For those of you who have been living in a cave for the last few weeks, let me share some context. One of the greatest teams of all-time came into the Super Bowl with an eye towards doing something no other team had ever done: a 19-game undefeated season. On the other side were the Giants, a team no one expected to make it past their first playoff game, much less the next two. Their QB was 27-year old Eli Manning. Eli, whose Dad was one of the best players in New Orleans Saints history. Eli, whose brother Peyton is one of the best players in NFL History and the winner of last year’s Super Bowl. Eli, who led a terrific college career, but was a victim of unrealistic expectations everywhere he went. Eli, who despite his age, had already been designated a bust by many people in the media. Eli, whose leadership was openly questioned by a selfish retired ex-teammate who decided to help his budding TV career by starting a controversy with an easy target. His family, particularly his brother, set a virtually impossible bar and he had no choice but to live with it. Time did a cover story on inferior younger siblings and used him as an example. Even when he got to the Super Bowl, Eli never got his due. But he never complained. He never whined about the expectations. Eli just focused on being the best he could be. Then, in a two-minute stretch of NFL history that has left an indelible mark on any fan of the game, Eli pulled off the greatest miracle of all-time through an amazing combination of leadership and tenacity that would’ve made his brother proud. In fact, it did.
Throughout that final drive, the camera kept panning to his family in the crowd as they passionately supported Eli. Not because they knew the cameras were on them. Not because they were rooting for an underdog. Not because they were obligated. No, it was happening because that’s what families do. And no one was more active that Peyton. After the game, they interviewed him: "You sort of play the game as you are up there watching, but you are pulling so hard for Eli. I was pumped, and I got a lot of messages telling me to calm down because I was excited and pumped after the big plays he was making."
With every fist pump and high-five, I started seeing what was going on. This was an amazing family moment. One for the ages. In a game where I started out somewhat neutral on my allegiance, I suddenly became an Eli fan. Not a Giant fan, but an Eli fan. When he escaped a sack and threw a 32-yard pass that still defies reality, you knew there was something special going on. And you knew he wasn’t doing it alone. Every backyard game, every lesson in how to throw a football, every wrestling match, every "two for flinching", every noogie from the older brother, every battle for the last slice of pizza, all of it goes into what you saw on the field. When all was said and done, Eli walked away with an MVP trophy and the respect and admiration of the world, but probably none more rewarding than from his brother. "This has been Eli’s year," Peyton said after the game. "I am proud to have been here tonight. I am proud to be his brother and I love him very much."
Eli will never be Peyton Manning. Frankly, there may never be another Peyton Manning. But you can argue that Peyton wouldn’t have been Peyton without Eli and Eli wouldn’t have been Eli without Peyton. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my brother. I went through times when I heard a lot of "he’ll never be as good as his brother". In fact, it describes much of the first two decades of my life. But I would never have traded it, even on my worst day. On a daily basis, I notice several things that I do that are a direct result of his influence. My competitiveness. My drive to succeed. My capacity to mentor others And I expect I had an influence on him as well. Throughout it all, we’ve been each other’s biggest fans. I promise you that the cities of Seattle/San Francisco and Providence have seen a lot of fist pumps over the last several years.
And that’s why we’re four months into pregnancy #2. Cherise and I have bought Iris books, clothes, toys, and many other things. Yet there will never be a greater gift we can give her than a sibling. Heck, I’d even be OK if there are no Super Bowl rings involved. On the other hand, the idea of an NFL Quarterback son–now that’s interesting. But we’ll save that for another blog entry…