Peyton’s Place

culture, sports

It’s been a few days since that awful routing.

He’s no longer in “The Discussion” with Montana and Brady, says everyone.

Here’s the thing.  Manning is undoubtedly the most gifted quarterback we’ve ever seen.  In our gut, we know he’s more complete than Brady and even Montana.  That’s why all the hype leading up to Sunday’s game had lots of us believing the deal was done.  Great quarterbacks don’t go 1 and 2 in Super Bowls.  They don’t have fewer rings than Little Brother.  Before Sunday, Manning had been bathed in the light of the greatest single season by any quarterback ever.  Legacy discussions by and large tended to include Brady as a sort of obligation.  Peyton’s already the best, lots of people seemed to be saying.  A win over Seattle will keep him there.

What to make of the fact that he lost, and so badly, even while breaking the Super Bowl record for most completions?  What to make of the fact that deep, deep down, 9 naked fingers be damned, you still think Manning’s the best quarter back ever?

He’s a contradiction, for sure.  In losing, did he just transcend the meaning of winning the Super Bowl and the bearing it has on his legacy?  I’m willing to say so.  Can’t win big games, has a losing record in the playoffs, I get all of that.  But the man plays without an offensive coordinator, with no Jerry Rice and no Darth Belichick.

I don’t mean to take anything away from Seattle.  I picked them 27 – 24.  I love their defense and I love the things Richard Sherman is forcing us to think about.  I love his mind and his grit and his story.   I love the 12th man.  I love that they won.  I also love that Peyton’s loss says more about our rubrics of greatness than it does about his place in history.

Speaking of history, I wonder how much more of it football has left.  Given what we know about CTE and about the ways in which the NFL, like a villain from Sherwood Anderson, “cuts through the bodies of men” in pursuit of its own sense of glory and legacy, I’m less of a fan all the time.

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