A Season Without Peyton Manning

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All indications are Peyton Manning will be OK and play again. But just the suggestion that his neck surgery could somehow end his career was pretty jarring to me.

No, I’m not a Colts fan. I’m just a guy who suddenly realized how old he is.

Well, maybe that’s not the best way to put it. It’s no so much that I’m old, but that things are moving faster.

It’s hard for me to fathom the National Football League without a guy like Manning because I’ve never seen an NFL without him. Peyton was a rookie, more or less, when I started following the league with any sort of passion. So in a way, his career as one of the greatest players in history has run in unison with my, and many others, careers as fans and observers of the sport.

We learned to like Peyton through his commercials. In conversation I saw “your defense is offensive,” “cut that meat” and “laser, rocket arm” at least one a week each. We laughed when he called Mike Vanderjagt a “liquored up, idiot kicker.” We winced when he got his head kicked in by the Patriots a bazillion times early on. We admired when he finally beat New England and we were happy when he finally won the Super Bowl.

I doubt this neck surgery – which sounds absolutely nightmarish, by the way – ends Manning’s career. Maybe it’ll end his season, but not his career. He’ll be back, barking out audibles and playing like the best quarterback alive, which he is (another sign of maturity: I can acknowledge he’s better than Tom Brady, despite the disparity in championship rings).

But it is weird to even think about it being a possibility. For so long, he has been one of the faces of the NFL. A total and definite constant in what is sport built on chaos and short windows of opportunity in all facets. He has been an absolute joy to watch as he has achieved greatness. And at some point, likely sooner rather than later, it’ll be done. And we won’t get to see him play again.

Growing up sucks. 

Senior > English > University of South Carolina

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