- Feb 4:
- Peyton Manning's interview, Broncos fan rally, and more
- Super Bowl 50 matchup to watch: Broncos' Demaryius Thomas vs. Panthers' Josh Norman
- Cam Newton represents football's evolution
- heading into Super Bowl 50
- How to avoid buying fake Super Bowl 50 tickets
- Snoop Dogg provides light moment for Cam Newton, too
- Feb 3:
- Kiszla: Antonio Smith deals with the death of Inmate No. 116277, his late father
- Feb 2:
- Kiszla: Peyton Manning at peace, in no hurry for the Last Rodeo to end
- Kiszla: Cam Newton is bigger, better than John Elway
- Jan 26:
- Kiszla: Broncos must win Super Bowl 50 to lose reputation as Choke City
- Jan 24:
- Kiszla: Peyton Manning's horse hasn't been thrown out of rodeo yet
SAN FRANCISCO — "Let me hold on to your arm," whispered Archie Manning, as he grabbed my elbow with the same strong hand that threw 125 touchdown passes in the NFL. "And help me down these steps."
We stood on a stage. Beneath us, a large crowd had gathered Thursday to watch the 66-year-old Manning toss pizza dough as part of the madness that is Super Bowl week. The floor was maybe 30 inches below our feet, a mere two steps down to the carpet. But Manning, feeling the residual pain from every hit he took in the game, did not want to make the journey down the stairs alone. "I don't want to fall," he confessed.
On Sunday, Archie Manning will watch his kid play in Super Bowl 50.
When the game is done, win or lose, Peyton Manning needs to walk away from the game while he still can. A smart man listens when his body screams it's time to quit and go home.
"I understand the last few years that football has been under attack. And I get it," said Archie Manning, who will say a little prayer his son won't be hurt by taking the field against the Carolina Panthers.
This is a painful story to tell. This is why, every day, more parents don't allow their kids to go out and play America's favorite sport.
There is a war on football. Isn't it obvious why?
The NFL does not care if you're a hero. In the end, the game throws everybody who plays the game on the scrap heap.
All week, Peyton Manning has revealed his 39-year-old body is a mess, confessing how his arm strength is shot and he has a bum hip destined to be replaced. If that's not a strong hint about his impending retirement, then Manning certainly has a strange way of advertising he's available for work next season.
He's a rusty 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier with bald tires and bent chassis. Who's going to buy that?
With more than 100 journalists hanging on every word, Manning told a funny story Wednesday about what a drag it is growing old. The five-time NFL MVP reminded us that in 2011, the year before joining the Broncos, he had more neck surgeries (four) than pass completions (zero). And before each of four seasons in Denver, doctors have checked out his battered body before giving him clearance to play.
"When you have injuries, when you have surgeries, the doctor sometimes will mention to you, whether you ask him or not, 'Hey, you are probably heading for a hip replacement sometime,' " said Manning, recalling a conversation during his annual physical two years ago.
"I said: 'Doc, I didn't ask you if I was going to have a hip replacement. I didn't need to know that right here at age 37. But thanks for sharing. I look forward to that day when I am 52 and have a hip replacement.' "
Everybody in the room laughed.
The problem? How football destroys its heroes is not funny.
The late Ken Stabler was a friend of Archie Manning. After the legendary Raiders quarterback died at age 69 from cancer in July, an autopsy revealed Stabler suffered from an advanced stage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head. The news shook the elder Manning to the core.
"It makes us all in the fraternity of quarterbacks think," he said. "We looked at (former Chargers linebacker) Junior Seau and always thought: 'Well, how many times did he hit somebody? Thousands of times. But as quarterbacks, we didn't think it was the same for us. When Ken Stabler died, it makes you think. Hey, it's tough stuff."
Just this week, Archie Manning has exchanged his concerns in text messages to another quarterback from his era: Oliver Luck, whose son now plays for the Indianapolis Colts and has been sacked 115 times in 55 regular-season games.
"Listen, when mothers say, 'I'm not sure if I want my son out there playing football,' I do get it," said Archie Manning, who has endured back fusion, a knee replacement and neck surgery during the past two years alone.
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But the father of America's first family of quarterbacks also whole-heartedly believes coaches serve as great mentors for young men. He is proud of how the NFL has tried to make the sport safer. He feels all his aches and pains were a fair price for the joy of the game. "Playing football is all I ever wanted to do, and I got to do it," he said.
We want all our favorite bands to stay together. We wish our parents never had to die. And we certainly don't want to watch the sports heroes of our youth step unsteadily down a short flight of stairs.
With Archie Manning leaning on my elbow for support, I can see the future for his son.
And it hurts.