A Bittersweet Time for Football Fans 

Former Colts Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning (Photo: Indianapolis Colts)

Former Colts Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning
(Photo: Matt Bowen/Indianapolis Colts)

This week begins the NFL free agency signing period. The unofficial start of the 2015 season. A chance to sign veteran players, players with a track record, players who’ve had proven success.

I should be excited. I should be ecstatic. Instead, I’m heartbroken.

Because this is also the time of year when football fans have to say goodbye to players. Players who come into our lives, players we spend years getting to know, players we cheer for every Sunday, players whose health we obsess over, whose every word we hang on, and after years of investing all of ourselves in this relationship, eventually, some day…it’s time to say goodbye.

That time is now.

And just like any other relationship, it can rip your heart out.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not about one player. I love my team and I’m excited about what they’re building. I understand the business of football. And oddly enough, I don’t disagree with the decision.

But that doesn’t change how I feel about it. Truth be told, right now, when I picture my Colts lining up without Reggie Wayne this season…I feel sick and empty inside.

I know there are other guys out there. Guys who could come in and make an immediate impact. But I don’t care about those guys. I don’t have a history with those guys. I haven’t made memories with those guys.

Right now, I’m heartbroken. Weepy heartbroken. Don’t want to eat heartbroken. Nothing’s going to make me feel better heartbroken.

And that’s the curse of being a football fan.

I’m mourning the loss of one of the football loves of my life. But unbeknownst to me, I’m also in the process of making new memories and falling in love with new players. Only to eventually repeat this pain all over again.

But if the alternative to having my heart broken is having players I don’t love on my team, then the choice is easy.

I’ll take heartbreak.

Every time.

I just wish it didn’t hurt so damn bad.

XO

Time for Peyton Manning to come home. For good.

Peyton Manning (Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning
(Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

I love Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning made me a fanatical football fan. One of the most heartbreaking days of my life was the day Peyton Manning left the Indianapolis Colts. And his homecoming as a Bronco was no easier. Peyton Manning is the reason I have football blogs, and Twitter followers, and talk on the radio.

Which is why it hurts me so badly to say this…

But, it’s time for Peyton Manning to retire.

He’s won football games, and playoff games, and a Super Bowl. He’s broken record upon NFL record.

But age and injury and surgery have finally caught up with him. Peyton Manning isn’t the Peyton Manning that I used to know. He may be at times. And his football mind is sharper than ever. But as each season goes on, his laser rocket arm can’t consistently deliver. And there isn’t enough time for his aging body to recover.

Peyton Manning got booed by his own fans in Denver last week. And selfishly, I just can’t stand to see it. I can’t endure a quarterback controversy or listen to screams to bench the future Hall of Famer in favor of someone younger. Not when that quarterback is My Peyton.

He’s got a family now and his health and more money than he can ever spend. And endless opportunities in football. And a fan base back in Indianapolis that aches to welcome him back. And retire his jersey. And build him a statue. And reminisce about the good old days while shedding tears of both joy and sadness…

And end his legendary career right where it began.

I’m coming home

I’m coming home

Tell the world I’m coming home

Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday

I know my kingdom awaits and they’ve forgiven my mistakes

I’m coming home, I’m coming home

Tell the world I’m coming…home

Come home, Peyton.

We’re waiting.

XO

That Time I Thought I Was Over Peyton

It happened last Saturday. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I had just written my first unflattering story about Peyton Manning. He had gone off on the Denver scoreboard operator to the media.

Acting like a diva. Who did he think he was? Gisele Bundchen? It’s like I don’t even know him anymore.

You know what? I think I’m over him. Seriously. Two seasons removed from my beloved Colts, I think the third year is a charm. My team has moved on. And I think I finally have too. The Broncos and Colts have both found success, the Broncos with Peyton Manning and the Colts with Andrew Luck. And they seem like they’re on a collision course. Like two ships in the night…destined to meet at some point in the NFL playoffs. And you know what? For the first time, the thought doesn’t sicken me. I’m actually hoping for it.

I know this sounds crazy, and judge me if you want to…but Peyton Manning is the hardest breakup I’ve ever had. Seriously. But like they say, time heals everything. It just takes…time.

What a beautiful day.

I hop in my car and open the sunroof. And instead of turning on sports radio, I plug in my iPhone. As I hit the open highway, my hair blowing in the wind, a familiar tune starts playing through my speakers…

Still far away

From where I belong

But it’s always darkest 
before the dawn

 

So you can doubt

And you can hate

But I know, no matter what it takes

 

I’m coming home

I’m coming home

Tell the world I’m coming home…

My mind drifts back to last October. The Sunday Night Football promo. Peyton’s homecoming at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The sun shines brightly through my windshield, rendering me temporarily blind. Just like it did on that day. As I try to adjust, I can feel my eyes getting misty. I get a lump in my throat. And pretty soon, I know.

I guess that’s the beauty of memories. No matter how much has changed, they’re always there to remind you of what hasn’t.

Maybe I’ll get over Peyton another day.

Someday.

I hope.

Until then, I’ll just add another chapter to the story.

XO

Peyton Manning’s Real Legacy

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (Photo: (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning
(Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP)

There will be much talk about Peyton Manning’s legacy in the days, weeks, and months following Super Bowl XLVIII.

I will be honest…this wasn’t the Peyton Manning legacy story I was hoping to write this week.

The one I was prepared to write, had half written in my head was the one where he wins another Super Bowl, erases all question marks, and goes down in our hearts and minds as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).

I didn’t scrap it, because…he’s still Peyton Manning. And he’s still playing (as far as we know). And it’s still stuck in my head. But, it got me thinking about Peyton’s legacy. And legacies in general.

And here’s what I decided…

The thing about titles is that they’re temporary. It’s kind of like being the prettiest girl in school. You may be right now…but there’s always someone younger and cuter coming up behind you. Or, in Peyton’s case…someone younger, stronger, and tanner, with more hair.

You can look at the numbers all day long. I won’t, but others will. Super Bowls, playoff wins versus losses, touchdowns, passing yards…but those records will eventually be broken. By someone. Someday. Possibly many times over.

The legacy that I think will stand the test of time…is how Peyton Manning changed the game.

Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, Peyton Manning came into the NFL, not just a quarterback, but a student of the game. Stories of his weekly preparation and near-photographic memory have become almost folklore amongst his former coaches and teammates.

The role of Peyton Manning is that of a quarterback/offensive coordinator hybrid. Manning’s longtime offensive coordinator with the Colts, Tom Moore, used to joke that calling a play out to Peyton Manning was “merely a suggestion.”

Manning raised the bar on the job of the modern era quarterback. Being a leader and gunslinger was no longer sufficient. Nor was relying on athleticism to win games. He had a laser rocket arm, but his real weapon was his razor-sharp mind. To compete against Peyton Manning, or even in the same league with him…all quarterbacks would have to adapt.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made headlines in 2013, when he declared that his quarterback, Tony Romo (an avid golfer), would be putting in “Peyton Manning-type time” during the offseason. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has talked openly about how much it changed his game when he started studying film and game planning for opponents.

Even Manning’s arch-nemesis, Tom Brady, has called him “the greatest of all time.” Speaking to the NFL Network back in 2011, Brady said of Manning:

“He’s a friend of mine, and someone that I always watch and admire, because he always wants to improve, he always wants to get better, and he doesn’t settle for anything less than the best. So, when you watch the best and you’re able to learn from the best, hopefully that helps me get better.”
-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Peyton Manning

And even after mocking him, saying he “throws some ducks,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman had nothing but praise for Manning on Twitter. Here’s what he tweeted shortly after defeating him in Super Bowl XLVIII:

Peyton is the Classiest person/player I have ever met! I could learn so much from him! Thank you for being a great Competitor and person”
-Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (via Twitter) 

I don’t need Peyton to win another Super Bowl or even another game to cement what I believe is his real legacy.

With class, humility, and a good old-fashioned work ethic, Peyton Manning changed the game of football. For the better. Forever. For all of us.

And that, my friends…will be his true and lasting legacy.

XO

Browns fans…stand up. The time is now.

Former Browns RB Trent Richardson  (Photo: USA Today/Schwane)

Former Browns RB Trent Richardson
(Photo: USA Today/Schwane)

Wednesday, September 18th at 6:19 PM (EST), it was announced that the Cleveland Browns traded running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts.

At 6:20 PM, fans in Cleveland rose up out of their seats, went to their windows, and yelled… “We’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”

And who could blame them?

This is a football town. With a rich football history. Near a college known for producing some of the finest football talent in the league. And it’s appropriately located just north of the football holy land of Canton, Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Yet somehow, the football Gods have rained on the Browns and their fans for what feels like forever.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the tragic history of the Cleveland Browns franchise.

1994 – The Cleveland Browns go 11-5 and make the playoffs for the first time in four years.

1995 – Browns owner Art Modell moves the team to Baltimore (replacing the Colts who moved to Indianapolis).

1999 – The Browns reenter the league with a new team and a new stadium. The team retains the Browns name and history, only to set a new record (worst in franchise history) when they finish the season 2-14.

2000 – The Baltimore Ravens (former Browns) go 12-4 and win the Super Bowl.

2001-2004 – The Browns’ former coach, Bill Belichick (fired in 1995), goes on to win three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.

2010 – Though it has nothing to do with football or the Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers star basketball player LeBron James becomes a free agent and in a live broadcast on ESPN, The Decision, reveals that he is not resigning with the Cavaliers and is instead “taking his talents to South Beach…where they will win not one, not two, not three…NBA Championships.” So far, he has won two.

2012 – After more than a decade of mostly losing records under ownership of the Lerner family, the Cleveland Browns are sold to businessman Jimmy Haslam. Art Modell dies. And the Ravens go 10-6 and win another Super Bowl.

2013 – The FBI and IRS begin investigation into owner Jimmy Haslam’s Pilot Flying J corporation for conspiracy and fraud involving fuel rebates.

If ever there were a case for fans rallying together in a hostile takeover of their team…it is that of the Cleveland Browns. They certainly have the hostile part figured out.

My message to Browns fans:

Do not…

KEEP CALM

AND 

CARRY ON

 

Instead…

RAISE HELL

AND 

TAKE BACK YOUR TEAM

Good luck. And God bless.

XO

Disclosure: I am an Indianapolis Colts fan. I directly benefited from the Trent Richardson trade. However, my joy and excitement are slightly tempered by the sincere sorrow I feel for Browns fans. Good people. And great fans. You deserve better. And you will get better. Soon. I hope.

(Photo: Bleacher Report)

(Photo: Bleacher Report)

I’m sorry. I stand in solidarity with you. And I’ll be cheering for you.

Woof!