I am a Peyton Manning fan. How can you not be? He is a class-act and a fitting face for the National Football League. As much as it pains me to agree with ESPN First Take’s Skip Bayless, Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback in the history of the league. If only he could have done a bit more in the postseason – but at least he has one Super Bowl victory (and two appearances). And we still don’t know if he will be able to return – or with which team. Maybe he can win one more in the next three years if the situation is just right (the San Francisco 49ers or New York Jets, maybe)?
Speaking of New York, the Super Bowl will be hosted by the MetLife Stadium in just two years. I know the odds are slim to none – but what an epic sporting event it would be if the Manning brothers faced off as part of a subway series in the Big Apple (no team has ever had home-field advantage before – though the Saints have a serious shot next year).
But as for Peyton, I do not blame the Colts for what seems to be inevitable – parting ways and drafting Luck. I don’t agree with the choice – but I don’t blame them for making it. This was a perfect storm and would never had happened had Manning been healthy (the Colts would have made the playoffs and lost in the first-round). Here is my real concern – nice guys seem to always finish last. Sure, he has been marketable and likable (the Visa commercials were classic). Yet, he has never been the most charismatic and therefore does not get quite the attention that he deserves. He reminds me a bit of Tim Duncan in the NBA. Four championships. Four! And do people give him the respect that Kobe Bryant receives? Players give it. The press? Fans? Not even close.
I am afraid that trend has bled into every area of our culture. Leaders now need to be likable. What happend to being credible? Or capable? Character should trump charisma every time. Even in the church ministry world, there is this push for celebrity pastors. Did Christ ever call us to be famous?
Manning does his job. And he does it at the highest level. Can’t that be enough?
That being said, I also know that I have a bit of a double-standard when it comes to expecting nothing but athletes to be athletes. Because I also appreciate the ones who do their best to be role models and am disappointed with those who do nothing for anyone else (or do all the wrong things for themselves). But that is the tension we live in – sunk in such a media-driven world. Players have the opportunity that they have largely because the fans are willing to pay to watch them play. And they should keep that in mind as they interact in the real world.
Regardless, whether Peyton plays another down or not, I am grateful for his contribution to the game. He is truly one of the greats.