It all started around Week 5. I held off writing an Eli post, but my close friends and Facebook buddies are fully aware of how I just wanted Eli to rock it this year. My Raiders were going nowhere, so I had to find some place to focus my fanhood – not my loyalty, just a rallying point. Around mid-season I sat on my couch trying to convince my friend Lloyd that something special clicked for the Giants during the loss to the Packers. He’s not a fan and won’t be convinced. But with each game, I became a bigger champion of Kid Manning. A few weeks later, my friend Tracy called with 3rd row tickets to the Giants-Cowboys game at Jerry’s House, Cowboy Stadium. I again watched Eli, with calm and clutch care, continue to position his team for another dance card. He was cool.
Eli’s cool looks different than the typical hero cool, like the Joes (Montana and Namath). Most often, it doesn’t look cool at all. Montana had a saunter, a stroll off the field following a series that just looked so damn impressive. Namath had a “Do I care what you think?” cool necessary to win over intentionally disgruntled New York fans. Eli, on the other hand, walks off the field with the same “oh well” look whether he completed a pass or took a sack. If you have a younger brother who’s endured the daily taunting of older, athletic siblings, you know that “whatever” look. But it’s the confidence of all three that makes the difference. They are already on to the next play while dissecting what just happened and determined to get the win. Even when they lose, they think they should have won. And like Eli said at the beginning of the season, they believe that they’re elite.
I listened to sports radio and collected quotes from different stars on pundits on Manning’s play. Here’s some of what I heard, from both sides of the ball, past and present.
Cris Carter, retired WR:
“There’s nothing on or off the field that gets to him. When he said he was elite, I thought he was elite… He plays in such different conditions than Peyton.”
Bradie James, ILB Dallas Cowboys (after their season ended.)
“Eli – Man he came to battle….We saw that he finds the open guy and those guys catch the ball. …I voted for him for the Pro Bowl.”
Patrick Crayton, WR Chargers:
“If you know anything about football, you’re gonna give this guy his respect.”
The Eli-noise is louder, of course, following his Super Bowl win and earning his 2nd MVP trophy. He and his 52 teammates made their way through the NFL against other, cooler looking QBs named Rodgers, Ryan and the newly cool Alex Smith. Each time the underdog. Each time the winner. The last win was the best and lasting memory, the 2nd Super Bowl in four years against proclaimed dynasty.
It’s funny though. After all those wins and under the confetti, Eli sounded the exact same and had his familiar, non-swaggerlike smile as he spoke on his team win. But he held up that trophy with authority. Go Eli!