Mario Manningham, 'Apocalypse Now' & Temporary Relief
You didn't quite expect it... so when it actually happens, you don't know how to respond.
Anyone familiar with the old HBO comedy series Dream On can relate to my perpetual state of being, and the pop-culture references my brain will conjure up to find parallels between real-life goings on and my favorite movie or TV moments my conciuosness has sopped up over the years like an electronic wave decoding sponge. This was the case on my way home from work this past Friday, where it happened to me again; and usually, two collected thoughts will not stand alone in the rattling cage between my ears without at least a third slipping between the bars... when somehow a busy weekend on the horizon melded with The New York Giants receiving corps and the film Apocalypse Now.
Does this at all sound familiar? It's been a long week at work, you're beat. You just want to relax at home and be left alone. But of course, there's a wedding that night that you're already late for - for a couple you don't know or really care for, and surely you won't know anyone else who's attending so you'll become quite friendly with the bartender very quickly. Then there's that "project" in the yard you've avoided all summer should be done Saturday morning because in the afternoon you have to drive the kids to dance class and a soccer game. Later on it's a birthday party at "Toss-A-Cookie" or another of the quaint little inforr playgrounds where the screams of children could drown out the sound of an CH-46 Sea Knight flying overhead. And don't even consider resting Saturday night because you just found out you're hosting the in-laws for dinner.
Sunday is the day to "finally clean out that storage room", fix little odd and ends and "discuss" your family budget (and why you have to stop spending money - don't you have enough XBOX 360 games?) . You'll try to catch some NFL action between here and there but you know you'll be lucky if you can catch a few radio minutes in the car on your way to-and-from the hardware store. Of course, you'll only hear the end of the pregame show, then the end of first quarter break and some mindless banter to fill time while the trainers help some special teams guy off the field - never once giving a score. You park, open the front door and Disney Channel is on your television. The only thing harder than pulling a guy away from a tv when football is on is taking back control of the remote when your kids are watching High School Musical 3: Sing Along version for the third time.
This is what you have to look forward to as you park in front of your house. First you scrape the curb with your tires a few times, then you get the angle just right. Turn the ignition off to the auxiliary position - because whatever blah-blah is on the radio is enough of an excuse to keep you in the car for just a few more minutes. Delay the inevitable.
Then the vision... I suddenly turn into Dream On's Martin Tupper... and now I'm Martin Sheen... I'm Captain Willard in one of my all-time favorite cinematic classics Apocalypse Now...
As if the voices punching through my speakers and getting absorbed into the seat upholstery were G.D> Spradlin and Harrison Ford themselves... I start walking to the front door as the walkway takes on the shape and feel of the Nung River running up into Cambodia.
My overly talkitive and extremely uncomfortable next door neighbor is wearing a cowboy hat; standing at an angle with both hands on his hips, he couldn't care less that I'm not even listening to him as he begins to run through his list of crap he's got going on this weekend. He's Colonel Kilgore... he's shirtless, and he's wearing that stupid hat and I'm not listening to a single word he says.
Why? Because the jungle thickens and the sunlight begins to disappear as I make my way to the front door... Pretty soon I'll be in the house.
Colonel Kurtz is waiting for me. I can visualize the conversation already.
"Hey honey - I'm home"
"...Are you an assassin?"
"I'm... I'm your husband."
"You're neither. Your a grocery clerk. My hired hand for the weekend... who's going to miss the Giants game on Sunday"
"Umm, no? I told Lance that if I wasn't back at the boat by sundown to call in the air strike..."
"What are you talking about? Who the hell is Lance?"
"Never Mind. Did we get mail? I need reading material, have to hit the bathroom . Be out in an hour or so."
You walk in, put your bag down... there's a note on the table.
TONIGHT'S WEDDING & ALL WEEKEND ACTIVITIES CANCELLED. ALSO, TOOK THE DAY OFF AND FINISHED THE WEEKEND CHORES FOR YOU! MY SISTER CALLED & WE TOOK THE KIDS TO THE SHORE FOR THE WEEKEND, STAYING AT HER FRIEND'S BEACH HOUSE IN ASBURY. ENJOY YOUR "ME" TIME - XO XO.
Well, well, well... I grab the spatula out of the drain and whack myself on the forehead... nope, not dreaming.
"C'mon! That never happens!". Of course it doesn't, but it's nice to dream isn't it?
Now we come to this season's New York Football Giants, and the . Much like an wide open, no strings attached weekend that's just been thrust upon you, you start to feel relieved; you have nothing to worry about, and you sit there wondering how lucky you are. Why? It's not because you have this weight lifted off your shoulders, or that all the things you've wasted precious time stressing about have apparently vanished into thin air.
No, the most amazing thing is that you never thought you'd live to see the day.
So what do you do? How do you harness this new-found zest?
Right - you don't. Why? Because you and I both know you'll spend the entire time wondering when the phone will ring.
"Hi, It's me - the kids were bored so they wanted to come home. Let's have a GARAGE SALE on Sunday!!"
"Well, I uh..."
"Super - how does noon to 6 sound? We can invite my family over for dinner afterwards. Wanna Barbecue?"
Lets look at what we know so far about the Giants:
Eli Manning - despite a pick and a few ill-advised throws - has been as close to perfect as one could expect, and as always he's cool and comfortable when the clock is ticking down and the game's on the line.
Except for the injury to Justin Tuck (thanks to the normally disciplined Flozell Adams), the D-Line is in tact and better than ever. The Secondary is doing a decent job despite missing the services of Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery - thanks largely in part to the outstanding play of safety Kenny Phillips, who is pushing through despite a knee injury. "Earth" and "Fire" will get untracked soon enough.
No Toomer, No Burress... no problems at wide receiver. Mario manningham has been a revelation, already beginning to look every bit like the "steal of the draft" as many referred to him following his 3rd round selection in 2008. Steve Smith has remained mr. consistent, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is smartly utilizing him as a slot receiver, where he's most comfortable. It's only a few games, but the roles of these two playerws are starting to materialize and define themselves within the game plan, and Eli Manning seems confident in their ability to make the plays they need to.
But when will that phone call come?
Will the dream be shattered? When will the big drop occur? When will these two seemingly reliable receivers become the "number 2's" everyone has tabbed them as? The New Orleans Saints in week 6? Next week against the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Maybe. Maybe not. This is unfamiliar territory for both Eli and for the receivers.
Regardless, here the Giants are at 2-0, off to another solid start under coach Tom Coughlin. The boat is creaky and the river is wide as it is murky. Up the river we go to face our destiny - Manning is driving the boat, Coughlin is our confident yet strict captain Willard, and Manningham is surfing the waves while Plaxico Burress is locked up tight in a bamboo cage in the rain, waiting for someone to offer hom a drag off their cigarette in the form of a second chance in the NFL. What will this 2009-2010 mission into the darkness of the jungle, the unpredictable nature of a 16-game season, have in store for the men in blue?
Nobody knows. This is a different this season, and a different set of circumstances. In the end I think the only two things I could ever hope for - a free weekend all to myself, and an enjoyable season from the Giants that I can walk away from with pride - whether it be in December or february. As guarded optimism goes, I'm stocked up.
For now, all I have is a house full of sleeping children and a sleeping wife. The lights are all off except the flicker of the televison, and I've just stumbled upon Apocalypse Now already in progress. The darkness of Colonel Kurtz's lair is lit only by the hazy sunlight splitting through the mouth of the cave. A tired, broken Captain Willard sits with his head dangling in defeat, while Dennis Hopper's popped up, deranged photo journalist rambles on about anything he can wrap his mind around. As I listen to Hopper's voice cut the soupy air like a buzz saw, I hear the scripted words that all football fans can relate to in thinking about how they DON'T want history to remember their team's 2009-2010 season:
"This is the way it ends, man! Not with a bang but with a whimper. And with a whimper - I'm f***ing splitting, Jack!"