Accepting reality is often times quite difficult. I, for one, struggle with it on a daily basis; I'm still convinced that my 3-8 fantasy team will make a playoff push and that the fourth meal at Taco Bell is a required part of a healthy daily diet. As Kurt Vonnegut famously said, "So it goes."
But while we may not too, accepting reality is an important part of living a healthy and sane life. While this week's Sunday Night Football bout between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots will certainly be an entertaining game, NFL fans everywhere must accept that this installment of New England's Tom Brady vs. Denver's Peyton Manning may be the final meeting between these two great quarterbacks.
Throughout their fantastic careers, the quarterbacks have provided fans with one of the greatest rivalries that the NFL has ever seen. The pair have met 13 times, 12 when Manning was the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts and once last year when he became a Denver Bronco. Of these meetings, Brady's Patriots have won nine, while Manning has only walked away victorious four times.
This week's game will be played in Foxboro, MA, and Brady is 6-2 when playing Manning at Gillette Stadium. With the Broncos coming off a huge division win against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Patriots trying to recover from a rough loss to the Carolina Panthers, it will be interesting to see how this game plays out.
With retirement being a definite option for Manning following this season, (especially if the Broncos pull off a Super Bowl win), NFL fans need to mentally prepare for the possibility that this edition of Brady vs. Manning will be the last in history. Here are five steps to help you cope with this (potential) loss.
1. Re-watch every Brady vs. Manning matchup
Relive all the glory that Brady and Manning have so charitably left on the football field over the last decade and a half. Watch Tom Brady, the kid, the no-name, the backup, lead the New England Patriots to a defiant 38-17 victory over the Colts in Week 6 of the 2001 NFL Season. Watch Manning overcome a 21-3 halftime deficit to lead the Colts to the Super Bowl in the 2006 AFC Championship game with a 38-34 victory. Cheer, laugh, scream, and cry as you watch 13 amazing NFL games while blowing off work and/or other life obligations.
2. Develop an opinion, if you don't already have one
If you aren't a fan of the Patriots, Colts, or Broncos, you may not have a strong opinion on who you favor in this rivalry. If this is the case, it needs to change now. The cop-out "I'm just a fan of good football" will not be accepted. "Brady or Manning?" will soon be as common a question as "Coke or Pepsi?" or "The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?" People expect a quick answer and will judge you venomously based off said answer. While it's perfectly fine to admire the careers of both of these amazing talents, a preference is needed before Sunday night.
3. Take bets with your friends on the post-game handshake
As with many high-profile matchups in the NFL, Brady and Manning will convene after the game, mid-field, amid a sea of cameras. Photographers for every major news agency will want an original photo of what will potentially be the final on-field handshake between these two. Things such as body language, eye contact and duration of meeting will all be overly dissected. To make it more interesting for you and your friends, you should all take bets and see who does the best with their predictions. Here are some great starters, but feel free to get more creative:
Will there be a bro-hug, or just handshake?
Will Manning keep his helmet on?
If Manning takes his helmet off, will more than 50% of his forehead be beat red?
Will Brady's hair somehow look better than most of our's before we get ready to go out?
Will Bill Belichick photobomb the handshake pics?
4. Mentally prepare for intense feelings of nostalgia
It will be perfectly normal if, while watching Round 14 of Brady vs. Manning, you feel an intense burst of bittersweet, nostalgic emotion. It will be similar to the feeling you get when you watch an old home movie or look through your high school yearbook, and when you're not expecting it, it can be quite overwhelming. It's important that you do in fact prepare to avoid complications of intense acute nostalgia. These could include crying, drinking heavily, calling high school exes or quitting your job and planning a trip around the world. This is no joking matter. Here are some facts to help your body and mind prepare for this phenomenon.
WARNING: The following facts may shock you, but that's the point.
The babies born on September 30, 2001, the first time Brady and Manning met on the field, are one year away from entering high school.
The No. 1 song on that date was "Fallin'" by Alicia Keys. The No. 1 song of 2001 was "Hanging By A Moment" by Lifehouse. Miley Cyrus was nine.
Here are some words that would have confused you: Twitter, iPhone, Instagram, selfie, hashtag, sexting, Tebowing.
If you had saved just one dollar/day in loose change since that date, you would have over $4,430 today.
Last year Manning $18 million in salary. That means he made $4,430 every two hours and ten minutes.
5. Hope for a 15th round!
While all great things must end, let's all collectively pray to the NFL Gods that this one doesn't need to just yet. Manning might not retire, and even if he does, the Broncos might meet the Patriots in this year's playoffs. There are certainly a few scenarios where a 15th Brady vs. Manning matchup may be a realistic option, and I, for one, am hoping that this comes to fruition.
For further reading on the rivalry, ESPN Stats & Info breaks it down here.
Joe Rapolla Jr. is a Denver Broncos Featured Columnist and the Assistant Community Moderator at Bleacher Report.