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Bittersweet

It's official. 

Football is back, and back with a bang as Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos eviscerated the Baltimore Ravens en route to a 49-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens and ELITE QB Joe Flacco

It was one heck of a game to open the season and no day gets me excited like the regular season opener. 

But this year, the season opener seems, well, bittersweet. 

I'm looking forward to the regular season, anticipating Andrew Luck's sophomore season even more, perhaps, than I did his rookie year. 

I am all-in on Andrew Luck. I've spent the last eight months analyzing him, praising him and being amazed by him. I think the Colts have their quarterback of the future, and his ceiling is higher than any other quarterback in the league. Luck has a legitimate chance to be the greatest quarterback of all time. I'm not saying it's going to happen, not in the least, but it certainly could. I'm not exaggerating. 

Whether it's as an analyst or a fan, I absolutely love watching him play, and have faith that he will be great. 

But… there's nothing quite like watching Peyton Manning, at least, not yet. 

As I watched Peyton Manning against the Ravens tonight, it brought back so many memories. It was as classic a Manning performance as there could be. 

It was Peyton finding the matchup pre-snap and then matching it with a subtly good pump-fake  before hitting a wide-open tight end for his first touchdown, all while getting hit. It was Manning visibly "warming" as he figured out the Baltimore defense. 

It was the lead building in the third quarter, setting up the defense to feast on a Baltimore offense desperately trying to catch up. 

It was throws that looked awkward coming out of his hand, but ended up going exactly where and when Manning wanted them to. 

It was Manning's awkward wobble as he moved in the pocket, which turned into an even more awkward waddle when he was forced out of the pocket. 

It was everything. 

I'm not mad at Jim Irsay, Ryan Grigson or anybody else for the choice they made in 2012. I know that some fans still are, and that's their right. Manning is busy being as impressive as he ever has been, and had the Colts traded the first-overall pick, they could have been loaded with talent. I understand the argument. 

But Luck is in a class of his own as a young quarterback. I've never been as impressed with a rookie as I was with Luck last season. The way he handled the pressure was unbelievable, his ability to make others better almost Manning-like. He dragged the Colts, kicking and screaming, to wins last season, and I expect he'll do it again in 2013. 

It was the right move, long term. 

But watching Peyton play again tonight was… painful. 

It brought up all those old memories, which, as cherished as they are, also remind me that it won't ever happen again in a Colts uniform. 

Luck is the future, but Peyton is the past, and the past is where we find sentiment. 

In time, Luck will build up his own legacy in Indianapolis, his own bond with the fans. He's already started that, to some extent. 

But one year, as magical as it was, can't match up to a decade and a half of emotion, emotion that ranged from ultimate disappointment to climactic elation. We have a connection with Peyton that doesn't just go away. We'll see Manning check into a play, make his hand motions and throw a subtly-brilliant pass and just nod at his expected genius. 

With Luck, we're excited, excited to see what he'll do next. With Peyton, we knew what he was going to do, and we loved it. 

In time, Luck very well may grow into that role. We've already seen some tendencies and lovable traits that we relate to. But it's not Peyton. Not yet. 

It's like transitioning from a long-time girlfriend to a new one. You really like the new girl, you are excited to see her, but when you see the old one… there's a history there. It's just a little bit different. Not that you necessarily regret moving on, or that you want to give up the new relationship, but it's painful. 

You see somebody who used to be your best friend, somebody that you knew better than anybody, and you recognize all the little things in them that you used to love.

Maybe you even see things that you didn't always like, but after it was gone, you missed.

Sometimes, you start irrationally making up flaws in the old girlfriend to convince yourself that you're better off now.

And too often, you wonder if the connection with the new girlfriend will ever be the same as the old one was. 

In the end… you're probably better off now. Long-term, it's probably for the best. When you take a minute to think, you know that. When you spend time with the new person, you usually know that. 

But sometimes it doesn't feel that way. 

Sometimes it's bittersweet. 

 

P.S. I know that a lot of you probably don't want to hear about this. That's fine. But  I know that some of you feel a similar way, and for me, tonight's game hit me hard in a way that I didn't expect. You won't hear another word on the topic from me for a long time.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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