Pregame, the many ESPN, Fox and NFL Network crews seemed to spend more time debating Manning's legacy than on all other subjects combined; postgame, ESPN was back talking about his legacy, while NFL Network appeared as concerned with reviewing his news conference as his on-field performance. Many football commentators, especially former NFL stars, seem obsessed with the notion that Peyton must be revered as someone of historic stature -- not just a good quarterback, but a figure whom future generations will revere. Ray Lewis pounded on this theme repeatedly, making Manning sound like the peer of Churchill or Mandela. Perhaps former NFL stars like the idea that NFL stars should be viewed not just as successful athletes -- isn't that enough? -- but as great men astride the landscape of history. Peyton himself was the only one who seemed to have this in perspective, saying during the week, "I'd have to be, like, 70 to have a legacy."
I couldn't help thinking if Manning didn't grant so many interviews and make so many commercials, there would not be a debate about his legacy, since he would not have flamed out so often in big games. His fellow Broncos must be pleased to have made the Super Bowl, whatever the result. One can't help but wonder how they feel about being extras in the endless video clip that is Manning's life.
Kutztown to Canton: As a loyal son of Buffalo, N.Y., your columnist has been stumping for years for the notion that Andre Reed belongs in the Hall of Fame: "He came from a small-college program, Kutztown University, and when he retired he had the third-most receptions, trailing only Jerry Rice and Cris Carter. Reed's accomplishments were compiled despite playing for a cold-weather, rush-oriented team while Rice played for a warm-weather passing team and Carter played most of his career indoors." But Reed also threw his helmet in the Super Bowl, and it doesn't matter that defensive pass interference should have been called on the play. That knuckle-headed moment cost him eight years of nail-biting waiting as a passed-over finalist -- sort of Canton purgatory.
Now his wait is over, and the Bills' woe-for-four Super Bowl team has five players in the Hall of Fame: Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Marv Levy and Reed. Since the first four were shoe-ins, Reed was the one true sons of Buffalo worried about. Had that team ever won a Super Bowl, Buffalo's civic fortunes would have enjoyed a renaissance: I am not just saying that, I actually believe it. If the current Bills were to win a Super Bowl, the Buffalo renaissance still would come -- though there seems no threat the current Bills will create a chance to see if that belief is true.