Many moons ago I was a thirteen year old girl who talked football with thirteen year old boys who felt sure a thirteen year old girl didn’t know what she was talking about when she looked forward to Peyton Manning entering the National Football League the same year she would graduate junior high.
Fast forward from 1998 to 2014 and history has showed that I was right to believe in Peyton Manning in eighth grade, through high school and, now, most of my twenties. Over half of my life has passed with Peyton in the NFL, and it has been a journey no one could foresee.
At the ripe old age of thirteen, I didn’t support Manning because I knew his college statistics or saw his long-term potential. Instead, I was excited to see a Louisiana athlete enter the NFL as a major quarterback. In Northeast LA, we weren’t automatic Saints fans…in fact, my Dad never really liked them after he felt they did Archie Manning wrong, and that feeling rubbed off on me and my older brother especially, and, to a lesser extent, our younger brother. I grew up watching movies and reading books where wrongs were avenged, and I looked forward to rooting for a possible rectifier.
Throughout the early 2000s, my Dad, my older brother, and me would watch Peyton play at Indianapolis. Some years we had DirectTV Sunday Ticket and caught every game, other years we had to rough it with a beat up color TV in the kitchen with a metal coat hanger antenna. On one particularly bad day for reception, we actually had to use auxiliary wires strung through a chandelier to patch in a fuzzy signal for a game I believe we ended up winning, but each game was special. Every year we looked forward to the playoffs, but the Colts never made it all the way while we are all together.
I got married in 2005 and moved away in the mid-summer. During the fall of that year, I picked up a few Colts games in Green Bay country and saw our Super Bowl hopes dashed. The next year I lived in Chicago Bears territory and subsisted on radio games and web play-by-plays in my TV signal free abode. I distinctively remember listening to the AFC Championship that year on a beat-up boom box in our kitchen wearing my Peyton Manning jersey and an Indianapolis Colts Mardi Gras necklace my brother had purchased me a few years prior.
When we won and the Super Bowl was before us, I called my Dad and he said, “You should come down for the Super Bowl.” I had been gone from home for 1.5 years and hadn’t planned on a trip back just yet, but when I told my husband what my Dad said, he said I should call my dad back and say “Ok,” so I did.
My entire family celebrated that year. It was beautiful and poetic to be back together enjoying football like we always had. It was also sad to know I would be leaving again. After that year, I popped back down south in 2009 to meet my beautiful new niece and in 2012 just to visit knowing that my husband and I would be moving down in the near future.
Fast forward, and I was here with my Dad and brother for the entire majestic sweep of Peyton Manning’s 2013 Season. The rebreaking of the TD record I watched him capture in 2004, grabbing the record for most passing yards in a season, and leading the highest scoring offense in history to the Super Bowl.
I have used a lot of words to craft a somewhat prosaic timeline, and you may wonder why. The answer is simple.
I love talent.
I love dedication.
I applaud figure skaters who land triple loops.
I am rendered breathless at the site of ballet.
And I have jumped up and down, screamed, and, probably, cried watching a different type of impresario…a man who took a sport one could call a mindless game and elevated it to a concert.
It is incredible to watch Manning step up to the line and dismantle a defense. It is incredible to watch him care about every.last.detail. We should all care about something so much.
No matter what happens later tonight in the Super Bowl, which I will watch in my Denver Broncos Mardi Gras beads with my Dad and one of the two dearest brothers a girl ever had, Peyton Manning has already won.