Peyton Manning: The Unsettling Conclusion I Was Forced To Make.
In this world there are many conclusions we come upon. We are constantly looking to expand our knowledge. We are constantly looking to improve ourselves, and others. These two facts of life lend to the conclusion that we're constantly looking for perfection.
As a sport fan, this basic concept mirrors itself all of the time. We're always looking for a perfect draft-pick. We are always searching for a perfect fit in the free-agency.
We further compound our searches for perfection when analyst after analyst makes their selections, almost on a weekly basis, as to whom the best player in whichever sport or league he or she is covering.
However, perfection is only half of our problem. Not only are we searching for perfection, but we are also constantly looking to recreate that which we remember as perfection.
Perfection is such a vague concept. In sports, there are several examples of "perfection," as defined by the average sports fan.
There is a "perfect season," accomplished by teams who set records for wins in there sport; commonly associated with the 1998 Chicago Bulls and 1972 Miami Dolphins, to name a couple. A perfect season is so rare that an average team wouldn't want to chase it.
There is a "perfect performance," often associated with a come-from-behind victory or an accomplishment incredibly rare. John Elway's "the drive" is the performance most closely associated with perfection. A perfect performance is what everyone dreams of, players and fans equally.
Finally, there is the myth of the "perfect player." Such a player is a myth because no player has ever been considered flawless in his own time.
However, as humans, we often make the mistake of looking into the past to judge players. I once heard that when you look into the past, there is no gray-area, only black and white.
When we look into the past, we are reminded of fond memories and brutal heart-break. There is no middle-ground to speak of.
When a sports fan looks into the past, they are reminded of those who left us. As a football fan, you are reminded of Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Walter Peyton, John Elway, and Joe Montana, among many others.
With the media in control, we are given players and told they are great. However, we are also constantly disappointed when a player doesn't live up to what we remember.
LaDanian Tomlinson was the best running-back who played during my life-time (thus far) but it's obvious to know he doesn't stand up to Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, or Barry Sanders.
Randy Moss was heralded for his big-play ability, and has constantly been considered the best receiver (or in that ball-park) for his entire career, but he won't ever live up to the legend of Jerry Rice.
But, Peyton Manning was supposed to be different. Peyton was the definition of perfect. A perfect size at 6'5. A perfect 'average' look, which lends itself to the American public. A perfect sense of humor, demonstrated in his commercials and his appearances on Saturday Night Live.
Peyton was perfect in every way we could think of. His play on the field even further leaded his rise to glory. No one has been held with higher grandeur in the sports world since Michael Jordan retired from the NBA in 2003.
We had finally found the next Joe Montana.
...or so we thought.
With 5:42 left in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning had the opportunity to come back from a seven point deficit. A come-from-behind victory in the biggest game of his career would allow us to claim the one thing we're all looking for: perfection.
Peyton Manning tried his best to lead his team back into the game, but with about 3:20 left in the game, Manning and star wide-receiver Reggie Wayne had a missed calculation, and the conclusion of the play was a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown, sealing Peyton Manning's fate forever.
When it mattered the most, Peyton Manning's perfection faded. No matter how perfect the season had been for Peyton, we will only remember the fact that when the game was on-the-line, Peyton could not come through.
As I sank into the chair at my cousin's house watching the greatest quarterback I've ever seen perform, fall, I thought to myself why it hurt me so much. I looked into my deepest being, and searched for a word to describe what I was feeling.
The only word I could come up with was "disappointment."
As the world spins around us, I am trying to grasp the conclusion I was forced to make.
No matter how much we want Peyton Manning to be Joe Montana, he has fallen into the mold of another first-tier NFL Hall-of-Famer. One who was more closely associated with the word "disappointment" then clothes as a gift for Christmas; Brett Favre.
Favre's whole career was one disappointment after another, bar one exception, his only Super Bowl victory. Favre spent fourteen years chasing another title, but year-after-year, he came short.
Peyton Manning may only be four seasons removed from his only Super Bowl victory, but the comparisons are too big to ignore.
Both men have a certain bravado about them that lures sports fans too them. Brett was the best I have ever seen making a play 'out-of-nothing'. How many times did Brett throw a shovel-pass for twenty yards while being sacked?
Peyton also has a unique enigma about him. No one seems to do more before the snap then Peyton Manning, and surely no one knows more about an opposing defense.
However, neither of these things seems to translate to a Super Bowl Victory.
I hope one day I can look back and say that I came too early to a conclusion. I hope one day soon Peyton Manning proves me wrong.
We hope for perfection, but we're often reminded it does not exist.
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