The Sharapova Question

From NBC SportsWorld:

I wrote a piece about the remarkable — and illogical — 18-match win streak that Serena Williams now has over Maria Sharapova. Hope you read it.

But want to mention something else here. On Twitter, I had asked people if they could think of anything quite like this: Where one great player (Sharapova is one of only seven women in the Open Era to have won the career grand slam) is so thoroughly dominated by another.

There were some interesting suggestions — Secretariat over Sham, Tiger Woods over Sergio Garcia, Michael Jordan over the Knicks, Michael Phelps over Ryan Lochte, Rafa Nadal over Roger Federer (especially on clay) and so on. I don’t think any of those is quite on the level of this one, but one brilliant reader threw another one out there: Tom Brady over Peyton Manning.

The reader did couch that one by saying that it would have made more sense if Brady had beaten Manning in the AFC Championship a couple of days ago.

But what I found interesting about the suggestion is this: Peyton Manning has DOMINATED this rivalry the last decade. It just goes to show you the stubbornness of sports narratives.

Brady’s Patriots beat Manning’s Colts the first six times the teams met, including twice in the playoffs. And, at that point, we had a clear sense of what these two men were about. Brady was the cool customer who made few mistakes and rallied the team and won the game. Manning was the prolific regular season passer who tightened up in the playoffs and could not find a way to beat the Belichick defense.

A decade later, people still tell the same story. But the story isn’t the same at all. Manning and Brady’s teams have played 11 times over the last decade, and Manning’s team has won six of them. More significantly, Manning has won the last three AFC Championships the teams played, and you could argue pretty convincingly that he outplayed Brady in all three.

In other words, this “Brady owns Manning” meme should have died a long time ago, but it hasn’t because entertaining memes don’t die.

The Unconquerable Foe

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