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Can Quantum Physics Tell Us Whether Peyton Manning Is Washed Up Or Not?

ESPN's Jeff MacGregor has some thoughts today about the thorny Peyton Manning situation:

Like Schrödinger's Cat, any prediction of Manning's future depends entirely upon the observer—of whom there were many millions last week. And lost in their chorus of "Where does Peyton Manning go from here?" is the more important question, "Why does Peyton Manning go from here?"


MacGregor has hit on a decent Manning simile there. Alas, it's an accident. MacGregor doesn't have any idea what Schrödinger's Cat is about—it's just a way to make it sound like he groks the cosmos, that he's seriously pondering stuff, the way people say "Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle" when they mean "We are uncertain about this." If anything, MacGregor seems to be conflating Schrödinger's Cat with the idiots' version of the Theory of Relativity, which is that science says everything is relative depending how you look at it, man.

But the point of Schrödinger's Cat is not that every observer has an opinion. It is that the cat has not been observed. The cat is inside a closed box, in which a quantum event has or has not triggered a device that would automatically kill it. This leaves physicists to argue about whether the cat would be alive and dead simultaneously, or indeterminately, or what.

So: Peyton Manning's neck. Manning either has or has not suffered a career-ruining injury. The only way to find out is to see him play football. The only way to see him play football is for somebody to write him a check with eight digits on it.

Till that happens, there are not "many millions" of "observers." There's a bunch of football teams that could use a better quarterback than they have now. And there are dozens of windbags trying to sound knowing about a situation that's unknowable.


Jeff MacGregor, for his part, figures he might as well go ahead and hold a Requiem Mass for the dead cat:

[W]e did the same with Montana and Layne and Stabler, too. Namath among the worst of them. Gone but not forgotten, forgotten but not gone, out there somewhere on a cold Sunday taking a stranger's beating in the wrong uniform.

And it isn't just football. Our absurd hopes sent Maravich to the Celtics and Boggs to Tampa Bay. Put Schumacher in a Mercedes.

Deep inside this human brain of ours, we hope to postpone the worst of things. If only one of these guys would lead us to the Fountain of Youth!


His colleagues in the League of Ponderous Sports Writers are going to fine him 20 bucks for inexplicably leaving out Willie Mays Staggering Under Fly Balls With the Mets. But more to the point, let's note in this litany of tragic twilight figures that Joe Montana, at age 37, took the Kansas City Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game. And before our absurd hopes sent Wade Boggs to Tampa Bay (to collect his 3,000th hit), they first sent him—at age 35, coming off a .259 batting average—to the Yankees, where he batted .313 and won a World Series ring.

Why, oh why, is Peyton Manning determined to press on with his football career? Maybe because the last season he played, he passed for 4,700 yards and 33 touchdowns, and led his team to the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year. You don't have to be a particle physicist to figure this one out.

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