By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) In 2004, at the first fantasy football draft I ever participated in, I took Peyton Manning with the ninth pick. The format was a two-player keeper league with six-point passing touchdowns and no limit on how many years a player could be kept. Peyton Manning was never not on my team since then (including this past season because I am incredibly stupid).
I will not be keeping him next season.
One of the great things about fantasy sports is they practically force participants to watch games they otherwise would not (and make them secretly wish for their opponents’ players to die… but just the week I have to play against them. Then they can undie). So I began watching a lot of Indianapolis Colts games. That coupled with the Bears quarterback woes since… always… gradually made Manning my favorite NFL player.
Manning, released by the Colts on Wednesday, will leave that city as its greatest professional athlete ever. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks of a generation, he is largely responsible for turning a nonfactor into a top franchise in the NFL, and he is perhaps the most recognizable, commercial-friendly athlete in the country. He also happens to have one of the better senses of humor in sports.
A true legend whose name is already etched on “Top Ten” lists and scrawled in record books, throughout his career he defined what an athlete should be on and off the field. Nary a football fan on earth could honestly say he or she disliked Peyton Manning.
And that is why Manning needs to retire effective immediately.
I don’t want to see him become a Wizards Michael Jordan or a St. Louis Blues Wayne Gretzky. And at age 36 come March 24, he will, if not worse.
His neck injury and the odds that it will only get uglier the more large men treat it like a trampoline and could seriously jeopardize his post football life is one thing. But purely for my own selfish reasons, I want to see this star burn out rather than awkwardly and painfully fade away. I can’t bear to see a ragged Manning try to be his old self in a different uniform, two steps slower than a rickshaw pilot on Quaaludes, and overloading my TV with Manningface.
And because he is Peyton Manning, because he commands an audience, if he does choose to play for another team, I will be subjected to mass coverage of what will become awful football and over-analysis of “Why is Peyton Manning bad now?” and more Manningface jammed into my stomach until I produce my own aw shucks foie gras. Don’t do that to me, Peyton. Ride off into the sunset now while you’re white hat isn’t stained with dirt or the blood of the puppies Daniel Snyder eats for breakfast.
Otherwise Manning will join a team that most likely does not have the weapons he had in Indy nor the offensive line to limit him to being sacked an average of just under 18 times a season as he has in his career. Potential suitors and their 2011 sacks given up? Arizona—54, Miami—52, Seattle—50, Washington—41, Denver—40, New York Jets—39, Kansas City—34. With Manning being a full year off of the field—and, again, 36—expect those totals to rise (assuming he makes it sixteen games without hearing this bell).
And when he cannot be successful with a new team, we will see him grow angry and bitter. He will no longer be the folksy, witty Golden Boy we knew in white and blue. He’ll be ornery, if not pathetic. A rock star hating the fact that he’s reduced to playing county fairs.
Money certainly isn’t an issue for Manning as far as signing somewhere else, even though he won’t play for another team for cheap, and that team will be sacrificing cap room toward improving its squad in more than one area and putting all its eggs in a very flimsy basket if it signs him. The man has made enough in his career and can do endorsements until he’s ninety. Why risk permanently damaging Manning’s greatest future asset—himself? Unless he wants to limit himself to discount chiropractor and Sleep Number ads, the man needs to think about his future—health-wise and financially.
He’s also perfect for the booth. I have suffered for several years now with absolutely awful Monday Night Football TV broadcasts. THIS GUY Manning seemed long ago like he would transition to broadcasting seamlessly and surely ESPN would be salivating like Mike Tirico reading espnW to have Manning be part of its team.
So, please, Peyton. Hang ‘em up. Go out on a high note. Nobody looks down upon athletes whose great careers were ended by injury. Fans and writers do add footnotes to great careers that were prolonged into mediocrity, if not embarrassment, though. I don’t want to envision you throwing picks for the Redskins or lying flat on your back as a Dolphin. It’s been a great run, and you have nothing to hang your head about, especially while you still can lift your head on your own.
And I really don’t want to see your name sitting there in the mid-rounds of my next draft because I’ll end up taking you and hating you for it.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.