In this week’s column, Bill Simmons writes about the Peyton Manning / Tom Brady rivalry and contrasts it (somewhat) with Biggie/Tupac.
One grew up in the South; the other grew up in Northern California. One was picked first overall; the other was picked 199th. One looks like a bouncer; the other looks like a movie star. One has been considered the best at every level since high school; the other had to repeatedly fight to prove he belonged. For years, one was considered “the talented guy who can’t come through when it matters;” the other was considered “the overachiever who always comes through when it matters.” One embraced his celebrity and enjoyed it, making goofy commercials, parodying himself in sketches and cultivating an image as a relatable Southern guy; the other morphed into an actual celebrity, dating actresses and supermodels, moving to New York and then California, gracing various magazine covers, sponsoring watches and boots, and becoming famous for playing football and for being famous.
If there’s an enduring snapshot of each guy, it’s their postgame news conferences: Brady impeccably dressed and coiffed, looking like he has to bolt in a second because he’s headed for a photo shoot; Manning standing there with that swollen, red helmet blotch on his forehead, looking like he’s about to be whisked away to the hospital for X-rays. At first glance, you’d assume Brady was the No. 1 overall pick who had been anointed as “The Next Great Quarterback” since he was 15 and Manning was the one picked 199th who had to fight for everything. Nope.
But, as Simmons curiously fails to mention, the big problem with same-position rivalries in a game like football is that Manning and Brady do not directly compete against each other. Their teams play, but the two are never on the field at the same time. Never. Contrast that with tennis, soccer, hockey, and even (sorta) baseball. And basketball. Especially basketball. Kobe and Wade (to pick just one example) battle one another at both ends of the floor for the entire game.