Last night on ESPN, the sports network introduced a new SEC Storied on the Manning family called The Book of Manning. The documentary introduced viewers to the world of Archie, Olivia, Cooper, Peyton, and Eli Manning. It was a revealing look at Archie’s career at Ole Miss, his NFL career, as well as how he raised his three sons. As we know Peyton and Eli went on to play college and professional football and between the two they have 3 Super Bowl rings in 4 appearances. The sons have gone beyond the career of their father, who in his time with the New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, and the Minnesota Vikings never had a winning season.
The real highlight of The Book of Manning comes after Archie retired from the NFL after the 1984 season and dedicated himself to the raising of his sons, while still being a hands-off parent when it came to their athletic pursuits. The film mentioned that Archie didn’t have his father around due to him being a workaholic, and due to him committing suicide just as Archie was starting college, so he did all that he could in being there for his boys on and off the field. The documentary spends some time on Peyton’s recruitment to Tennessee and Eli’s to Ole Miss, but it also highlights that Archie did not influence their decision in any way. The conclusion of The Book of Manning, should leave you feeling that this is a special family, and that Archie and Olivia raised their boys right.
I have to say I really enjoyed the amount of home movies the Manning family introduced into The Book of Manning. I learned that Eli really is an easy going, even keeled guy. Peyton is intense, and was also a bit of a crybaby when he was younger. Seriously, he might have cringed watching all of those scenes where he was crying about something older brother Cooper did to him. Cooper, may not be as well known as his younger brothers due to the fact he couldn’t continue his career due to a spinal injury, but his insights really gave you a better understanding to why his brothers are the way they are. The film really gave you a sense of how the boys were raised through Cooper and his words and his passion in describing their upbringing. The thing about The Book of Manning, and most of these ESPN films, is it allows me to travel back in time and share my memories, of who I was or where I was, through sports.
Now I’m too young to remember the career of Archie. He retired from the NFL when I was all of 3 years old, so I missed out on one of the fore fathers of the dual threat QB style. Looking at the clips of Archie’s skills, he was a running QB that took some risks in making plays down the field. He kind of reminded me of what Johnny Manziel does now with Texas A&M. So, yes I was too young to follow Archie but I’m just about the same age group as his sons and I have a few interesting memories tied to them.
I used to be a big football jersey guy. I still have a few, but it’s been a few years since I’ve bought one. Back in my teenage years, and my early 20’s I probably used to buy 5 to 7 jerseys a year. The first football jersey I ever wanted was a Peyton Manning Tennessee jersey. The year was 1997, I was about to start my junior year of high school and my Mom and I were doing back to school shopping. On a rack there were 2 sets of jerseys: Charles Woodson’s Michigan jersey, and Peyton’s. Despite me being a Michigan fan, I wanted Peyton’s jersey. That Vol orange was crazy to me and I needed that in my wardrobe. My Mom hated the color and refused to buy it. Plan B would have been the Woodson jersey but they didn’t have my size. No Peyton jersey for me. Now, this was a double whammy because as a Jets fan I could have had Peyton on my team if he came out of college after his junior season when the Jets had the number 1 pick. As we all know he stayed in school, and got drafted by the Colts #1 overall in the NFL Draft. Fastforward this story a few years to 2001 (or 2002) and what does EJ get in the mail? A Peyton Manning Colts jersey. It was meant to be.
I used to have a lot of college football jerseys. Most of them I gave away to family, or to the Salvation Army but the last college football jersey I bought belongs to the youngest Manning, Eli. The 2003 season I happened to catch a few of Eli’s games at Ole Miss and said to myself “this kid is pretty good”. Went online, and found an Ole Miss jersey at a nice discount and ordered it. Just in time for the ’04 Cotton Bowl where he lit the Dallas sky up, and just in before he was drafted #1 overall by the New York Giants in 2004. Besides owning a bunch of jerseys, I’m also a huge draftnik. I watch as much of the NFL draft as possible. Except one year, I had to miss the first day of the draft due to me taking the Foreign Service Exam. Which year was that? You guessed it: 2004.
The Brothers Manning have their rings, and their records, but The Book of Manning also showed without family all of that wouldn’t have been possible. Yes, they have their own drive, but that structure was necessary for that success. The Book of Manning also showed me, that I in my own way grew up with this family. I remember Peyton going to Tennessee back when I was in high school and seeing his games on TV (and how happy I was that his successor at Tee Martin actually won a National Championship in 1998). I am only 11 months younger than Eli, so when he was in college I was in college, and although I’m a Jet fan and not a Giant fan he still represents my area so there’s pride in that. I really felt right there with them, but that appears to be the magic behind SEC Storied, and the ESPN 30 for 30 films. Family and memories. Can’t beat that. Thanks, The Book of Manning.
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