Today is the day. Peyton Manning and Indianapolis Colts, after fourteen seasons, have parted ways. The experts call it business. I say, it’s personal.
This day has been sitting out there on the calendar for a while—a nebulous due-date of bad news—and I wish I were shocked by how suddenly it arrived. What? Peyton Manning is leaving the Colts? Are you shitting me? What happened? But it’s not like that. That would be easy. This is not.
The tributes are in place. The photographs and video clips and newspaper articles have been gathered. The montages are set to courage scores and fades-out, words of praise from his heroes and his coaches and his father, players he’s mentored and the families of children at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent. All that’s left for a fan to do is sit and watch the monitor—memorize every digital bleep and crest—wait for his first and last word on the subject, that last breath of blue and white air–though we know he’s already gone. Hannah Storm is wearing her best funeral boots.
There’s no reason to rehash the stats here. If you’re reading this, you know. His athletic achievements speak for themselves. His name is already chiseled into the stony history tablets of the NFL as a Hall of Famer, One of The Best Ever, The Face of the Franchise, An Institution. He’s a Humanitarian and a Philanthropist, an Intellectual and a Family Man. The records and the trophies, his longevity and loyalty—The Ring—they all add up to something larger than life.
But he’s not. He’s humble and generous, controlled and gracious, a hardworking guy with a penchant for David Allen Coe songs and a longstanding bromance with Kenny Chesney. He’s brought indescribable, unclassifiable joy to his fans and to the city he calls home, dedicated himself to his profession and a plethora of charities.
And his work is not done.
He’s still got game. Somebody has the opportunity to benefit from Indianapolis’s loss. The 18 jersey is retired; the man who wore it so proudly has not.
I write this as he delivers his speech and I cry with him, but with far less grace. I don’t let go easily. He mentioned that he’s worn the horseshoe for most of his adult life, and that stands true for me, as well. I followed him from Tennessee to Indiana and never looked back. His Colts have been my steady through good and bad, through deaths and births and moves, like the strong shoulder of a good friend. Like family.
So, thank you, Peyton Manning. For the memories. For the ups and downs. For showing us what loyalty and dedication and teamwork look like in action.
And as you take your next steps forward, I stand beside you. I cry with you. I promise to be waiting at the next stop. That’s what super fans do.
That’s what family does.