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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Eli Manning: my new best friend

By John Halverson

I was the little boy whose mother dressed him funny.

My father, among other things, had once been a football coach, but he only lived long enough to teach me how to fall.

So it is no surprise that my moment of football glory occurred in grade school as I broke through several blocks and snatched away the opposing ballcarrier's flag.

While I'm sure no one else on that field recalls that moment-or, for that matter, me-I still glory in it 50 years after the fact. For those people who "just don't get" the thrill of sports for wannabes, that's it-the revenge of the nerds.

And that's why some of us took special pleasure Sunday when the outcast beat the pretty boy in the biggest game of the season. The score was Losers 1, Winners a big fat nothing.

The pretty-boy quarterback with his bevy of starlets and a cocky demeanor fell hard to a quarterback whose prime claim to fame had been as the little brother of perhaps the greatest quarterback of his era and the son of another successful NFL quarterback.

Even his name seemed to define him. While big brother's is "Peyton," little brother was stuck with "Eli." Even his father's name, "Archie" at least sounds All-American.

Eli has been taunted for years for his supposedly bland personality, his supposed inability to lead or handle pressure which, roughly translated, means he wasn't man enough-the ultimate slight for the little boy in all of us.

Making the drama all the more poignant, Eli's win came in a Super Bowl between his team, which was "lucky enough to be there," and a team touted as the best ever.

The defining play occurred when Eli, seemingly tackled for a loss, spun away from several would-be tacklers and completed a third-down, fourth-quarter pass. I doubt I'll ever be able to say this again but, "Eli, I know how it feels."

If the Packers had made the Super Bowl, it would have been in character for Brett Favre to win like that, but Favre didn't make the Super Bowl this year, nor did Eli's big brother. They've been there before and won, as has Eli's pretty boy counterpart this year.

Winners have many days. Losers have too few.

To put it in perspective, Eli's defense probably deserves more credit for the win than Eli and if it were not for a spectacular catch Eli's redefining play would have been just another incomplete pass. But there are moments not to put things in perspective and this is one of them.

Sunday at least, the pretty boy lost and us little guys whose mothers dressed us funny have a new best friend.

The author is general manager of The Week


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