In less than an hour, Peyton Manning will run out of the tunnel at Mile High in Denver, CO, and my stomach will feel like a butterfly conservatory is inside it. It’s a little bit nerves, a little bit excitement, a little bit fear, and a little bit thankfulness. In other words, a WHOLE LOT of emotion. The fact that I am obsessed with him is not lost on me, but what matters to me is owning who I am, and there is no way I could honestly be myself and not include Peyton. Since the fall of 1994, I have eagerly anticipated not just football season, but football season with Peyton Manning. So, when we get to the beginning of a new season, my excitement grows because that’s the way I like to watch football…through him…through his eyes…through his game. That’s the football I know…every down…every route…every movement. And before you ask, no, I do not know every audible…that would require far more intelligence than I possess.
For 95% of the last 19 seasons, that’s the way I’ve enjoyed football season. Truthfully, that one season he didn’t play, I got to see football through his eyes as he stood on the sidelines, but that was excruciatingly NOT joyful. Now, last season…whoa…last season was some of the most fun I’ve had in his entire career. Maybe it was the new venue with the new fans and the new players and coaches…all whom I love and adore! Or maybe it was just a little bit of satisfaction getting to watch him stick it to every person who said he was finished…himself included. More than likely it was getting to revisit that joy I got all those years ago when I saw him play for the first time. It was a new start, and I ate it up!
As we barrel head first towards the end of his career, I find myself savoring…cherishing…every second we have left even more so than I already did. There is no telling when this all might actually end, so I want to appreciate it while I have it instead of the way we too often do: after it’s gone. I recognized to some degree how much I took him for granted before the neck surgeries. I expected him to show up on my TV screen on Sundays in the fall without question like he was immortal, and when that immortality came into question, that was a tougher pill to swallow than I care to admit. It made me appreciate even more the longevity of his career thus far as well as some of the players who came before him who had equally long careers. It’s not easy to do what he has done for as long as he has done it, and I hope to remind myself of that as often as possible for as long as possible.
Season #20 starts tonight, and that, my friends, is worth every butterfly in my stomach.