Far be it from me to tell former All-Pro quarterback Archie Manning and his wife, Olivia, how to live their lives, but let me just say this to them. Here's how to live your lives: When you're having a once-in-a-lifetime experience, try to enjoy it, because it might not happen again for a few months.
It could happen again this year, the Manning boys starting at quarterback in the same NFL game as they did Sunday night in New Jersey. It would have to be in the Super Bowl, which is possible, if it doesn't exactly look likely after Eli's New York Giants melted down into an oozing puddle of mistakes in a 26-21 loss to Peyton's Indianapolis Colts.
Never before have brothers started the same NFL game at quarterback -- this column is the only place where you can get this kind of inside information -- and the game actually lived up to its considerable hype.
Both Mannings played well enough to win -- or lose -- a game, though Eli, younger by five years at 25, made two key errors as he tried to rally the Giants late, a fumbled snap and an interception.
But we really can't hang the loss on little brother. The Giants dropped two interceptions early as the Colts built a 13-0 lead and they took some bad penalties, the worst of them a procedure foul with the Giants down only 26-21 with 17 seconds left and the clock running. That forced a 10-second clock runoff and left Eli time for one more play, an incomplete pass down the left sideline.
There was also a missed 40-yard field goal by Jay Feely as the Colts were building their first-half lead and a horrible offensive interference call against Tim Carter on a first-down completion with a little over four minutes to go, the Giants trying to rally for a go-ahead score. Eli's next throw, on third-and-11 from his own 9, was picked off by Nick Harper.
NBC's cameras periodically observed Archie and Olivia slouched in their luxury-box seats looking as though they were watching their sons' murder trial, not a football game.
The shot sometimes included the eldest Manning brother, Cooper, whose promising career as a receiver was cut short before his freshman season at Ole Miss by a spinal condition. "A very successful person in his own right," NBC's Al Michaels pointed out so viewers wouldn't feel bad for him. Cooper's an executive in the energy business in New Orleans.
He's also, according to everything I've ever heard or read about the Manning boys, every bit as charming, witty and stylish as his brothers are dull and publicly awkward, and he's perfectly fine with his football career having ended, with his ability to eat dinner in public without being bothered. So really, don't feel bad for him.
He didn't look like he was having fun either.
Archie told the New York Daily News last week that he and especially Olivia have a hard time watching their sons play because they worry about them getting injured.
"During most games she can usually relax when the quarterback goes off the field, but not this time," he said.
Cooper told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y., that he debated even going to Sunday night's game because he didn't know which team to root for.
Folks. Calm down. First of all, for all the hype about the Mannings going head to head, they -- and I don't want to throw anybody off with football esoterica here -- didn't. They don't. They're not on the field at the same time.
Why has this tower of hype never been constructed when Tiki Barber of the Giants and Ronde Barber of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played each other? That's happened four times so far and will happen again on Oct. 29 if they're both healthy. Those guys are twins, and they play on opposite sides of the ball. They can actually hit each other. There will be a dozen NFL games this regular season in which a pair of brothers are on opposing teams.
I'm a parent and I get Archie and Olivia's concerns about seeing their sons get hurt, but at some point you just have to let go and enjoy life. Statistically speaking, an NFL quarterback in 2006 has a greater chance of crashing his motorcycle than of suffering a season-ending injury on the field.
That's a joke, but still. Peyton Manning rarely even gets knocked down, for crying out loud. Enjoy the game. I mean, enjoy life. There's a larger lesson in here somewhere. You can't get so tied up worrying that something bad will happen to your kids that you can't enjoy the great things that happen to them and the good things they do.
Archie Manning spent 14 seasons in the NFL and never played for a team that had a winning record. Peyton and Eli both made the playoffs last year, they're both in the Super Bowl conversation this year. Crack a smile, Mom and Dad.
And what's this stuff about not knowing which team to root for? Root for the team that has the ball. Where's the rule that says you have to root for one team or another to win?
I usually root for a quarterback to get injured, but that's just me.
I'll pledge to you right now: If my two kids are ever starting at quarterback in the same NFL game, I'll sit in that shoe-company luxury box and the cameras will see me going ape-crazy bananas, cheering their every exploit, booing the bad calls -- Tim Carter did not push off, ya bum! -- having the time of my life.
Right up until someone says a girl shouldn't be playing quarterback in the NFL. Then I'm going to have to get in a fight.
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