Or devotion to an ideal, one which was created by the very flawed criteria we criticize?
Yet along the other side of the fence lies a group of extremists, quick to label Manning something he isn't, all motivated by their own individual experiences.
Manning's popular but far from loved in all circles.
For as many people out there who dedicate their Sundays to kissing his a** (deservingly so in many instances), there is also a group that loathes everything from his commercials to his touchdown passes.
To call him an enigma might be going over-board, but the public perception of Manning is anything but black and white.
The point of view expressed in another article today was that Manning's fans expect special rules to be applied for their hero.
Well that depends.
I cannot speak for everyone, but I will speak for myself, as I know there are a number of fans who share similar beliefs.
I do not expect special rules to be made for Manning or any other player. I simply do not adopt the false criteria that exists for judging quarterbacks.
When I share my thoughts regarding Manning's legacy, it's not through the Manning-tinted glasses that come with their own set of rules. It's through a criteria that is simply not adopted by the masses.
That doesn't make it any less credible, but that's all subjective.
The point has been made that Manning-fans turn to record-setting production as a justification for their belief that Manning might in fact be the greatest of all-time.
While they shoot down postseason disappointment as being a result of poor team-support, they turn a blind eye to the logic that those very same statistics that are gloated about also came as a result of team support.
There might exist some disturbed extremists out there, but you'd be hard-pressed to actually track down a Manning-fan who really believes that his production is all a result of his efforts and unrelated to the performance of his teammates.
Of course he couldn't do it alone.
But here in lies the issue.
The public's perception of Manning's team support has often been exaggerated to the point that his fans seek to compensate for this flawed perception of reality by crediting Manning with more than he could possibly contribute.
Flash back to this past week's playoff victory, and what do have?
We see a solid performance at quarterback against the same defense that made Tom Brady perform like "hot garbage", as Deion Sanders put it.
Manning’s performance wasn't "great", but it was enough to secure a victory.
A victory, of course, that was made possible by an outstanding defensive effort.
The fact that Manning fans mention Peyton before the defense doesn't necessarily mean they don't recognize how well the defense played.
It likely means that they enjoy crediting one of the most influential figures related to the victory.
Ask a Colts fan what he or she thought of our defensive outing, and I can almost guarantee that they would share the same point of view I have and give them their due credit.
It would be like listening to a critic's review of The Dark Knight and assuming that his or her favorable review of Heath Ledger's performance somehow indicates a lack of appreciation for the rest of the cast.
Crediting your favorite piece of a puzzle doesn't make you blind to the entire picture.
These are the kinds of things people would learn if they took the time to ask, but it's always easier to make assumptions without taking the time to look into things.
But where does this conflict originate?
Much of it originates with the flawed criteria adopted by the masses for their use in judging quarterbacks.
It's the old fashion "stats vs. rings" debate, but it's deeper.
While many Colts fans value production (I'll avoid using the term “stats” because it is often used in derogatory fashion) over team success (I'll avoid using the term “rings” because I find it to be too general a statement), I personally find one's production to be more indicative of their individual contributions to the team's chances of winning than I do the final result alone.
Football is the ultimate team game, and we often see the better man walk out the loser simply because there is much more to winning football games than the performance of one player.
You don’t believe me?
Just ask Drew Brees in 2008.
I cannot count how many times people have used what the masses have adopted as their justification as to why Manning is not as good some claim him to be.
When it comes to criticism directed towards Manning's legacy, it usually centers on his supporting cast or his postseason performance.
It is not as though both points don't have merit; it's just a matter of both topics not usually being covered in accurate fashion.
Yes, Manning has been surrounded with some very talented offensive tools, but at the same time, people tend to exaggerate their levels of productivity.
You hear that he's had Harrison, Wayne, Clark, James, Faulk, and Addai, but did you know that the Colts under Manning have produced less on the ground than the Patriots under Brady?
You wouldn't think so given Indianapolis' habit for featuring one stud-back supported by a running-backfield of unproductive players.
So the name recognition carries the perceived degree of support above and beyond the level it has been in reality.
Yes, Manning has had a number of first-round draft selection to throw to, but did you know that for eight of his 12 seasons, his second most productive target was less productive than Mike Wallace was for Pittsburgh this year?
Is that above average?
Certainly, but it's a far cry from acting as though he's been backed by multiple Pro Bowl targets year in and year out.
It is this kind of flawed perception of reality that I think motivates some Colts fans to go off the deep end.
The same can be said regarding his postseason performance.
For as many horrible games as Manning's had, he's had just as many great ones.
That of course can differ regarding each person's perception of "horrible" and "great", but I'll continue.
It is not as though Colts fans give "all of the credit" to Manning when he wins.
Just ask us and we'll tell you, we're proud of the way our defense performed last week and realize that we might not have won had they not played as well as they did.
It is also not as though we give "none of the blame" to Manning when we lose.
Manning's had some bad games. The 2003 AFC Championship comes to mind.
But for as much as I realize that his performance contributed a great deal to the Colts' loss, how many people mention the fact that the Patriots stole signals during that game?
I'm not saying that their stealing signals turned what would have been a loss into a victory; I'm simply awaiting the recognition that it "could" have had an impact on the game as well as Manning's performance.
Some might call that an excuse, but there is no such similar remark made in reference to his 2002 playoff loss to the Jets.
The Jets didn't steal signals, so the same point isn't relevant there.
But though Manning DID play poorly, which contributed a great deal to the Colts' loss, how many people analyze how well the top quarterbacks play under the same circumstances?
Would you know that Tom Brady has not played much better when falling behind two scores early (hint hint: 2009 wild card against Baltimore)? But the difference being, one of the two has faced those circumstances more often.
Manning deserves blame for poor performance; he's not without his flaws.
But there is a reason why he doesn't usually get as much blame as you'd expect for the Colts’ postseason disappointments.
I've always believed that when your season comes to a disappointing end, don't look to blame the greatest contributor to your success first.
Even during times when Manning's play HAS cost his team games, many people fail to realize that they would have never made it that far had it not been for Manning's production on the football field at a consistent level that has never been seen before.
Why does the defense or the running game receive the first blows?
Because often times (depending on the particular circumstance), they were the ones harming the team earlier in the season when Peyton's performance over-compensated to the point in which they became victorious anyway.
Again, he didn't do it alone (in terms of production); he simply often had less support than is perceived by the general public.
But even when it is all said and done, the postseason wins and losses that have come under Manning account for a very small percentage of his career.
He could have lost Super Bowl XLI, and it wouldn't change my perception of his legacy to any profound degree because when it's all said and done, it's still one game.
Teams give it 100 percent week in and week out, and while there will always be that extra incentive to perform when your season is one the line, it isn't enough for me to value the small minority of one's career over the majority.
Given Manning's current 8-8 playoff record, I'm not about to place him below several less productive quarterbacks on account of eight losses that account for four percent of his career.
The fact that he has been the most productive player in the 90-year history of the sport to me holds more weight than the eight postseason losses (as well as the few playoff victories that have come in spite of Manning's poor performance).
I would love to see the Colts win the Super Bowl this season, but it won't impact my perception of Manning's legacy to any great degree either way.
I will value another championship season as a great team accolade that was contributed to (in great part) by Manning's performance.
It will do more for the media than it will for me as far as his legacy is concerned.
It's seeing Manning play at that Pro Bowl/Hall of Fame level year after year that makes him stand tall above the rest.
I appreciate Manning's story, not simply the conclusion to its chapters.
Public perception will always differ, but that's not my concern.
We all have the right to appreciate and critique sports in any way that we see fit, but that doesn’t mean that the general perception of reality always proves to be the most realistic.