How Big Easy shaped legend of Manning

There was a nice little documentary on the radio here a couple of weeks ago which sought to debunk the corporate creation myths of the most successful entrepreneurs who rose up to dominate our daily lives.

How Big Easy  shaped legend of Manning

It was inspired by the 2011 multi-million dollar marketing ploy by Microsoft to recreate “The Garage” in which Bill Gates changed the world.

Disappointingly, it’s never as simple as a new enterprise gestating near the hammers and spanners somewhere in suburbia. Multiple other factors come into play and other people are some of most crucial pieces in the jigsaw.

It’s obvious, I know, but I’m certainly someone who needs to be reminded often that there’s never a single seismic moment that produces a sporting dynasty.

And yet, an impromptu stroll along a well-to-do residential street in New Orleans last Thursday produced giddied intrigue for me and my three travel companions.

We were in the Garden District, far away from the seedy glory of Bourbon Street. Apparently, a few celebrities live around there and, as tourists, you’re duly obliged to walk along and observe the genteel opulence of it all.

That’s when Tony — the greatest and most deprived Cleveland sports fan I’ve ever encountered — casually mentioned that the Mannings grew up somewhere around there.

The Manning patriarch Archie was a quarterback for the Saints and a legend forever more around the Bayou. He naturally decided this was where his family would grow up. Somewhere around here, Tony said, Cooper, Peyton and Eli threw the pigskin around as autumn leaves fell around them. Hurricane season ends when football begins, and the city becomes a more manageable place in which to be outside.

Peyton went off to the University of Tennessee, the Indianapolis Colts and then onto the Denver Broncos. Eli went to his dad’s alma mater, Ole Miss, before being drafted by the New York Giants, where his two Super Bowls still maddeningly overshadow what his older, better brother has achieved. Cooper, sadly, never made it past high school, his career ended by injury, passing on the number 18 to Peyton for posterity.

“We’re a block away,” shouted Katie Mc, who’d googled it on her phone. As it turns out, a pilgrimage to the house that Archie built is on a list of things to do in New Orleans.

You’re never short of things to do in The Big Easy and yet here we were, outside a relatively nondescript private residence, posing for Jen’s surreptitious photo and recollecting the home videos that appeared on documentaries of the young Mannings tossing the ball to each other, down from the balcony to their front garden.

We scurried on, feeling rightly inappropriate but getting a huge kick out of the Manning origin myth. How contented their life must have been, living and breathing football on this pleasant city street — quiet enough to be suburban but close enough to the French Quarter to really know deeply what the Saints and Archie mean to New Orleans.

Peyton Manning threw his 500th touchdown pass on Sunday, a landmark figure only ever achieved by Brett Favre.

Manning will overtake Favre’s 508 total in the next couple of weekends. Sunday’s visit to the New York Jets will take a chunk out of that target, a total which will give him sole possession of the top spot, a potentially unbeatable figure whenever his retirement arrives.

The Denver quarterback — who will be 39 next March — was almost forced to quit three seasons ago after a neck operation that seemed ultimately debilitating for someone so dependent on panoramic vision and a jolting throwing action.

That Super Bowl capitulation last January aside, Manning’s second coming has been stunning. And just like any good origin myth, there is no single, simple reason for it.

Just like any successful innovator of his craft, Manning is keen to talk down his achievement, an impenetrable professional with no regard for anything other than hard work.

Reporters wondered if when he threw that 500th touchdown pass to Julius Thomas on Sunday, did anything cross his mind about the importance of the moment? Just all the people who helped along the way, he replied, predictably.

What will he do with the fateful football? In all his years, he never got to keep one — it was always those pesky wide receivers who kept them. So he didn’t really have a grand plan, maybe tape a note around it, put it in a plastic bag and stow it somewhere until his young fella finds it and plays with it in the mud.

There was nothing for writers to work with apart from the inherent simplicity of his process.

Study hard, work hard and execute every time. He learned that at home in New Orleans from the other Mannings.

Nothing more complicated than that.


Twitter: JohnWRiordan

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