He had everything going for him. All-American looks. A beautiful wife and two children. Records upon records in the books, and honors rendering him one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, including five NFL MVP trophies and 13 Pro Bowl selections. Of course, it wouldn’t be a complete picture without a Super Bowl ring, which, naturally, he has.
We’re talking about Peyton Manning here—one of the most-liked guys in football, or any sport, for that matter.
I remember two weeks ago when Denver defeated the Patriots 26-16, and my dad said, “If the Broncos play like this [in two weeks], no one will be able to beat them. They’re just too good.”
Then Sunday happened.
Someone did beat them, and over the course of roughly three and a half hours, Peyton Manning went from best ever to best ever in the regular season. G.O.A.T. to goat. All it took was one off day against one strong defense.
I love me a Manning (let’s go Giants!) so I might be a bit biased, but it was maddening to see people question Peyton’s prowess on account of, essentially, one bad game. Yes, this was the game of all games and the one that meant the most out of the entire season, but what about the 18 games leading up to it? Don’t those count? Heck, 30 quarterbacks didn’t even make it to this game, and most of them never will.
Peyton Manning has garnered every accolade that there is to be garnered in the NFL. He has his own charity called the Peyback Foundation, and he has a hospital named after him in Indianapolis. Yet, after one blown game, critics are quick to hop off of the Manning bandwagon and claim that he has a tainted legacy.
We all have our bad days, even guys who take on Superman personas like Peyton Manning. Feb. 2 was a bad day for Peyton. But for normal people like us, one bad day has no impact when weighed against every positive thing we’ve accomplished. So, is it fair for us to discredit everything Peyton has accomplished because of one bad day?
As sports fans, I think we often see the W’s and the L’s, and based on that, we carelessly toss labels around. Over the course of one game, in just a matter of seconds after that final score goes up, players can go from “good guy” to “bad guy,” or “winner” to “loser,” in spite of everything that might have happened before that game. To profile athletes based on one game, no matter how big it is, is misguided.
The same can be said of people who try to peg certain individuals as the reason for a team’s losses here at Columbia. It’s especially relevant in places, like Columbia, that have a reputation for being particularly weak in athletics, because critics are always looking to point fingers. I myself have been guilty of this in the past, and I know that it’s easy to forget someone’s past triumphs when all you can think about are their present failures.
Moments of success or failure in the last game of the season—or in other words, whether an athlete chokes or succeeds in that game—do not, and should not, define an athlete. Athletes should be judged by all that they have accomplished over the course of their careers. It is critical that we form opinions based on a holistic analysis of athletes’ careers and not be so quick to label them based on their performances in one game. In doing so, there is the possibility that we shatter the image of an athlete who does not deserve such a fate.
So before you put Peyton’s head on the chopping block, remember how many more Pro Bowl selections and MVPs he has than every other quarterback. The only thing that Peyton did last Sunday was show us his human side, and certainly, there is no reason to penalize him for that.
Melissa Cheung is a Columbia College junior majoring in English. Closing In runs biweekly.