Machines Are Homeless, Peyton Is Not: The Complicated Tale of a City Gone Sideways

Below is AAA’s Suggested Pre-Drive Checklist, to be completed before every drive, every time:

  • Have your keys in hand before approaching your car or entering a parking area. If you have a keyless-entry remote with a panic alarm button, keep it in your hand, with your finger above the activation button.
  • If your vehicle is parked at the curb, face traffic as you approach the driver’s door.
  • Check the driveway, parking area or street for children or other pedestrians.
  • Inspect the headlights, windshield, side and rear windows, turn signals, brake lights and taillights. If necessary, clean and replace items that are broken or not working properly.
  • Visually inspect your tires for obvious signs of a problem and notice which direction the front wheels are pointed. Check tire pressures, because visual inspection alone may not reveal an improperly inflated tire.
  • Check under the vehicle for fluid leaks. 



*     *     *

To be sure, only insane elderly people who do not actually exist perform a pre-drive checklist — and even then they only do it in awful driving school films that stupid 15-year-olds are not paying attention to. Sane people who exist in the physical realm of this world haven’t the time for such nonsense, nor do we much care whether buckets of fluid are leaking under the car — that merely lets us know our car is ALIVE!! Or so we tell ourselves. It’s easier that way. One less thing to worry about, really.

*     *     *

Peyton Manning is not sane. Manning the Quarterback that is. He is not sane and he is not human. He is a machine — a machine expertly programmed to remove all variables from any on-field situation. He is the very REAL-LIFE football version of the non-existent old person in driving school films who spends 20 minutes checking the tread on his tires & testing his taillights & crawling under the car with a spelunking light before every 3-minute drive to Whole Foods or the hardware store. A kajillion stitches in time, after all, might save one crucial 3rd-and-short. 

Or better yet, a few thousand practice snaps with wet footballs might feasibly prevent a botched real one.

As the legend goes, in the week leading up to Super Bowl 41, there was talk of rain for Sunday’s game. It certainly wasn’t a probability. It was a possibility at best. But *QBManning6000* does not do possibilities. Possibilities are too vague, too unknown — they do not ring well in the binary ears of machines. It either will or will not; it was either going to rain or it was not. You & me & the Bears’ Rex Grossman hoped/prepared for no rain because it was easier that way, one less thing to worry about in an otherwise worrisome week. Manning prepared for Biblical monsoons. Because OF COURSE HE DID.

For hours on end that week he made Jeff Saturday snap him slippery balls soaked in frigid ice-grease, a wretched and monotonous chore even under the best of circumstances, maybe the most monotonous. But it would prove to be worthwhile in the end. Grossman fumbled multiple snaps in the slippery rain that night, Manning fumbled none, and a more Peyton-y story there is not.

*     *     *

Sunday night will be many things for you & me and every Colts fan watching, but unemotional is not one of them. ALREADY the normally functioning humans among us — the Bizarro-Mannings, I guess — have come undone, fragmented and heavily armed and crazed, circling our emotional wagons around whichever complicated narrative we hold most dear. Some see Manning and his Colts teams as perennial underachievers, others see him as martyred and gone too soon, and Sunday night has morphed into a historical rubber match of sorts that will once and for all settle The Decision to let him go.

It isn’t, of course. It is one regular-season game among many, blown sideways by our weird emotional interests in this game and our need to make sense of it all. But human emotions rarely make sense. They are the ultimate variables, and as such, Manning the Quarterback has no use for them. He will coldly go through his pre-game checklist just like no sane person ever could, searching for all sentimental leaks and thin emotional treads and un-mended fences, numbing whatever human elements need numbed … because of course he will. He already has. Manning the Quarterback is a goddamned machine, for good or ill, and he will shred the Colts like a cruel wheat thresher.

But Peyton the Person? Afterwards? That is different. He will have seen Marvin & Edgerrin and us during the game, as well as 14 years of his life hung up in the rafters and also signs for his Children’s Hospital too. I suppose only then, when it’s over, will he allow himself to acknowledge the only thing we all agree on: he is still ours, on loan to Denver, and it will somehow make perfect sense.      

My God, this game.