A thorough but light-handed account of the making of a sports dynasty.
Peyton and Eli Manning are the big names in a football family with roots in the football-crazy Deep South, Eli renowned as the second-highest-paid quarterback in NFL history, Peyton as “the face of the most popular sport in America.” Yet the Mannings, as older readers and fans will know, go beyond the brothers. Longtime Sports Illustrated reporter Anderson (The Storm and the Tide: Tragedy, Hope, and Triumph in Tuscaloosa, 2014, etc.) begins and ends his vigorous story with Peyton’s triumphant performance at Super Bowl 50, when he ended his career as the lead quarterback for the Denver Broncos. As the author notes, Peyton’s numbers were legacy enough, with a record-setting number of 4,000-yard passing seasons, but he also was influential enough to change the rules regarding contact with defensive backs. Anderson digs in deep to trace the family franchise to the Depression era, especially to patriarch Archie Manning, who began as a rising star in basketball but, having failed an audition for a college slot, switched over to football at Ole Miss and, “a classic overachiever,” became a renowned quarterback with a healthy respect for the fundamentals of the game: controlling the ball with the fingers and not the palm, standing with balance, throwing straight and on-target. Archie’s college career helped improve a strained relationship with his own father, and he set numerous records and became a legend in Ole Miss lore. Archie Manning certainly isn’t an obscure figure in football, nor is his son Cooper, forced to leave the game for medical reasons, but it’s good to see both get more of their due from under the shadow of their more famous kin, and Anderson’s yarn never wobbles.
A winner for fans of modern football.