Last Manning Standing: Eli Comes Into His Own
Countless hours of therapy to rebuild your self-esteem from living under your brother Peyton's shadow:
Removal of "Eli Manning sucks!" graffiti from the side of your house:
Winning two playoff games in a row, outsmarting the Cowboys, silencing your critics, gaining the respect of your peers, and finally living up to your lineage:
For everything else there's Mastercard.
Now a proud supporter of the other Manning Brother.
A long time ago, on a playground far away in the small parish of Jefferson, a little boy sat in the sandbox. A little girl came up to him and said, “My dad says your dad's a quarterback. Are you gonna be one too?”
The little boy looked at the little girl and said, “My brother wants to be a quarterback, but I’d rather be a vet.” Then the little girl took the little boy’s hand and they went to play on the monkey bars.
That didn’t happen. Well okay, it might’ve happened. I don’t remember—I was four and more concerned with my Barbie dolls. It’s possible that the little boy and I hung out outside of our Monday to Friday preschool time. I have a vague memory of going to a birthday party in a huge house in the Garden District and all the fathers coming to pick up their children in awe, trying to sneak away with some authentic Saints memorabilia. But other than that, I didn’t give the little boy much thought.
The little boy’s older brother played for Tennessee and he played well. So well that his name was being dropped left right and center. The little boy’s older brother went on to the Colts. My father mentioned this to me when the little boy's older brother was drafted but I’m pretty sure I just shrugged.
I grew up and went to University. I graduated and became a writer. The little boy grew up and went to University. He graduated and became the number-one draft pick in the 2004 NFL draft. That’s when I was realized that the little boy from the playground a long time ago was gonna be something. The little boy from the playground was now going to sport a huge number 10 on his shirt and become a San Diego Charger.
We all know how that turned out. The little boy’s father put in his two cents and the little boy was going to join that dude from “The Bachelor” and go on to throw countless interceptions for the New York football Giants.
But this season was different. It was a hell of a season. The little boy started every game but there were “issues.” He tended to fumble, make mistakes. People said he couldn’t handle the pressure, people said he wasn’t a leader, people said he’d never be as good as his brother.
It seemed that the only person who loved him was Plaxico Burress. Even his own parents were busy supporting their other son—the one who wins Super Bowls.
All of a sudden everything changed. Something clicked and the little boy became a man. It was like a switch was activated deep inside the little boy and the little boy became a Manning.
Tiki’s probably thinking he had something to do with it. “If it weren’t for me calling him out on his lack of leadership, there’s no way he could’ve lead the Giants in a 21-17 victory over the Cowboys,” he might’ve said to his brother Ronde.
Wait, the Giants upset Dallas? The same team that owned them twice this season? The little boy, Eli Manning, helped the Giants win over Dallas? Yes, that Dallas.
Was Jessica Simpson in attendance? For whatever reason, Tony Romo played like an amateur—or he spent the pre-game hours sniffing glue in the locker room.
While Romo was busy pleading with the refs over what he thought were bad calls, Eli was finding Amani Toomer for a pair of touchdowns. The little boy Manning was coming out of his shell. The little boy Manning stepped out of his brother’s shadow, looked around and said “Mom, Dad—it’s time you love me as much as you love Peyton.”
On that same day, Peyton’s Colts got killed by the Chargers, led by Philip Rivers—the same Philip Rivers who went to San Diego in the 2004 draft instead of Eli.
Getting chosen as the number-one draft pick because of your great quarterback ancestry then causing a stink because you’ll never be caught dead in a powder blue Chargers uniform, understandable. Even Drew Brees couldn’t handle being a Charger.
But the little boy did nothing to prove himself in New York for his first three seasons. He should’ve retired at 24 and went to grad school at Tulane.
And speaking of New Orleans, imagine growing up in the shadow of not only your big brother but your hard QBing pops? For Peyton, it was easy—he was that good. The Colts had a great season, and number 18 sat in silence while that dreamboat from New England inched his way to perfection.
Sure, Peyton and Reggie Wayne connected more than once on a slew of phenomenal plays—but nobody gave a flying fart because Tommy and Randy were busy slapping each other’s asses victoriously at Foxboro. But now it’s Eli’s turn, Peyton’s got his ring.
On December 29th, when the Giants met the Patriots at the Meadowlands for their last game of the season, Gran'pa Coughlin could’ve started J-Loads the Hefty Lefty instead of the little boy.
The Giants had secured a wild card spot in the playoffs, they didn’t need the win. New England did in order to break records.
The little boy’s team was doing okay, not great but definitely okay. Shockey was out, Burress was still limping, Strahan was doing his best to defend, Jacobs was trying gain yardage, and Eli still had a penchant for throwing interceptions. He’d sit on the sidelines in games past, between quarters with his red cap on sucking back Gatorade with that “aw gee shucks, I just done thrown another crappy one” look plastered across his face.
But on December 29th it was like Peyton had stepped onto the field wearing an Eli mask. The little boy played so well that it looked at one point like the Giants were going to be the team that bent the Pats over and gave them a spanking.
Can the Giants rip it up at Lambeau on Sunday? Maybe. Brett Favre’s like ninety-six years old, and he’s not as tough as he used to be. Yes, he’s a cold-weather quarterback from Mississippi and Eli’s a warm weather quarterback from Louisiana—but things change. The Giants are road winners and the little boy will try his best to secure Big Blue a spot in Arizona.
New England is 99.9% going to win the Super Bowl, let’s not kid ourselves here but imagine this: February 3rd we get to see history in the making. The Pats go 19-0 and Easy Eli finally wins the respect he so deserves.
Go ahead and name Brady Super Bowl MVP. Go ahead and give Belichick the award for coach of the year. Hell, give Moss, Welker, Bruschi, Seau, Stallworth, Gostkowski and company big fat endorsement deals. Add the New England Patriots to the Guiness Book of World Records—but add the little boy to the list of great Mannings.
After the Super Bowl, after the Giants have come this close to upsetting a perfect season ,the little boy can walk off the field. He’ll go into the locker room and pick up his cell phone. After a few moments of deliberating whether or not to make the call, he’ll dial.
“Hey Tiki, it’s Eli. Thank you for challenging me,” he’ll say in his thick backwater drawl. Then he’ll pause for effect. “Now eat sh*t.”
That’s right, little boy. You’ve earned it—because right now, you da Manning!
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