Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Unwritten Chapter in the Book of Manning: Friendship: Part I

I know that the disinterest in Super Bowl XLVIII that has pervaded San Francisco is because the Niners lost in the final seconds of the NFC Championship game—the ticket to Metlife Stadium. But, I don't share that sentiment and I'm sure I am not alone. The reason that I care about what takes place on the gridiron this Sunday is because of one very special thing that we all need in life: friendship.
Way to go Denver. I wish SF had done something similar....
One of my dearest friends lives in Denver. Her three children are living the same dream that I did in my childhood; their team is playing in February. She told me that every Friday during the playoffs, Denver was "United in Orange." This meant free dress for many school kids—including hers. I loved hearing what jersey Riley, Sean and Brady decided to wear and why. I still remember taking a Sharpie to a red t-shirt before Super Bowl XVI and writing "88" on the back in honor of now deceased 49er Freddie Solomon. My dad loved that I chose to represent this wide receiver (and to be honest, I have no idea why I did). Those special memories—that were repeated 4 other times in my youth—aren't the only reason I am pulling for the AFC Championship team.

During the 2004-2005 school year, my student Alex found a way to talk about Peyton Manning any chance he could. At this point, I was relatively familiar with #18. He had appeared on Saturday Night Live and his acting career via deadpan commercials had commenced. But Alex talked about him in many different ways and for many different reasons. Out of respect and an eventual friendship with my student, I started to listen. I'm glad I did. I've been a fan ever since.

And my interest in Peyton Manning fueld my great anticipation for the release of "The Book of Manning" the third of "ESPN's SEC Storied" documentaries in the Fall of 2013. As described on the video,
A father-and-son story written into the pages of football folklore, it can be argued that no family has had more influence on a sport than the Mannings. Archie - the patriarch - a star quarterback at the University of Mississippi and then with the New Orleans Saints, followed by oldest son Cooper, whose football dreams were cut short by a spinal condition, then sons Peyton and Eli - both of them quarterbacks, All-SEC, number one draft picks, back-to-back Super Bowl champions and MVPs. Narrated by actor John Goodman, The Book of Manning features revealing interviews with Archie, Olivia, Cooper, Peyton and Eli Manning along with other family members, friends, former teammates and coaches as well as never-before-seen photos and home movie footage of Archie and his sons. Through it all, director Rory Karpf explores how a tragedy shaped the course of not only Archie's life, but his family's as well.
If you watch one program between now and Sunday, let it be "The Book of Manning." And if you do, perhaps you will find that it isn't just Peyton Manning who is a great sportsman, but his older brother Cooper who became his friend because of sports. This wasn't always the case.

Dave Scheiber of the Tampa Bay Times writes in "The Other Manning,"
"When Cooper wasn't performing, he and Peyton were often competing or tussling. "Because we were two years apart, we fought a lot," Cooper says. "My dad always tried to emphasize to us that we didn't know how lucky we were to have each other, and we should appreciate that. But we kind of had a hard time doing that, as opposed to Eli, who was clearly my younger brother and there was no competition." 
Cooper wouldn't allow other kids to pick on Peyton. "But I was allowed to pick on him because he was my brother, so it worked out nicely,"
This changed thanks to high school football. During his sophomore year at Newman High School in New Orleans, Peyton became the Greenies' starting quarterback. Cooper caught 76 passes for 1,250 yards and was named the team's most valuable player; Coop was his brother's best receiver. In "The Book of Manning," Cooper says,"We got to be peers for the first time as opposed to him being my little brother. And we got to be friends. It made us a lot closer than we would have been otherwise.

Those who know Peyton Manning know that he plays for his older brother; he plays for him because Cooper cannot (more on that in the next post!)

And that's what friends do—they cheer for their friends' teams (in moderation, right?), they listen to who their heroes are and why, and they play for us and pray for us. Sports can serve as powerful medium to see this truth revealed.

Photo Credits
United in Orange

Book of Manning

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