be expected to carry the Broncos.

I’m not a Denver fan, really — though I have been rooting for them to earn a berth in this season’s Super Bowl. I would have been quite happy to see Manning and the Broncos be playing Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay in the big game, and that’s the only matchup that would have had me rooting against Manning.

But the Carolina Panthers also give me plenty of reasons to stick with Manning — starting with his quarterback counterpart, Cam Newton.

I will give Newton and his fans the fact that he is talented and somewhat of an anomaly in the NFL. But quite honestly, I’ve pretty much had it with Newton’s personality.

I’m not buying all the “having fun” explanations for his antics on and off the field. Everybody has fun when the team is winning, but everyone isn’t out there drawing attention to themselves after any kind of team success — from a first down to a touchdown to a win. I’m tired of seeing Newton’s big mouth wide open; I’m tired of his first-down signal; I’m tired of his dopey “dab” head bob; I’m tired of his grabbing the ball from a teammate who scored a touchdown and running to give it to a child in the stands; and I’m tired of his jog along the sidelines after a teammate scored, acting like he somehow had something to do with it.

But there are two recent comments by Newton that solidified my opinion of him.

First was a complete hack job of the King’s English when he said, “I’m an African-American quarterback that scares people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.” Really? I seem to remember Randall Cunningham doing plenty with his legs to befuddle NFL defenses. So did Fran Tarkenton, for that matter. And RGIII. And Colin Kaepernick. And others.

Second, his claim that race is playing a part in why he’s become a “love him” or “hate him” player is absurd. Seems like it’s Newton himself who is playing the race card. The reality is, he’s not a black quarterback, he’s just another quarterback. White or black has no place in the discussion, except to those who really want to perpetuate racism.

And another thing — in my opinion, Newton didn’t lead Carolina to the Super Bowl. The defense did … and Luke Kuechly should be the MVP. Just saying.

OK, football is a children’s game and even adults should have some degree of fun playing it. But let’s not forget that these adults are making millions of dollars to entertain us. It is their performance that is supposed to get our applause and adoration, not the post-play antics that somehow seems to be getting choreographed and woven into the game now.

Let’s also not forget that, when the Panthers were losing, Newton was often at the end of the bench by himself, towel over his head, pouting. In my book, that makes him a poor loser, and his antics now make him a poor winner.

Pundits will be making this game out to be like it’s Manning versus Newton. It’s not. It’s what each quarterback will be able to do against the other team’s defense. But it is a game pitting a quarterback who oozes nothing but class against a quarterback who loves to attract the spotlight only to himself.

I suppose it’s only fair to toss out a prediction for Super Bowl 50, so here it is: Denver 24, Carolina 18.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

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