At VinnyTestaverde16.com, there is no QB controversy
By Mike Wilkening (firstname.lastname@example.org)
June 11, 2004
On Sept. 4, 1988, Tom Lowe sat down and really got immersed in an NFL game for the first time. Lowe’s hometown Philadelphia Eagles were making life miserable for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their young quarterback, Vinny Testaverde.
Testaverde was suffering through one of the interception-filled performances that his Tampa tenure is best remembered for. But Lowe, then 14, looked past the picks — and saw his football idol in the flotsam and jetsam.“I’m watching him, going, ‘I’ve never seen a guy like that before,” Lowe remembered this week. ‘He’s like the perfect, prototype quarterback.’ And I just became fascinated with him.”
Sixteen years later, Lowe’s fascination is as strong as ever. There’s no other way to explain VinnyTestaverde16.com, Lowe’s Web site devoted to the Cowboys’ newest quarterback and the focal point of Testaverdian culture on the Web.Think Vinny will beat out Quincy Carter and win the Cowboys’ starting QB job? Post your thoughts on the site’s message board. At the very least, go on and listen to, almost assuredly, the only song about Vinny Testaverde that has ever been recorded:
He’s the best quarterback in the American Football Conference Eastern Division.
He throws every pass he makes on a frozen rope.
Linger awhile, and you will start to wade through the scores of action shots of the now-40-year-old Testaverde throughout the years in the employ of the Buccaneers, then the Browns, then the Ravens, then the Jets. There are newspaper articles dating back to 1993, documenting a record of Testaverde’s successes (“Vinny playing like an MVP”) and low points (“Ravens’ Testaverde Benched, Bitter, Betrayed”).It’s here we must note that Vinny Testaverde has nothing to do with VinnyTestaverde16.com. Lowe makes that clear on the site’s home page. But that doesn’t stop Vinny fans from sending e-mails to Lowe in the hope the webmaster can pass them on to his Web inspiration.
If Testaverde has seen the site, it would be news to the 29-year-old Lowe, who works for an e-commerce company in Philadelphia. He has met Testaverde a handful of times, but just to get an autograph. He’s never tried to contact Testaverde to tell him about the site, nor is he waiting for Testaverde to drop him a line to say he enjoys the tribute.All Lowe wants out of Vinny Testaverde is for him to keep playing. As it stands, it should be a happy 2004 season for fan and quarterback.
Two days after being cut by the Jets on June 1, Testaverde found a soft landing with the Cowboys and head coach Bill Parcells, a Testaverde champion through the years. Next month comes the Testaverde-Carter training-camp battle, and it’s little wonder where Lowe stands on this issue.
“If there’s really a quarterback competition between these guys straight-up — and I can put all bias aside — I think if you ask people that really watch these guys, I think people would probably say Vinny would beat Quincy Carter out,” Lowe said.
Lowe will be pulling for the Cowboys this season, but devotion to Testaverde comes before loyalty to any team. In other words, where the Jets finish in the AFC East matters not to Lowe anymore.It’s all about Vinny T. It has been that way since that awful ’88 season, when Testaverde threw 35 interceptions. But Lowe worked through it, just like he did nine seasons later, when the Ravens discarded Testaverde only one season after he made the Pro Bowl.
No one said devotion was easy.
“You have to be tough, in a way,” Lowe said. “Vinny has, in games, broken people’s hearts, I guess. … People always said he couldn’t win in Tampa. Interceptions always came at the wrong time, people would say. And you have to be able to stomach that and put up with those things because they were bad teams, and a lot of people couldn’t see through that.“They would put the blame on the quarterback. Because the quarterback gets most of the blame regardless. As long as the outcome is the loss, the quarterback is getting the blame. And so you have to look past that. And most football fans … they can’t get that. Most players are disposable to fans of teams.”
In the last nine seasons, Lowe has watched every Testaverde start, including 30 in person. It was his good fortune — and just reward, you might say — to have been at the Meadowlands on Oct. 23, 2000, when Testaverde led the Jets back from a 30-7 fourth-quarter deficit to a 40-37 OT win in one of the most exciting Monday Night Football games ever.
“Loyalty kept me in my seat, because I believed this guy wouldn’t quit,” Lowe said. “And if he wouldn’t quit, I wouldn’t quit. Until they benched him, I was going to stick in there.”
In its seven years of existence, VinnyTestaverde16.com has grown in design sophistication, but the scope remains the same. Where Testaverde goes, Lowe's interest will follow. And one of American football's most unique Web sites — one that has drawn visitors from as far away as Australia — will continue to spread the gospel of Vinny.