View from the NFC
By Dusty Lane
Here’s how you pictured Eli Manning, from the first time you heard about him until, oh, last week.
He’s 17 years old. He’s in the back yard, alone. He’s wiping sweat from his forehead and tears from his eyes. He’s throwing footballs through a tire.
His mom and his dad left an hour ago, in a gown and a tux, to watch his big brother accept another award.
There’s a little bit too much oomph behind his throws. Bette Midler is singing loudly and arrogantly about heroism from the speakers on the porch.
As it turns out, maybe it wasn’t so cold living in Peyton’s shadow.
Maybe it was downright balmy.
This much we know: Eli Manning has spent his entire career as Peyton Manning‘s little brother.
This much we can guess at: Eli Manning has spent his entire life as Peyton Manning’s little brother.
So does Eli hate “Wind Beneath My Wings“, or has he just been too busy succeeding to know that it’s a horrible song by a horrible person?
Is it actually possible, 20 years from now, that Eli will go down as a better quarterback for the New York Giants better than Peyton was for the Indianapolis Colts?
When the Giants play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday in Indianapolis – that’ll be 7:30 am on Monday in China – Eli will have a chance to win his second title. If you want to get carried away, he’ll have a chance to win his second Super Bowl MVP, making him the fourth player to win two. He just turned 31. He might have another seven or eight seasons in him.
Peyton, on the other hand, said this on Tuesday: “I’ve played a long time.”
Yes indeed, Peyton has played a long time. Also, he hasn’t played for a long time. He had his third surgery in 19 months last fall. Everybody who ever had a hand in him being an Indianapolis Colt is collecting an unemployment check, assuming they have the temerity to apply for unemployment checks. The people who report baseless rumors are all saying he’s going to retire (full disclosure: I’m not going to make the obligatory Rob Lowe joke here because I literally love Rob Lowe).
A telling moment came about one second after Eli was drafted. He inexplicably forced a trade from San Diego, the most beautiful city in the US, to New York, the most intense city in the US. Sunlight no, spotlight yes, said Eli.
Who does that?
Maybe a guy who’s so used to pressure that playing in New York isn’t the slightest bit intimidating?
Eli has thrown for 27,579 yards and 185 touchdowns. Peyton has almost, but not quite, doubled him up with 54,828 and 399 touchdowns. Peyton has also almost, but not quite, doubled him up on seasons, 14-8.
All the relevant injury and consistency and longevity arguments apply. They’re fair, even. Just like it was fair when every single person who ever watched the game of football took it as gospel that Eli was just Peyton’s little brother.
Eli Manning is one game away from becoming the pretty duckling. The first fiddle and the first banana and the first guy in his family to win two Super Bowls.
Peyton Manning might be one game away from becoming Eli Manning’s big brother. The guy with the talent and the expertise and the unwavering love. And the guy who lacked either the ability or luck to live up the impossibly high expectations.
It’s OK though. Watching someone else become the wings over your wind isn’t an awful fate, so long as you don’t care where you end up.
Dusty Lane is an outstanding sports copy editor who doesn’t like the Giants, the Patriots or anybody named Manning, but is willing to give credit where it’s due and will be up at 6:30 am on Monday to begin Super Bowl preparations. You can reach him at