Taking Note of a Few Things: The Manning Family Edition

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The Manning family is perhaps the best-known family in football. As a kid, I grew up watching Archie Manning get the snot knocked out of him while trying to quarterback the putrid New Orleans Saints. Archie had all the makings of being a great quarterback until he was selected by the expansion Saints. While he was beloved by New Orleans, Archie got hit more often than he completed passes.

This leads us to some guy named Peyton Manning. He is one of three sons of Archie and followed his dad as a great college quarterback. However, Peyton had the good fortune of playing for a well-coached Indianapolis Colts team before finishing his career with the Denver Broncos. Peyton’s duels with Tom Brady were legendary and perhaps had it not been for a neck injury, we’d still be talking about him and Brady together.

Peyton’s little brother, Eli, was no slouch. Eli also starred in college as well as leading the New York Giants to two Super Bowl titles. Never as good as Peyton, still, Eli carved out a long career and one I am sure his old man is proud of. Not many guys play quarterback as long as he did in the Big Apple and never seem phased by it.

Peyton Manning at Super Bowl 50 (Claudia Gestro)

Cooper Manning is the lesser-known son of Archie and older brother of Eli and Peyton. He was diagnosed with spinal stenosis his senior year in high school, so he never had the opportunity to show the world his football talent. However, he used his football smarts and turned into an outstanding quarterback coach and has helped develop many young throwers. He has also fathered Arch Manning, Archie’s grandson. Arch is currently either the top or second highest rated high school quarterback in the country and set to attend Texas next year.

While I liked Archie Manning when I was a kid, I have never been a big fan of either Peyton or Eli. Both were what I called pretty boring as players and did not play for teams I liked so there was never a reason for me to cheer for them. Since they have retired, the two brothers have cashed in on a pretty loyal following for their back-and-forth bantering. Both are pretty funny.

I am already sick of Arch. The kid is a senior in high school and ESPN has been covering him since he was in seventh grade. Why do we need to have his games televised on national TV? His team isn’t even ranked in the national top 25. There are far more deserving kids, but none with the Manning pedigree. Arch’s team lost last night. I know this because I can’t find a sports website that doesn’t have it in as bold of a headline as something else that happened in sports at the same time; Albert Pujols hitting his 700th home run, an actual milestone worth covering.

I guess we got tired of breeding horses and are now more interested in breeding athletes. Imagine if Archie Manning had a famous athlete for a wife. Just think of how their kids would have turned out. Instead, they were taught from the moment they could walk how to grip and rip a football. By 4th grade, they were probably breaking down game film, snacking on protein shakes and writing dissertations about the west coast offense. Their toughest decision in high school was what college to accept a scholarship from.

One thing I did find very funny was last week’s YouTube video showing Eli Manning in prosthetic makeup walking onto the campus of Penn State and trying out for the football team. Not only is he hilarious, but the head coach was in on the prank and never let his assistants know about it. Watching the assistant coaches debate whether or not he was worth offering a scholarship shows you all they can see are bodies and their talent and nothing else. So what if he looks like a middle aged man. They think he is worth signing despite his horrifically slow 40-yard dash time.

I also enjoyed reading an LA Times article on the resurgence of the double wing offense. If passing the football is your thing, you have probably never heard of it. The double wing relies on four basic running plays. On every play, ten guys are blocking for one runner. Guessing who the runner is with all of the misdirection and shifts is a challenge, especially for high schools that are used to today’s game of pass, pass, and pass some more. The article points out that most high schools have a lack of talent, lack of size, and just a lack of participants . Instead of relying on Arch Manning to throw the ball 40 times in a game, the double wing can take your middle linebacker and turn him into a blocking quarterback. Great double wing offenses might throw the ball two or three times a game.

We have become too caught up in creating super leagues at all levels of competition. The top high school programs rely on raising funds to fly planes to games against other top schools all over the nation. Santa Ana Mater Dei flew to Hawaii. They have traveled to Texas, Florida, and most anywhere else to play other top teams because they only measure their success in the form of winning national titles.

My son played soccer in third grade. He was fortunate enough to have a good coach and his team went undefeated. The kids were not finished high fiving one another when parents were asking me if my son was playing on a travel ball team. Joe was good, but I knew it was just a game for him and he didn’t care that the season was over. He was ready to go back to digging holes in our front yard with his best friend. Parents actually told me I needed to make him play or risk seeing him passed up by other kids. The following year, I asked if he wanted to play soccer again and he said no. He was over the sport.

Parents today place too much pressure on their children. It robs them of their childhoods. If they are pressured, or “encouraged” to get the top scores in class, be the top athlete in school, or the best at anything else at the expense it cheats them out of being a kid, it will come back to haunt parents. Worst of all, if we pressure them into being what we want them to be, it’s a near guarantee that that kid will rebel and be stunted in their growth as a person.

There were times our front yard looked like the aftermath of a WWII battlefield with all the holes my son and his friend dug. He has loved hard labor and working with his hands all his life. It was his passion even when he scored in the top two percent nationally in language skills while driving his mom and me crazy with a D in Language Arts. For his tenth birthday, he asked for lumber so he could build something even though as a man who coached sports for 30 years, I saw he had a fastball like no one I had seen before. Baseball wasn’t his thing. Sawing and hammering were so lumber would be his birthday gift.

Today, I see families who are strangers to one another. Moms and dads have kids but hardly seem to interact with them. Parents and kids are on their own mobile devices and lost in their private worlds. Forget about talking because they have ear buds turned on to block out anyone from conversing with them. I saw a mom recently getting her exercise with her kid in a running carriage. The kid was screaming, and mom was jogging along with music blasting or a podcast playing through her buds. Someday, it will be reversed. That mom will be elderly and screaming for her daughter’s help and it will be her daughter who will be tuned out to her cries. Karma, baby.

Karma is a bitch. No seriously, Karma is the name of a dog that lives up the street from us. Karma is special. You see, Karma gets to run around the park near us without a leash even though it is posted to keep dogs on one. Karma is precious. Just stop and talk to its owner and she will tell you what a wonderful dog she has and how it’s okay he runs off his leash because Karma comes when called. Whenever Peanut and I encounter Karma, Peanut wants to shake the life out of him. Of course, just talk to Karma’s owner and she will tell you Peanut is not a nice dog. Uh, he knows how to walk using a leash.

When you are a retired teacher, and you encounter a dog like Karma and an owner like he has, you are instantly reminded of scores of kids whose parents thought their child was so special the rules did not apply to him. In the education world, these kids and parents are known as Nightmares. Nightmares are also known as Time Suckers because if you, as their teacher, are not dealing with the endless phone calls or emails sent from the parents, then it is the ladies in the front office, counselors, nurse, or school administrators stuck dealing with them. Nightmares rarely go away and if they do, you can bet they have a younger sibling.

I was a lot of things: father of the year was never one. Believe me, parenting in hindsight is better than in real time. My kids might have been the cause of one or two eruptions on my part. Then again, my depression probably did not help. Oh, and if you think it is easier to parent when you are a teacher, you are wrong. I had my share of nightmare kids whose mom and/or dad worked in education. I had a superintendent who I admired greatly whose kid was horrific and I never had him in class.

Here is the biggest difference I see in parenting today. I have encountered too many who have no idea their kid is calling the shots and running mom and dad ragged. My daughter Hannah hit a stretch where she would throw a fit in the car as we approached a family destination. It might be a store, a park, or restaurant, and she would turn on her fit switch. Then, one day, she did it as we pulled into our mall in early September. She didn’t want to go shopping for school clothes. I handed my wife the car keys. Hannah and I were going to walk home. We had over three miles to cover and my 49ers were set to start a new season in an hour. I told Hannah we better not miss the opening kickoff or there would be hell to pay. We made it with enough time for me to send her to her room while I watched the game. That was her last tantrum. Today, a parent who does this is called cruel and it is put on the internet.

Today’s parents need to care less about what social media says and try more old school parenting.

In closing, I don’t give a rip if my front lawn is turning brown, keep your kids — and Karma — off it. I’d hate to have to take them for a walk.