I am in the minority here in New England.
I like Peyton Manning.
I like Peyton the quarterback and I like Peyton the person.
Most Patriots fans think that by liking Manning you are diminishing what Tom Brady and the Patriots have accomplished. That’s ridiculous.
Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history. He has won four Super Bowls, six AFC titles, three Super Bowl MVP’s, two NFL MVP’s, and has a slew of individual records. What Brady and the Patriots have accomplished is remarkable.
I am old enough to remember when the Patriots were the red-headed step child of the NFL, playing in front of empty seats and having seemingly annual 2-14 seasons. Now Brady and Bill Belichick have given Patriots fans a sense of pride that in some of us has crossed the line into over-the-top fanaticism. These frothing-at-the-mouth Foxboro flocking fans go bananas at any perceived slight and a lot of that venom has been directed at Manning.
Manning and Brady have been the league’s best rivalry in decades, maybe ever. They have played epic games that have fueled massive TV ratings and fan interest around the country. The only thing it can be compared it to is the Bird-Magic rivalry of the 1980s. You had two passionate fan bases that truly loved their respective teams and their stars.
But with Larry and Magic, there was also a mutual respect. You may have hated the Lakers but you also had a deep respect for Magic Johnson and how he played the game. I don’t see that here in New England with Manning.
We delighted in his losses, calling him a choker who can’t win the big game unlike our guy Tom. Somehow, the fact that Peyton has beaten Brady and the Patriots in the last three AFC Championship games where they’ve faced each other is forgotten.
There is joy when allegations of HGH use is brought against Manning by Al Jazeera. And when the allegations of a possible sexual assault against a 19-year-old Manning at Tennessee came to light, many were quick to pounce on his guilt.
On the field, Peyton Manning was a great player. I admired his dedication to his craft and loved the way he played the game. He played hard and he played to win and along the way accumulated five MVP’s, and two Super Bowl championships.
Off the field, he appeared to be a good guy. I loved his appearances on Saturday Night Live and his self-deprecating humor in countless TV commercials. I have never met Manning, so I don’t know if he is really that good of a guy or a fraud. But my radar seems to point to Peyton being a good guy, especially after reading recent comments about him from his current and former teammates.
In his emotional retirement speech, Manning singled out Brady, saying he will miss the postgame handshakes with the G.O.A.T.
Manning also had a shutout to those same Patriots fans that rip him daily, saying “I will even miss the Patriots fans in Foxboro and they should miss me because they got a lot of wins off of me.”
I will miss Peyton Manning playing football and will miss those great showdowns against Brady and Belichick. Those games were great theater and will never be replaced.
Brady, Manning helmets illustration by MacLeodCartoons. Follow on Facebook.