“Videogame stats”. An expression that’s reserved for players that are performing at such an elite level that they break all preconceived notions of what is possible and probable. Want an example? At the first half two minute warning on Sunday, Peyton Manning had one more touchdown (3) than incompletions (2). Want another? Manning has a record-setting 20 touchdowns in 5 games, while last year he had 37 in total. Early season numbers like this get everyone excited about the future and just how high this ceiling can climb (I know wordsmith Wes Welker is. In just 5 games he has 7 touchdowns, while his current season record is 9).
I could spend this whole article gushing about Manning and the surging Broncos, but I think the bigger issue here is why anyone outside of Denver even cares. Why are players, coaches, analysts, and fans around the country so seemingly invested in the success of one quarterback?
For me, I think the answer comes down to the mythological nature of sports and the unrealistic search for perfection. As sports fans, we want the impossible. We want to see human beings who grew up in the same era and neighbourhood as us go out and achieve superhuman athletic feats. We want to hear about people from modest beginnings fighting their way to the pinnacle of their vocation with nothing but sheer talent and will. We want to talk about where we were when the next legendary moment in sports occurred. (What we don’t want to talk about it how all of these unrealistic expectations can lead to performance-enhancing drug use, but that’s a topic for another day).
As much as we want to witness these moments of greatness, we’re always weary about the potential for disappointment and with good reason. Search your memory and see if you can recall that former Heisman-winning Gators superstar that was last seen not playing for the New England Patriots. Or how about that “dream team” that ended up being a bunch of individually talented players who could never make it work as a unit? Even worse than these failures are the achievements of those not deemed worthy due to blind luck, illicit behaviour, and lax morality (Hint: This is definitely a jab at one NFL player. Second hint: He was on the near perfect 2007 Patriots. Third hint: Uggs).
Despite these setbacks, we’re always ready for the next big thing that’s going to take the game to a new level and raise the bar yet again for the next generation. We want the impossible, the improbable, the inspirational. We don’t want reality, we live in reality for fucks sake. We firmly plant our asses on our couches every week to watch giants and demigods duke it out for galaxy wide supremacy. We know that our desires reach beyond the realm of the attainable, but every time a player like Manning comes along we push logic to the side and see only the possibility for perfection. At the end of the day we don’t to be merely entertained, distracted, or impressed. At the end of the day, all we really want are videogame stats.