Super Bowl 50: The Old Guy Takes on the Kid in a Battle for the Ages

The most interesting angle of Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 is not black quarterback vs. white quarterback, as many mainstream media outlets are trying to tout. Instead, the big story here is the ever fascinating battle of youth versus age – the up-and-coming hotshot versus the aging star, the fresh inevitability of Cam Newton against the declining powers of the once-great Peyton Manning, gamely making his one last stand.

Cam Newton: The future is now

Newton, who at 26 finally fulfilled his potential this year and became the biggest and most charismatic star in the league, possesses an extraordinary combination of physique and skills that exploded to prominence this year. At 6’-5”, he stands above the fray, unleashing throws with his laser-like arm or running through the defence with a combination of grace and power that the league hasn’t seen from a quarterback before.

Plus, Newton is armed with an exuberant persona to match his athletic prowess –his 1000-watt smile (even after car accidents) those ridiculously over-the-top touchdown celebrations, his flashy wardrobe and that relaxed yet precocious way he has of carrying himself – these should all make him an irritating character. Yet for some reason, with Newton it works and you can’t help but like him.

In order to win, Newton will have to draw on his physical gifts and not become over-confident, which can lead to interceptions, something the elder Manning learned early in his career. As well, he must not try to win the game all by himself, or else he’ll be pummelled by the strong Bronco’s defence.

NEXT: Peyton Manning: One last gunfight

Peyton Manning: One last gunfight

Manning, on the Broncos side, couldn’t be less like Newton. At 39, he doesn’t have much football left in him. Indeed, there’s speculation that he’s playing in the last game of his career, although he’s doing his best to guard that secret. Despite the fact he doesn’t have any of Newton’s physical abilities, he’s managed to set all the offensive records and is generally regarded to be the greatest offensive quarterback of all time. With a fading arm, a creaky back and almost no mobility left in his battered legs, Manning must use the experience, wisdom and guile if he’s to win this Super Bowl, which would be his second in four attempts.

Off the field, while Manning certainly carries himself in a more old-school fashion than Newton, he can be funny (at least in his ads he is). At ease with himself and his career, he’s clearly enjoying Super Bowl week, milking every last moment of what’s likely to be his final trip to the big game.

But just being there isn’t enough for this hyper-competitive athlete. As he rides into the sunset, Manning is still fixated on winning one more Super Bowl to prove he belongs in any discussion of greatest quarterbacks of all time. Undoubtedly, he loves this challenge and cherishes playing the role of old gunslinger, trying to win this last battle against the popular kid who’s got his whole future ahead of him.

There’s plenty of drama. Take the Broncos.