This is a bit late in coming, but like a lot of the other people, I was thrilled to see Eli Manning follow in his big brother's footsteps and earn a Super Bowl ring. We were cheering for the Giants at our house because it's an NFC-East team. The Redskins couldn't get their act together -- Will they ever? -- but we were at least somewhat represented at the big dance.
I called my mother during the game and she didn't want to talk. She was too excited about the Giants pulling ahead to upset the undefeated Patriots -- with her boy Eli at the helm. She was equally excited last year about the Colts' victory, even though I chided her about rooting for the team that had abandoned the fair City of Baltimore, where I live, under the cloak of darkness. After all, her boy Peyton was leading the charge.
So what is it about those Manning brothers? My mother, a pro football fan?
In a nutshell, Peyton played for the University of Tennessee, and my father was the biggest UT football fan that ever lived. Daddy spent (or perhaps misspent) his freshman year of college at UT before he joined the Army Air Corps during World War II. After that, his blood ran orange. While he didn't get to attend that many games, he was always glued to the television or radio when the Vols were playing. The names "Doug Dickey" and "Bill Battle" were whispered in reverential tones at our house. Daddy cut clippings after each game and sent them off to my brother-in-law, an expatriate Big Orange fan down in Florida. He wore a UT ball cap when he did his chores or attended outdoor events. Though none of us kids decided to attend UT, Daddy was thrilled when a couple of his granddaughters ended up as alumna there. And on his last day of life, he lay dying in a hospital bed wrapped in my brother-in-law's orange and white throw something like this one, a Big Orange fan to the end. I am sort of glad that my mom didn't do this, however.
So what does this have to do with last week's Super Bowl? Daddy's enthusiasm for UT football extended to alums of that program, including Peyton Manning. Daddy was a huge Manning fan. (I can understand his affinity for Peyton, but I suppose Eli gets lumped into the pantheon because he's the little brother and attended another Southeastern Conference school rather than go somewhere in the Big Ten.)
Daddy died in August 2006. The Colts, led by Peyton Manning, won Super Bowl XLI in 2007. The Giants, let by Eli Manning, won Super Bowl XLII in 2008.
Does it sound like someone is exercising undue influence from the Great Beyond on behalf of the Manning boys?
Okay, that's a bit farfetched, but I'm sure Daddy is smiling this week.