Call fans of the Cold, Hard Football Facts a bunch of prudish football fundamentalists. They're clearly incensed by the incessant verbal reach-around the "pundits" give Peyton Manning at every opportunity. The "pundits" hoped to climax Sunday night when Manning surpassed Dan Marino for the single-season touchdown record.

But Manning didn't break the record, so the "pundits" – represented Sunday by ESPN's embarrassing broadcast troika of Maguire-Patrick-Theismann – had to settle for a long, loud round of verbal foreplay. Suffice it to say, Maguire, Patrick and Theismann are screamers.

How bad was it? Well, Sunday night, at exactly 10:30 p.m., ESPN play-by-play man Mike Patrick declared Manning the smartest athlete in the history of sports, or at least the smartest he's ever seen. Apparently, when you illegally simulate the snap of the football and then flap your arms like a rabid pterodactyl you're a genius in Patrick's world. In the rest of society – even under the bridge inhabited by the angry trolls at Cold, Hard Football – it makes you the village idiot.

In any case, when we awoke this morning, the mailbox was filled by angered rants from Cold, Hard Football Facts fans fed up by the mental fellatio that passes for an NFL broadcast each time Manning plays.

Here are two of the more interesting items we received. They more or less sum up the sentiments of the Cold, Hard Football Facts fandom (and posting them saves us some time today).

The first is a list of suggestions from Cold, Hard Football Facts contributor Robert Glickler. The second is a verbal rampage from a reader named Dan, who was incensed by the verbal porno on ESPN Sunday night when he really just wanted to watch the Baltimore-Indy game.
From Glicker:

I was wondering if Bill Belichick will return the favor to Tony Dungy this year, no matter the outcome of the season. Dungy led the "anti-Patriots" re-emphasis of the defensive chucking rule, so I feel that the favor needs to be returned. Here are the problems:

1. Every time Manning goes under center he pops out and simulates the snap of the ball. This, by rule, is a false start.

2. On every drive at least twice a lineman rocks his butt as Manning is bobbing in and out. This, too, is a false start.

3. After Manning sets under center and is popping out, there is rarely an occasion that all players set, with linemen and Manning in motion at the time of the snap. This is either a false start or an illegal shift.

4. With linemen not set, there is quite often nobody outside the tackle on the line of scrimmage – by rule, an illegal formation.

Basically, the Colts have been cheating all year to get Manning these lofty statistics. Wouldn't it be nice for Manning to be called out for these tactics?

A reader named Dan vented with this commentary:

First of all, great site. Now, I need to rant. I am really sick and tired of the freakin' Indianapolis Colts. I am sick of the hype they get as an average football team. I am sick of the preferential treatment they get week in and week out.

I have just watched three horrendous illegal contact calls against the Ravens (Sunday night). I am sick of hearing about Peyton Manning. I am disgusted at the antics of Tony Dungy, the sick audacity to whine to the rules committee because his team was beaten by a clearly superior team in the playoffs that played old-fashioned tough, clean football.

No mention is ever made of the leeway that the Colts receivers and offensive line gets. I have seen push-offs, holds, trips, you name it, and none of it gets called. Last, I am truly dumbfounded by the committee espousing the change in rules (or "re-enforcement") that is clearly meant to favor the Colts. They are single-handedly destroying everything that makes the NFL the purest professional sport.

They are emasculating defenses, all in the name of promoting more scoring to drive up ratings by providing more "exciting" games. I blame the networks. I despise Fox. Show the goddamn game, not the replays or the fans or some taped interview.

I am now going to explain the Peyton Manning situation in very simple words for everyone.

First, the guy is a good quarterback. This is not something you can take away from him. He is having a terrific season. However, he is absolutely nowhere near as good as he is hyped up to be. His entire team was built to be an offensive machine; it was built AROUND Manning to make him a prolific passer. He has the best weapons in the league to work with. He has rules changed to favor him. It is NOT a coincidence that the "re-enforcement" of the illegal contact rule happens to coincide with his "record" season.

Yes, there may be only a few more illegal contact penalties called per week. But the impact has lied in what it makes defenses do. They can't play defense anymore. They can't even look at a receiver the wrong way. This is FOOTBALL, people! It's a CONTACT sport.

Do you really believe it is fair for a defender to have to step to the side, sketch a bow, and say, "Don't mind me, go ahead and run your pattern. I won't bother you?" Don't believe me? Check out the numbers that the Cold, Hard Football Facts have collected for us on wonderful Peyton Manning. The numbers don't lie. And the sheer amount of evidence is too much to be explained away by coincidence or bad luck. Happens once, happens twice, maybe a fluke. Happens consistently, underscores the issue.

Lastly, to put to rest all these Manning vs. Brady debates: People say that Manning would have won as the quarterback of the Patriots, just as Brady did. People say Brady is a system QB. Well, how about this: Ignoring the fact that you're (a ubiquitous you) dead wrong, positing the opposite is just as easy. As quarterback of the Colts, Brady would have put up numbers just as good as Manning's. Does saying this make it true? Maybe, maybe not.

But I think (Brady putting up great numbers with the Colts) is much more likely than Manning having two Super Bowl MVPs as QB of the Pats. Now, as to why they're dead wrong: Manning has a history of bungling big plays. Brady ALWAYS converts. End of story. Stick to the facts. Stick to the numbers.

Manning won two playoff games last year? Had stellar performances? Yeah, against subpar defenses. Against a strangely flat Broncos and a Chiefs team that might as well have left its offense on the field the whole time. The moment he ran into a good team, he got flattened: 4 INTs, 35.5 passer rating. Psst, here's a secret: make Manning move around. He's confoundingly terrible while throwing on the run.

And we won't mention the preceding debacles Manning fielded in previous playoff appearances. Now, as an exercise, try and imagine Manning as QB of the 2001 Pats: decent run game, at best, average receivers with the exception of Troy Brown. Pressure falls on Manning's shoulders, teams know he's coming out gunning. Choke.

Not only is Brady a clutch player, he makes more out of less. He makes his players better in a way that Manning never will. He doesn't need superstars surrounding him to be successful. Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokely. These players are going to be exceptional whether or not Manning is the QB. Further, Brady appreciates and uses his defense in a way Manning never will.

While I'm on it, another myth to put to rest: "Peyton Manning is the most prepared player in the league." Sure, the guy does his job. He studies film obsessively. SO DO HALF THE PLAYERS IN THE NFL! He manages his own offense. Bill Belichick has called Tom Brady "the closest thing to a coach on the field you can ever have." This is from one of the greatest coaches of all time.

Ray Lewis and Ed Reed coordinate the onfield defense of the Ravens. Rodney Harrison coaches the defense on field for the Pats. This is not unusual for good veteran players.

To finish, let me remind everyone: the Colts are seeded fourth right now in the AFC. FOURTH! If by some miracle they manage to defeat anyone in the playoffs, there is no way they will be able to beat the Patriots, the Steelers, or the Chargers on the road. They have lost to lower echelon teams, and you expect them have any chance at all against the likes of the Pats and Steelers in January on the road? Please. Alright, I believe I'm finished raving. Some of this may be over the top, but I am confident that a great deal of it is pertinent and legitimately true.

Well, Dan, we couldn't agree more. Despite all the hype, the Colts are still the fourth seed with two weeks left to play, and it seems that in the best-case scenario (if they beat the Chargers next Sunday) they'll finish with the third seed. In either instance, they'll probably get no more than one home playoff game.

Bottom line for us is that the incessant hype surrounding Manning is literally nauseating. (At best, it's as bad as the Brett Favre worshipfest we witness during every Green Bay broadcast. Even this week, as Favre was throwing a pair of horrendous fourth-quarter interceptions in his team's 28-25 home loss to Jacksonville, the broadcasters couldn't say enough about how wonderful he was.)

The ESPN crew was so bad Sunday night we actually turned on the radio broadcast for a while. But when the TV was on, we did witness some more linguistic fellatio from ESPN's crew. How about this one:

At exactly 10:37 Sunday night, midway through the third quarter, Marvin Harrison broke free, virtually uncovered, for a 29-yard touchdown reception. Joe Theismann said: "I think Marvin Harrison is just phenomenal when he gets an opportunity to run routes."

Ahh, Joe, doesn't Harrison get this opportunity 80 times each Sunday? We think what he meant was that "Marvin Harrison is phenomenal when absolutely nobody covers him and he runs down the field completely unimpeded."

Well, what do you expect from a guy who two weeks ago told us that "the Jaguars have an opportunity to get the ball back by stopping Pittsburgh on this drive."

While we're piling on, are we the only ones who think Manning's enormous helmet makes him look like Kazoo from the Flintstones? We'll try to hunt down some headshots of Kazoo and Manning and post them later.

Sorry for the opinion-laced diatribes today. We'll have plenty of Cold, Hard Football Facts later this week.