Monday, January 21, 2008

Eli's Going

I haven't watched a full NFL game all season, or in the last several seasons for that matter. But I had a lot of interest in the NFC title game last night, and watched, kick-off to overtime win. I didn't have a favorite. Both teams are lead by quarterbacks with Mississippi ties. I've always liked Mississippi native and University of Southern Mississippi grad Brett Favre--a gutsy, salt-of-the-earth country boy who is the kind of guy who you just know would take time to admire the nice buck in the back of your pick-up even if he didn't know you.

I've followed Archie and Olivia's youngest football prodigy for the past seven or eight years. Eli, unlike his older brother Peyton, followed oldest brother Cooper and their father's golden footsteps to Ole Miss. The name, Manning, is revered at Ole Miss. One of the main thoroughfares on campus is named Manning Way. The speed limit, campus-wide, is 18--Archie Manning's number when he played for the Rebels. Eli Manning brought back the on-the-field football magic missing at Ole Miss since his daddy left the hallowed hills of the northern end of southern nowhere for the NFL, thirty years previous. But, when I watch Eli play, I can't help but think that he reminds me of the character played by Tom Hanks in the movie "Big" -- a little boy in a man's body.

I could not have been prouder of the two Mississippi boys playing the games of their lives in sub-zero weather way up there behind enemy lines. It's hard to do things with your hands when the temperature is minus something and the wind chill is minus something more. I know--three winters spent training in Norway, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, still gives me icy nightmares, and can still be felt in the tips of my fingers when it gets cold. That they were able to pass that frozen football so often and with such accuracy amazed me. If only their receivers' hands were as little affected by the cold--lots of dropped balls that would have made a difference for either team.

Truth be told, I was kind of hoping for a Green Bay win--would have liked to see Brett Favre retire with a Super Bowl win. But, I'll root for Eli and the Giants on Super Sunday and hope for an improbable end to the most improbable seasons anyone could have imagined for New England and New York this year.
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