|The Chicago Tribune 11/23/12|
I will tell you upfront that I am die hard Chicago Bears fan. I was raised in a Bears household. We, as a family, have passed on that tradition to the next generation, even though in one instance their father is a ... what???? .... New Orleans Saints fan. Pishposh. I love the Bears! I love the anticipation of an upcoming game. I love that I leave my life for the hours that a game is on, and I can submerse myself in it. A game that can be exciting, and I yell. Disappointing, and I yell. Goes into overtime, and I yell. Or is a blowout, and I yell. Football, for me, is primal scream therapy. A friend likened football to modern day gladiators, and though I had surmised that to be true, I hadn't ever heard it so well articulated. Yes, they are gladiators. They are warriors. They, the Chicago Bears, are Monsters of the Midway. And I don't like any other team, or any other players (especially, and I do mean emphatically, any CHEESE HEADS ... and for those of you in other cultures who may come upon this, a cheesehead is a Green Bay Packer, fan or player. And a Green Bay Packer is .... I won't even bother. I try to think of them as little as possible!).
Ah, but then there is Peyton Manning. There is something about that man as a player that I have always appreciated. He seemed to have an incredible love of the game, an incredible work ethic, and a boyish sense of purpose every time that he walked out onto the football field. A couple of years ago, while he watched his little brother, Eli Manning, quarterback the NY Giants in the Super Bowl, the camera caught Peyton, big brother/Super Bowl winning quarterback, pacing in the owner's box. I don't know if it was more that he was nervous for the outcome of the game, or that he wanted to get in there and throw the ball for his little brother. He was splitting out of his skin. And when he went down, was that two years ago already, with a serious career ending injury, I felt so bad for his team, the fans, and especially him. How would he recover knowing that he would never play the game that he loves so dearly again?
My brother-in-law, a HUGE football fan and physician, told me that with his kind of injury, he wouldn't be back. I would have to satisfy my admiration of him in 30 and 60 second bursts of his charms in commercials of the products he endorses. In my opinion, that injury was more upsetting than what Chicago is suffering now with the injury of the Bulls' Derrick Rose.
And I guess that I haven't been paying enough attention as I was surprised and heartened that the man who loves football so much is playing at MVP level. Say what? But how could I be surprised? This guy loves the game. He loves football like Michael Jordan loves basketball. And when you have that, and a natural talent and ability for the game, you just can't keep a good dog down. And true to anything that I had thought about him, he picked himself up from that injury and went back to basics. He went back to his old college football coach. He went back to trusting that if he worked hard enough and smart enough that he could get back into the game.
And he has. At 36, awfully old for a quarterback (sorry Brett Favre), he is leading the AFC in passing touchdowns, has the best completion rate, and owns the top passing rating. Incredible! I wonder if the Colts, the team that he played on for years, is sorry now. How could they not think that this man would come back? They knew him. They knew his work ethic. They knew the stuff that he was made of. I imagine that they needed to think of the future, and how to rebuild an offense with a new, younger quarterback. I know that football is a business, but man, coming from a loyal fan, you gotta wonder, do teams have any loyalty?
In the article in today's Tribune, Peyton Manning's Duke college football coach said, 'The appreciation for me was reliving the intensity of a man willing to work beyond what any human can push themselves ... it was an incredible thing. I wish now - and he agrees with me - that we had let somebody come in to document that. Because I don't know if anybody else could have done it.'
How does one know when one is in it that they are pushing the limits; that they are working far beyond any expectation of what is possible. I take this very personally. It is something to consider for any of us. We don't have to be a star football player. Or anyone else that works at that level of exposure for that matter. But we can, in our own lives, live to that creed. It isn't so much that he took a broken body and brought it back to life. No, it's that he did it without knowing what the outcome would be. He may not have been successful. He may not have gotten picked up by Denver. He may not have thrown another professional pass again. But he worked at it with no one watching, and I would bet that if you had asked him, hey, you gonna do this? He would have said, YES. That's very powerful.
Naturally, Peyton Manning has had a tremendously successful career in the NFL. He's been named MVP 4 times! But his fall, his injury, took him lower than what us normal folks probably would every encounter. So in perspective, yeah, we can do it. Without anyone looking, we can make it happen. And I don't mean just as far as a job is concerned, or school. I mean that we can take what it is that we do every day, work at it a little bit harder, and find that we can pull ourselves up to the next level. Hey, when Michael got older and wasn't as quick to the net, he pulled back. He became the king of the fade-away perimeter shot. Like Sam Farmer, the Chicago Tribune reporter, said of Manning, 'He's not the same player he was in Indianapolis. He has adapted and grown.'
Oh that Peyton Manning! He's my hero. And with his success, I feel a challenge. I can be better. I can adapt and grow. I want to keep on throwing touchdown passes too.
Football. Nothing like it.