In this Corner: Two Columnists Square Off

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Sports columnists Jon “The Heartbreak Kid” Gold and Simon “The Rock” Samano go toe-to-toe for five rounds in a heated dispute over all things sports. Though both men share a love for sports, their differences are far reaching. Take a look at how these two writers view pro football, figure skating and the best sports movies of all time. Please don’t take them too seriously – we had some extra space today. Round 1: The best quarterback in the NFL, right now. This is a special time for professional football. In my 20 years, the league has come full circle – in the 1980s and early 1990s, great quarterbacks flourished on nearly every roster. From Dallas and Troy Aikman to Miami and Dan Marino, the most recognizable players on the gridiron were the ones leading the team. Fast forward to the late 1990s, and the quarterback position featured a definite downswing. Heck, the best quarterback of the late 1990s and early 2000s was a former grocery store clerk, Kurt Warner (although he did lead my fantasy team, Dlugolecki Houser, to a victory this week). Heartbreak Kid: The best current quarterback isn’t particularly big, like Minnesota’s Duante Culpepper. Nor is he gifted with tremendous speed, a lá Michael Vick. He wasn’t the number one pick, or a great college quarterback. All he did was enter the league 14 years ago, lead his team to an NFL championship in his 4th season and become the best signal-caller in the league. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Brett Favre. Favre is a pillar of consistency (10 straight seasons with 20+ touchdowns), a model of durability (13+ straight seasons without missing a game), and a team leader (just last season, the day after his father died, he threw four touchdowns in a Monday night win in Oakland, notoriously one of the league’s hardest stadiums to win in). All told, I would pick him to lead my team any day.The Rock: I could never argue against Favre as one of the all-time greats, but we’re talking about the present, and you’ve already mentioned the best quarterback right now. It is Culpepper. Culpepper has gotten off to a fiery start. He leads the league with 945 yards passing and has completed 73 percent of his pass attempts. And already he’s thrown eight touchdown passes compared with just one interception. All statistics aside though, Culpepper is a bionic quarterback – almost like something put together in a laboratory. At 265 pounds, he’s a lineman with a receiver’s agility, adding the dimension of scrambling out of the pocket. And once he does that, he’s quite a load to bring down. Culpepper is my guy at the moment.Round 2: The greatest quarterback ever. Cases can be made for many quarterbacks, but in this argument it only comes down to two: Joe Montana and John Elway. The Rock: When I look at these two quarterbacks, both of whom played in the same era, there is no question in my mind that Montana is the greatest of all time. You need to look beyond the stat sheets to fully comprehend this. Montana was just a scrawny guy coming out of Notre Dame in 1979 who was overlooked by NFL teams. He wasn’t the fastest, nor did he possess the rifle arm. What Montana had was the intangibles – the things that couldn’t be taught. He had the mind of a champion and the intellect of a professor on the field. When the pressure mounted and things heated up, he was as cool as the other side of his pillow. He studied the game and eventually mastered Bill Walsh’s complex West Coast offense. The deciding factor between these men is the Superbowl – the benchmark of any great quarterback – and Montana is the only one to lead his team to four Superbowls and come out undefeated (one of those against Elway, I might add). Though Elway went to five, he only won two when Terrell Davis came along to pick up the slack. Both Montana and Elway produced memorable conference championship endings (“The Catch” and “The Drive”), but only Montana walked away the next week with the ring that matters most. And he followed it up with three more. The Heartbreak Kid: Joe Montana had Jerry Rice. John Elway had Vance Johnson. Joe Montana had Roger Craig. John Elway had Gaston Green. Joe Montana had Bill Walsh. John Elway had Dan freakin’ Reeves. John Elway is the greatest quarterback ever. He had a laserlike cannon, amazing quickness for a big quarterback and an uncanny ability to lead his team. He is the winningest quarterback of all time, despite the fact he played under an extremely un-quarterback-friendly coach. He is the only reason the Broncos made it to any of their first three Super Bowls and is an absolute icon in Denver. As mentioned above, Montana basically got to work with a Lamborghini; Elway excelled with a Pinto. In other words, Elway succeeding with the mediocre team he had would be like Michaelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel with crayons. Round 3: Better to be close or far? While in Michigan for the Aztecs game against the Wolverines, the two writers came up with an interesting quandary. After SDSU lost by three points, the question was brought up: as a fan, would you rather your team go all the way, and lose at the end, or toil through a bad game or season?The Heartbreak Kid: During my senior year of high school, my football team made it to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. We were a far better team, but ended up losing the game by a touchdown. The heartbreak from that game still stings, almost three years later. I can still remember being on the field, crying after our tying touchdown was called back because of holding as time expired. Even though it still hurts to this day, I cannot imagine how I would feel knowing that we didn’t even make it that far. If we would have finished the season 2-8 or something along those lines, I’m sure the pain would have been forgotten. But the joy of the nine wins we had that season far outweighs the pain from the one tough loss. The Rock: I have a similar story of my own. My senior year football team was up 24-14 with 10 minutes left in the section semifinals, and we ended up losing 28-24. Sure, it was nice to finish the season 10-2, but to come so close to a championship only to lose it by that much is my lasting memory of that season. To put it in terms more easy to understand, I would have rather played for the 1999 Cincinnati Bengals than the Tennessee Titans who came up one yard short of a Superbowl championship. The losses piling up week after week is something I could grow numb to, but the sting of losing a championship never goes away. Just ask Kevin Dyson. Round 4: Just what is a sport? With the Summer Olympics ending, the question came up between the two writers as to what qualfies as a sport? It’s been pounded into our heads that the United States only cares about four major sports &e8212; football, baseball, basketball and hockey. But the issue isn’t so black and white. The Rock: There are two main components of sport: athleticism and competition. For me, athleticism is the more important of the two that separates a sport from an activity or a hobby. Take for instance, gymnastics. It is clearly a sport. To do a triple cartwheel tumble-backflip, blah blah, what ever it’s called, takes an abundance of athleticism. A gymnast may not be competing against a direct opponent head to head, but a gymnast is competing against someone no less. Not only that, but a gymnast is also competing against a group of judges he or she must impress. Only an athlete of high caliber can achieve success in a sport like this. The Heartbreak Kid: No, no, no. Gymnastics is not a sport – it’s individual cheerleading. Figure skating is not a sport – it’s dancing on ice. Synchronized swimming is just swimming with partners. The combining factor all three of these competitions share is that they are judged. A competition, no matter how athletic it may be, is not a sport if an outside source determines the winner. It’s just not possible. Yes, a bad call can occur by a referee
or an umpire, but his discretion is not what settles the game. To put it simply – if your event features anything like a triple sow-cow or a lutz, it is not a real sport. Round 5: Willie Mays Hayes or Ray Kinsella? Sports movies capture our imagination like no other movie can – they feed off of our dreams and our failures, our heroes and enemies, our tears and our smiles. Baseball, like no other sport, strikes the hearts and minds of its fans, due in part because of the history of the game, and in part because of the personalities the game has produced. Baseball movies, therefore, inspire us like no other sport can. So what is the best baseball movie? (This is a teaser for our upcoming feature series of Sports in Cinema). The Heartbreak Kid: Two years ago, sitting in a Black Angus with my family, the conversation of Field of Dreams came up. For no apparent reason, tears filled the eyes of both me and my father. I cannot think of any movie, sports or not, that can make me cry just from thinking about it. OK, maybe Battlefield Earth, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Seriously, though. Field of Dreams is an amazing tale of baseball, life and recaptured relationships. Man or woman – if you watch this movie and don’t cry when Kevin Costner says, “Dad, can we have a catch?” your heart is empty. The Rock: I can’t put down your choice, Heartbreak, but I’ve got to make a case for my favorite baseball movie ever: Major League. A movie that can appeal to the heart while making your cheeks tingle from all the laughter it produces, Major League captures all the great things of baseball. As Willie Mays Hayes says, not bad for a movie about “a bunch of have-nots and would-be-nothings.”