Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The real all-stars

I didn't watch a second of the NBA All-Star Game last night, but word has reached me that basketball was somehow involved. A lot of baskets were made, apparently. Russell Westbrook scored 41 points while being double-teamed by molecules of air. The West scored a record 163 points -- and that was just in warmups.

I'm sorry I missed it. I was watching Peyton Manning pick on an 8-year-old instead.

Sunday was, after all, the mammoth Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary show, 3 1/2 hours of astounding talent occasionally interrupted by whatever that was Kanye West was doing. (Rapping while lying on the floor and being accompanied by a Chia pet? Wha--?). It was a great big belly laugh of a nostalgia wallow, and at one point here came Peyton and Derek Jeter to talk about all the athletes who've hosted, and then to show a montage of clips.

Let me say this about that: They could have stopped with Peyton, LeBron James and Charles Barkley. Because just about every other athlete who's hosted was forgettable.

Those three, however, had the chops to do the thing, and it was glorious. Who could forget Sir Charles abusing Barney the Dinosaur in a game of one-on-one? Or LeBron doing a turn as a Solid Gold Dancer? Or, yes, Peyton's memorable fake United Way spot, in which he knocks down little kids with footballs, berates them for not catching the ball and teaches them how to break into a car?

It's very simply the single greatest athlete sketch ever on SNL, and Peyton's appearance was the single greatest appearance. The man's so locked in and humorless in his day job you forget how genuinely funny he can be -- a trait apparently shared by his brothers, particularly the oldest, Cooper, the only Manning sibling who didn't play pro football.

Cooper, it seems, is the real comedian in the family. The best story (possibly apocryphal) comes from Peyton's days at Tennessee, when the Manning clan would head up to Knoxville for his home games. Before one game, Cooper, who bears a striking resemblance to Peyton, went out on the town. There he sat with a beer and a cigar in hand, and people kept coming up to him, shocked, wondering what Peyton was doing out and about the night before a game.

Cooper would just grin and look at them.

"Ah, hell," he said. "It's only Vanderbilt."

Hmm. Maybe SNL should book him next.



  1. FYI, Cooper was a WR before he got hurt.

  2. Yeah, I knew that. I meant didn't play pro football.