Big Yellow Taxi

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

 

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”

Joni Mitchell was right.  She wasn’t writing about Peyton Manning or me at the time, but she could have been.  Her words have deep meaning and are very appropriate tonight.

I had an accident in 1987 and was hospitalized for 9 days.  I cried the day of the accident.  It wasn’t until 20 years later that I cried again.  My wife and I were taking a vacation to Italy and left our children with my brother and his wife.  I had no idea how hard it would be to leave my children for a week.  I cried as the taxi drove away from my brother’s house.  I cried a week later upon leaving Florence, Italy.  Our trip was so wonderful and I didn’t want it to end.

I had other life events through the years – before and since – where my emotions would swell up, but I always found a way to contain myself.  Tonight was another one of those times.

I shouldn’t cry over a game should I?  After all, it’s just a game…  Yet, it’s been so much more for me.  Since 1986, the Colts have been a means of entertainment for me.  In more recent years… a means of escape.  For three hours a week, I completely jump into Bert’s canvas and become part of the scenery.  Mary is off winning the horse race, the kids are giggling, the band is playing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Peyton Manning… well, he is working his own kind of magic.

I watch with my heart.  It’s as if I’m on the field with the guys… throwing, catching, watching plays develop.  It’s as if there is a camera on the tip of the ball and I see the game from the ball’s perspective.  Emotionally, I’m right there in every play.  I feel ecstatic when the Colts win.  I get upset when the Colts lose.  Upset is the wrong word.  Crushed is better, but not right either.  It’s more like an emotional defeat.  I don’t know why I feel this way.  I just do.  It means the world to me, enough that I read about the Colts at lunch, at night, on weekends…  I care so much that I’m writing about it now.  It’s not healthy, I know.  But I’m not going to change my behavior.  I love the Colts no matter how frustrated I get.  It’s part of who I am.  Perhaps dysfunctional… but a part of me nonetheless.  Whatever the label, I don’t care.  I won’t change anything about it.  It’s part of what makes me “me”.

Tonight, I sat down at my computer to check out the latest on the Peyton Manning drama.  I knew the Colts would have to cut him.  Everything about me told me this would happen.  My gut.  My mind.  Not my soul, I guess.  I watched a video online, then a second, and so on…  I called out to my wife…  “They cut him.”  Every person on the videos said that Peyton was gone and that tomorrow’s press conference would end it all.  A few minutes passed.  My wife called in and asked me what I was doing.  I couldn’t answer.  I had no words.  I was too busy fighting back the tears.  The emotion was swelling and pushing up on my Adam apple.  It’s been five years now, so why cry now, right?  A few minutes later, she came into the kitchen and looked in at me.  The computer screen was blank.  My head was dropped.  I sat staring at the desktop.  I didn’t see anything.  Just sitting there in disbelief…  Even though I knew Peyton would be cut, something inside me went off.

Why?  I don’t know.

Why was I so emotional?  I don’t know.  It’s just a game.

Like my Italy vacation, I’m upset because I didn’t want it to end.  I’m upset because I wanted more and couldn’t have it.  I didn’t get enough of what I had when I had it.  I’m upset because I never got cable so I could see the games each week.  I’m upset that I didn’t make it back home to Indiana often enough to see the Colts in person.  I’m upset because I had a chance to watch a legend each week for 13 years and missed it.  He was there.  Right there…  all along.  Even on bad days he was still brilliant!  5 turnovers against San Diego and he still almost won the game…  Man!

I remember watching the end of a Colts game.  The Colts were driving.  Peyton took the ball, ran to the left for 20 yards.  He looked back and saw a Mack truck chasing him down.  Peyton looked at the end zone and then… slid.  Dammit!  I wanted a score!  How fun would that be!  To see Peyton Manning run it in from 20 yards out!  Didn’t happen…  Instead, that computer of a brain read the situation and saw that dropping to the ground would – in effect – end the game.  The Colts got a first down as a result of the run.  The Colts ran out the clock…  Game over…  Not as flashy or as sexy as a touchdown run, but it was effective, smart, and safe!

There are so many moments like that.  I missed many of them.  Some I saw on TV as they happened.  Some I saw on replays or highlight reels.  Others I read about.  I wish I could have seen more.  I wish I could have seen them all!  Even the bad ones…!!!

How could we know after 13 seasons that Peyton Manning would not take another snap as a Colt?  Where’s the storybook ending?  Will the press conference be the end of Peyton Manning, the player?  Or, will it just mark the end of Peyton Manning, the Colt quarterback?

Tomorrow will be another emotional day for me.  I had people come by my desk at work today just to see how I was doing.  They wanted to know if I was going to lose my mind on March 8.  I guess I won’t have to now.  It started tonight when I sat down to the computer.  It will end tomorrow night when I watch the press conference on my computer.

My soul hopes for a retirement announcement.  I won’t get it, but that is what I would rather have.  I don’t want to see Peyton Manning wearing anything other than a horseshoe on his helmet.  I want to remember him as a Colt.  From an emotional perspective, it would be easier for me if Peyton Manning retired now.  But that likely won’t happen…  Like any boxer, the man feels like he still has a good fight left in him.  I hope he does and I hope it all turns out okay.  I don’t want to see anyone setting a chair down onto the football field after a game so that a spent Peyton Manning can sit down and talk to the media.  I saw that happen in the ring, and I don’t ever want to see that again!  That isn’t the man we know and admire, and it certainly isn’t the football player we all fell in love with.

I look forward to the press conference and I dread it at the same time.  Peyton Manning is my Joe Paterno.  He’s my sports hero.  He is my hero.  He represents those things that I want to be.  He isn’t the best athlete on the field.  He isn’t the most gifted person.  However, he works extremely hard, is dedicated, and uses his mind and his abilities to be the best that he can be.  He works to make himself and everyone else around him better.  That in itself is exceptional and deserves admiration and respect!  I see some of that in myself.  I don’t know if anyone else sees that in me, but I do.  I want to be more like that… 

My wife argues that – because of all of the traits I just listed – Peyton Manning is a great athlete.  I argue that Peyton Manning is a really good athlete, but all those other traits make Peyton Manning great!  Either way, he’s pretty darned good!  Quite special…  Exceptional…  And – tomorrow, I fear – all over…

It’s the end of an era…

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

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