who would you rather be: peyton or eli?

July 20, 2012 — Without defining it as such, my friend Tye Barrett and I debated the merits of perceived greatness versus actual success while we ate greasy enchiladas at lunch today.

In other words, we argued over whether each of us would rather be Peyton Manning or Eli Manning. I understand that Eli has now won more Super Bowls and probably always will have more Super Bowl rings than his big brother. But I’d still rather be Peyton Manning.

He argued that ultimately passing yards and prestige and endorsement deals failed in comparison to winning the last game of the season. That’s true in any “what does it all mean” conversation that requires tangible results.

But I played the argument that Peyton was more famous and beloved despite fewer Super Bowl wins because we watched him as the best quarterback in football from 1999 until 2010. Even though he only reached the NFL’s pinnacle at the end of the 2006 season when the Colts won the Super Bowl on February 4, 2007, we always expected him to win it. We watched him throw touchdown passes to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in September, October, November, December and January and viewed him as the possible Super Bowl MVP even though he only was that once.

Eli has been the Super Bowl MVP twice, but on neither occasion or any other time did he SEEM like he would be the Super Bowl MVP, say, in the middle of November. That’s why I would rather be Peyton Manning and that’s how I won the argument.

I also won the argument, at least in my mind, because I made an important redirect in the debate, which meant that I better understood the subject matter and somehow that makes me right as well. Tye asked if I could have the choice between my college team’s quarterback winning the Heisman trophy or the team winning the national championship, or if I could choose the Giants’ fate or the Colts’ fate, which would I choose. But that was asking me what I wanted for my team and the argument was “who would your rather be.” And even at that, I would bet Peyton is more cherished in Indianapolis than Eli is in New York.

Because this is completely subjective and theoretical, I can declare myself the winner.

But then Tye and I sat down for an actual chess match. He check mated me despite my gaining a distinct advantage in pieces midway through the game. It made me feel so foolish that if we had the debate after the chess match, I don’t think I would have fared nearly as well.

This is why actual chess is probably a more noble pursuit than conversational chess but why I will always prefer the latter.

(Addendum: As I think about this subject again in the metaphorical sense, I’m not sure I would rather be Peyton. I value Peyton more as a player than Eli. But Peyton’s path means all the trappings of fame and glory along with the constant disappointment of not reaching the ultimate goal. Still, Peyton is just cooler. You know?)

photo by Chris Faytok/The Star-Ledger

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