The book of Eli

When I first met Eli Manning, it was the week before his brother Peyton played the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl five years ago.  While everyone  was casual chic on South Beach, Eli walked around in a suit and tie. Yes, he looked dorky, but he was being himself.

Now that he has surpassed Peyton with two Super Bowl rings, Eli still comes across kinda dorky…but he’s still himself.  At the team’s big victory parade in Manhattan,  Eli’s Giant teammates hammed it up.  Eli still politely talked about a “team win.”   He’s no motivational speaker. He’s just himself.

In this era of athletes who are quick to promote themselves WITHOUT winning anything, Eli is a refreshing throwback. He’s the guy who won’t brag even when he can. It’s just not his nature.

What a contrast he is to the head coach of that other New York team. The Jets Rex Ryan talks big. Eli just PLAYS big.  Now that he has whipped the glam Tom Brady and gruffy Bill Belechik twice, Eli can walk on water in New York.

However, he’s no Tim Tebow, being interviewed again in a prime time special. He’s just Eli. Nondescript….but quite effective on the field, especially in crunch time.   The New York pressure cooker has not changed him. He has drowned out the noise, and stayed true to himself.

Maybe somewhere Eli does have a personality. I remember people thinking his big brother Peyton Manning was also kind of bland, until we started to see his wacky sense of humor.

With Eli..what you see might be what you get.  He may never be a GQ magazine cover boy. That’s OK.  There’s nothing wrong with just being a solid quarterback who lets his play do all of the talking.

Peyton’s new place ?

  Get ready South Florida. I got a feeling its coming. Peyton Manning hype.  It sure looks like the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback and the Indianapolis Colts are about to part company.

Manning has tried to put a good spin on his relationship with the Colts, but c’mon. How much sense does it make for the Colts to pay Peyton $28 mil to stick around AND draft Andrew Luck.  Why would Manning want to remain with a Colts team that is clearly heading in a new direction.

Should they follow through with their football divorce, Manning will become the hottest NFL free agent since Reggie White.  The Dolphins will get in the Manning sweepstakes. The question is…SHOULD they ?

I say NO.  Stay away from an old quarterback who has missed a year after his THIRD neck surgery in two years. Too scary..too risky for me.  But I’m betting Dolphins owner Stephen Ross won’t be able to resist.

Manning would sell tickets to an empty Sun Life Stadium, re-excite Dolfans who miss those Dan Marino days, and give the Fins instant Super Bowl hope.

But what if he can’t play. Then the Dolphins are right back where they are…with no franchise quarterback.  Taking the Manning shortcut could blow up in their faces.

The smart money says go find a young Peyton Manning.  The Dolphins new head coach Joe Philbin is known for offense. Let him coach up a young QB, and not play caretaker for an older one who may be fragile and set in his ways.

And….do you REALLY trust that Dolphin offensive line to protect Manning. I’d feel better with somebody who can run away from the pass rush.

In my book, there’s only one good reason for the Fins to get in the Manning sweepstakes. Keep him away from the New York Jets.  For the Dolphins to play third fiddle in a division with Tom Brady AND Peyton Manning….now THAT might get me to change my mind.

Will the REAL Dwyane Wade…??

by jimberrysports

The young Dwyane Wade was one of the most exciting players in the NBA. The aging of the most unpredictable.

There are times he still looks like the dazzling daredevil who can make tough shots, and take tough licks. And then, there are times Wade is a turnover machine who spends too much time whining to the refs.  With all due respect to Erik Spolestra, there’s only one person on the Heat who can tell him that….Pat Riley.

The Heat will NOT win an NBA title if Wade is less than himself. Teams will take Lebron out of the game (if he doesn’t take himself out). Chris Bosh is talented, but not a true 4th quarter go
to closer. Wade is…but he’s got to clean up his game.   Get a better handle on his handles, and put the purity back in his jump shot.  Maybe he’s being a warrior fighting through injuries, and I’m being too unsympathetic.

Or maybe he needs to buckle down, and maybe deep down he agrees. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against Wade. He’s still got the closer mentality,  and certainly seems to have lost no level of desire.  He just needs to re-discover those parts of his game that once made him Jordan-esque.

If the NBA miles have added up and taken that away from him, then its up to Wade to re-invent himself into a different kind of player. He’s still stronger than most guards who try to stop him..still quicker than any forward trying to check him.  Dwyane Wade is still a great athlete, and by far, the Heat’s most popular player. He’ll get a pass for his past heroics….for a while.

But come money time…the Heat will need the real Dwyane Wade…to be the REAL Dwyane Wade.

They get it !

By Jim Berry


Two Miami Heat events this weekend re-affirmed what I have felt for some time.  When it comes to great PR, no sports team in South Florida gets it like the Heat.

Thursday, the team played an intra-squad scrimmage on the American Airlines arena floor and let season ticket holders come watch.  I know fans feel a little basketball-starved because of the lockout, but I was surprised to see thousands of folks turn out.   When the players were introduced, they didn’t come out of the locker room. They came down from the stands..high fiving the fans.

Saturday, the team again opened the arena to show its highlight movie “Into the Fire”, a somewhat fluffy documentary about Year one of the Big Three.  The turnout was smaller, but fans were just as enthusiastic.  They got revved up when Heat players Mario Chalmers, Joel Anthony, and Chris Bosh came out for a little post-movie roundtable discussion.

The Heat always seems to understand that little things mean a lot, not only to the fans..but to the players. What other organization has sent its entire staff out to a players home for a surprise birthday party, as they once did for Udonis Haslem.

I was also personally impressed when Pat Riley and the Heat PR staff trucked out a cooler of Heinkenen for a group of reporters to toast the memory of Jim Mandich shortly after he died.

It was such a thoughtful and classy move, and felt totally genuine.  Pat Riley might be a cold-blooded wheeler dealer who was a taskmaster as a coach, but he’s got a human side..and he has passed it on to his organization. Go Heat.

Dolphins, Marlins, and Panthers…take note.


It wasn’t what he was saying. It was how he was saying it. Tony Sparano’s deflated tone in his post-game press conference carried with it an air of resignation.  The conventional thinking is that Sparano HAD to run the table to have a chance to keep his job.  He didn’t.  Its almost as if he knew it was win or else.

That might explain some of his coaching decisions during that loss to the Eagles. He gambled that Dan Carpenter could boot a 55-yard field goal on a windy day. He didn’t. The game against Philly instantly turned around, and the Dolphins never regained the momentum they lost.

The Dolphins struggled mightily in short yardage situations.  After getting stuffed on third and short, they bravely went for it three times on fourth down. They got stuffed each time. Those short yardage play calls were painfully predictable, and ineffective.

Sadly for Sparano, it was a game that highlighted why his future is dim.  When facing a team with equal and superior talent, the Fins have fizzled.  Only two of their wins have come against teams with winning records, and the Bills and Raiders are looking more fraudulent as the season goes on.

Whether its a combination of talent, creativity or both…the Dolphins are a notch or two below the NFL elite. Sparano will be hard pressed to prove that he’s the man to get them there.

By Jim Berry