The New York Giants and New England Patriots will square off in Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday in Super Bowl XLVI, just in case anyone happened to be vacationing on the moon for the past year or so. Just thinking about it still seems a little unreal: the biggest sporting event in the country will be held in our backyard. Who would have thought such a thing would ever be possible 10, even 5 years ago?
The decision to have Indianapolis host the Super Bowl was met with some hesitation and skepticism - mostly from the national media, who are as concerned with the climate and nightlife of the host city as they are with the Super Bowl itself - and everyone was convinced that they would only be forced to suffer through one Indianapolis Super Bowl. But a funny thing happened on the way to writing that, "It's so cold, we're all huddled up, trying to decided if we should eat Peter King" column: the great people of Indiana won over the national media.
From bummer to bright spot in just a weekend, the national message has quickly become about how great Indianapolis is. Of course, if you've ever been to the city, you know why the media is falling in love: hospitality, a well-designed city that has everything you need within walking distance, and enough of the "big city feel" without too many of the big city inconveniences. Regardless of the game on Sunday, that the media gave the city a chance, and that the host committee and all of the workers and volunteers delivered, have already made the Indianapolis Super Bowl a success on a few levels.
And what of the game on Sunday? Removing team allegiances for just a moment, the NFL, the city of Indianapolis, and NFL fans everywhere should be thrilled: Giants vs. Patriots promises to be one of the most exciting and dramatic Super Bowls in recent memory. The fact that both teams happen to be from large markets with fans who travel well? Well, no one will complain about that, either. In a great twist of irony, however, the hype, hysteria, hoopla, and the celebration of a great game and a great city are in danger of being overshadowed by the one person responsible for bringing the Super Bowl to Indianapolis in the first place, Peyton Manning.
Peyton Manning is one of the most important sports figures in Indianapolis History. Through his play on the field, Manning helped morph Indiana from a state that was all basketball all the time, to a state of football-loving maniacs. His intelligence and football sense lead to numerous offensive innovations. The success of the Manning-led Colts paved the way for the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium. And it was the construction of Peyton's Place that allowed Indianapolis to bid on and win the right to host the 2012 Super Bowl.
It is not, however, Manning's greatness, his contributions to the game, or his effect on the city of Indianapolis that is overshadowing the Super Bowl festivities, but his health. Rumors resurfaced this week that Manning was on the verge of retiring. Multiple media outlets have cited multiple sources stating what many of us have feared for some time: the nerve regeneration in Manning's arm is not nearly fast or complete enough to give them hope that the quarterback will physically be able to play in 2012.
The thought of Manning retirement is a tough one to deal with. Surely, the Indianapolis Colts will miss Manning, the man who brought them legitimacy, money, and on-field success. The NFL, who broke away from their normal "sell the team, not the player" mantra as they pushed Peyton into the spotlight, will miss one of their most marketable stars. And the people of Indianapolis, many of whom revere Manning as much as their basketball heroes from years ago, will ache at the sight of some non-Manning quarterback leading their Colts onto the field.
But while Manning's part in bringing the Super Bowl to Indianapolis should be remembered and honored, whatever his status for 2012 happens to be - whether he retires or makes some miraculous comeback - should not be a part of the festivities. There will be a time to deal with it, to deal with the emotions, to deal with the sadness (or the joy), and to deal with, as some Colts fans have come to call his absence, "The Manning Vacuum." There will be a time to celebrate his success on the field, the wins, the touchdowns, the records. There will be a time to honor his work in the community. There will be a time to thank him and to let him know that, despite growing up in New Orleans and going to school in Tennessee, he's one of us, he's a Hoosier.
But that time is not on Super Bowl Media Day. It's not on the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday leading up to the big game. It's certainly not Super Bowl Sunday. No, this week is not about Manning, it is not about nerve regeneration, retirement, or Rob Lowe's twitter account. This is a week for Peyton's brother and his biggest rival to soak up the attention, the coverage, and the accolades and enjoy, however begrudgingly, the spotlight. This week is about the celebration of a city and of a game.
Starting Monday, we will have the rest of our off-season, our summer, our lives to discuss, honor, and celebrate everything that Manning means to the game, the city, and to us.
Gee, the East Coast elites in the National Mainstream media were bad mouthing us midwesterners. What a surprise.
Comign from the NY area, where you get eltist, stereotypical headlines like, "the Hicks vs teh Knicks", its no surprise anymore they thougth oru saml city would be terrible. They are ignorant clowns
@GregC lol. The timing of the article couldn't have been more perfect. "Come on guys, there are other things to focus on this week"............And now an interview with Manning......... I think the collective Colts community went...... SQUIRREL! I guess were all just dogs.
I've not lived in Indy for almost 15 years so everything I hear is from outside the market. It is so awesome to hear from all levels of media, NFL players and regular folks what a great SB "experience" Indy is putting on. I mean, I understand that the weather is out of control and had a negative impact on Dallas last year, but from the sound of it Indy is putting most, if not all, SB venues to shame.
If that's truly the case, I would be absolutely stunned if the big game wasn't back at the Luke. Soon.
How about sharing some firsthand feedback for a Hoosier living outside the area? Is it as good as everyone's saying it is?
Everyone wishes this dark cloud wasn't floating over the city during the largest sporting event ever to take place in Indy, but it is. People care about Peyton all over the country and from a media pespective, Peyton sells. It's not unexpected as my expectations for the national media are already so low. But for me personally, I don't care about the Giants, the Patriots or any other team for that matter. Don't get me wrong, I hope the Giants crush the Pats but the #1 thing on my radar is the health of Peyton Manning. I don't think I owe it to anyone to have to put my emotions on hold because of the Superbowl. I only have an emotional investment in one team. The Indianapolis Colts.
Greg, I'm just wondering how close to you posting this did Wingo interview hit. It was unbelievable on several levels.
First of all, Peyton was such a great ambassador for the city... extolling the city's great virtues and even lobbying for Indy to get another Super Bowl.
And secondly... WTF about that attitude about his health?!
@DougEngland I had finished before it was announced, I was scrambling to edit because I heard "Manning is sitting down for an interview with ESPN right now", and I was like, omg relevance to my article, must hurry!!!1!!
Ironic that Peyton agrees with you, and said so in a long interview with ESPN that -- predictably -- is front and center on their site.
Wonder what the over/under is on the number of cutaways we're going to see during the game of him lurking up near the suites?
@pierrezombie 1 for every Eli scramble? My bet is on 13, unless he comes disguised as a miniature Spock. Yours?
I understand where you're coming from, but i disagree. For the national media, for New York and for Boston, yes, the majority of football coverage should be the Super Bowl. But for Colts fans, and for Indianapolis, I have zero problem with Manning taking more of the spotlight. The festivities of the Super Bowl are great, but for most Colts fans Manning's future is far more important than a Colts-less Super Bowl. That's my take on it anyway.
@PancakesPodcast I fully expect to be serenaded on tomorrow's podcast!
@PancakesPodcast I'm sorry, but to me football is almost always about Manning.