I’m a Giants fan and even after yesterday’s win I’ll be the first to one to admit that the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning is the better Manning.
In his prime, the elder Manning was one of the best. He made good receivers out of average ones. He identified coverages and blitzes for a sometimes patchwork offensive line. If you left a minute on the clock, Manning would score with a cool demeanor and a straight face.
He made everyone around him better.
The struggles of the Colts without their injured star quarterback demonstrate exactly why Peyton Manning was the most valuable player in the NFL, and help explain why Jess Knapp is the Ivy League’s most valuable player.
We all know the Penn women’s basketball team got off to its best start in program history — it was probably mentioned in every article The Daily Pennsylvanian published about the team from the beginning of the season until two weekends ago, when Knapp made her first appearance on the court in almost a month.
Her incredible return had none of the fanfare you would think the return of a senior captain would. Yes, it was miraculous and sure as hell courageous, but she would be the first to say she just wants to help her team.
And when she was fully healthy, nobody helped her team more. Her positioning provided cover for younger teammates when they were beaten off the dribble. Her ability to command the paint allowed fellow forward Kara Bonenberger to drift outside and hit mid-range jumper after jumper. The threat of her scoring would prevent defenses from collapsing on star guard Alyssa Baron.
Knapp makes everyone around her better.
It’s fair to say Penn has struggled since Knapp went down with a knee injury on Dec. 30, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. The Ivy League is a conference where seniors reign supreme and years of shrewd experience nearly always trumps raw, young talent.
The Quakers had to develop quickly, and such a transformative process always has its growing pains. During the captain’s absence, Penn never eclipsed the 50-point barrier during a six-game losing streak.
More than any other player in the league, she means more to her team.
Take, for example, Princeton’s Niveen Rasheed, a 6-foot forward who two years ago won Rookie of the Year and by the end of the season was the Tigers’ best player. Yet when she missed last season with an ACL injury, Princeton didn’t skip a beat. The Tigers finished 24-5 en route to an Ivy title.
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As I watched Sunday’s Super Bowl, I sighed every time Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth mentioned Eli’s chance at surpassing his brother.
It was widely believed Peyton would be the first Manning to win two championships. After he broke through in 2006, it was only a matter of time — a when, not an if.
However, his absence only emphasized his worth to the city and franchise, and Knapp’s did the same for the women’s basketball program.
She may not have played for a third of the season. Her team may no longer have a chance at winning an Ivy title. She will most certainly not win a scoring title or be named first-team All-Ivy.
But she’s still the league’s most valuable player.
SUSHAAN MODI is a sophomore international studies and business major from Demarest, N.J., and is Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at Modi@theDP.com.
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