If the ride is over, what a ride it was.
As reports of another surgery on Peyton Manning’s neck emerge, fans and experts are left to speculate. Career-ending surgery? Career-saving surgery? No one knows for sure just what the news of Manning undergoing a spinal fusion procedure means at this point. The only certainty is uncertainty.
I love greatness.
Not the kind you find in the box score. Not even the kind you find when a good, but obviously flawed team is lifting some trophy at the end of the season. No, I love the kind of greatness that comes along once a generation.
Peyton Manning is that greatness. Sure, he had an arm that could make every throw, but it was more than that. It was his beautiful, beautiful mind that made him so great. The way he could demoralize a defense with his audibles. The way he seemed to know them better than they knew themselves.
There is a saying about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” That is how it is with Manning and greatness. You knew every time he stepped on the field that something magical was about to happen. Every game there would be more than one, “he did what?” play. A throw, like the one against the Ravens in the 2006-2007 playoffs, where he thread the needle to Dallas Clark to keep the game-clinching drive alive. Or the countless tales from middle linebackers across the league of Manning calling out their exact defense, and putting the Colts in a
position to destroy it.
I love greatness.
I was a Colts fan long before I knew Peyton Manning, but it was my love of Manning’s greatness that helped me come to know a great many wonderful Colts fans on the internet. The love for his greatness, that I shared with this wonderful community, that got me interested in first writing, and then podcasting, about football.
And it is now, as I try to accept the realization that the journey might be over, that I do not look forward with regret. I do not look forward in anger or resentment. For if this is the end, it was one hell of a ride. Not only did we get to witness greatness, but we got to witness it together. What more could we ask for than that?
And if it is the end of this particular ride, I know that it was time for the ride to end. Manning, now 35-years old and a father of twins, must look first to his long-term health before that of his football career. He owes himself and his family that.
So if it is over, I am just thankful. Thankful that I was able to witness true, unadulterated greatness. That I was able to share that greatness with people that I consider dear friends. That we could cheer, laugh, and cry together.
Maybe the ride will go on next year. If it doesn’t, boy, it was a great ride.