A tape of Peyton Manning’s farewell to Indianapolis yesterday should be required viewing for aging or not-so-aging superstars who find themselves having to say farewell to friends, teammates, fans and an entire city.
Manning got it right, leaving everyone with class, dignity and a lesson in how to say goodbye.
Although acknowledging that there has never been anything quite like it, WFAN’s Mike Francesa today compared Manning’s departure from Indianapolis to LeBron James’ decision to bolt Cleveland for Miami. How each elected to handle their situation, with Manning playing his role as the classy pro and LeBron playing the role of Ryan Leaf, completely devoid of class, dignity or professionalism.
Francesa was dead on. The New York City broadcaster put it best when he said Manning left everyone, even Colts fans, feeling better about themselves. LeBron, when it was his turn, essentially slapped Cavaliers fans and the entire city of Cleveland in the face.
When the NBA star interviewed potential suitors before heading to South Beach, Francesa said he insulted many of those he had rejected. What’s the chance of the Mannings – dad Archie will be involved, too – behaving in the same manner? Zilch.
The only negative to yesterday’s news conference were the little white lies told by Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay. Manning, who always plans ahead, said he hadn’t given any thought to where he might play next. I watched this guy play ball for 13 seasons. Believe me, he knows where he wants to go but will let everyone have their say, making sure to thank them afterward for making him feel wanted. Irsay said the decision to release Manning had nothing to do with money. It had everything to do with money, Jim.
At the end of Manning’s speech, he addressed Colts fans everywhere. I felt as if he was speaking directly to me.
“Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart,” Manning said. “I truly have enjoyed being your quarterback.”
Over the years, Colts fans like myself have had many moments to enjoy the fruits of our quarterback. A Super Bowl title, two AFC championships, four MVP awards, numerous come-from-behind victories. Terribly disappointing losses too, including many early in the postseason. Throughout everything, Manning always handled the ups and downs with class and dignity.
I was always proud to call Peyton Manning my quarterback. But now I’ll have to call him my ex-quarterback.
Like Manning reminded everyone yesterday: “I guess in life and in sports we all know that nothing lasts forever.”