Peyton Manning is the G.O.A.T. where it matters

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When I was young, my sister and I used to chant, “2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate? Sisters! Sisters! Yeah!” The cheer, which we heard after a soccer game, was an easy way to get our parents to ooh and ahh over how cute we were.

Still, it taught me something. I learned that, win or lose, it’s important to acknowledge the other team, even if that meant slapping the sweaty palm of the girl who pulled you down in the penalty box and got away with it.

But many major sports networks don’t seem very interested in sportsmanship.

They debate whether Denver quarterback Peyton Manning is the best of all time — but not in the way that matters most. Look, if you want to debate whether Manning is the best ever at his position, bring it on. He is. But the bigger issue is that there may never have been a football player who is a classier person. Manning may be the greatest sportsman of all time.

After the Super Bowl, in which Manning suffered what might be the most devastating loss in his long and storied career, he sought out Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who had left the game injured. Manning wanted to be sure Sherman was OK.

Did that lovely gesture get much attention? Nope.

After the Super Bowl, Sherman took to Twitter to praise Manning. A sample: “Peyton is the Classiest person/player I have ever met! I could learn so much from him! Thank you for being a great Competitor and person.”

But that didn’t get nearly as much coverage as his outburst two weeks earlier about San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree. That clip was played on almost every major network on what seemed like a constant loop.

When some members of the media are asked why so much coverage is negative, they often say they focus only on what’s different, on what’s new. But sportsmanship at the Manning level is a lot rarer than the childish posing that so many athletes do, so why can’t we celebrate Peter Pan as much as we focus on Captain Hook?

I, for one, intend to do so. Here are my favorite recent examples of grand sportsmanship:

This year, when an MVP voter asked New England quarterback Tom Brady whom to vote for, Brady knew that Manning might well be a unanimous choice, an honor that had previously been accorded only to Brady. Brady didn’t hesitate: Vote for Manning, he said.

While hockey is known for its knuckleheads — look at the game a few weeks ago in which the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks dropped their gloves the instant after the opening faceoff and had five separate fights that led to 142 penalty minutes — consider Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. When the coach of Canada’s 2014 Olympic team asked Crosby to be the captain, Crosby said he first wanted to check with fellow Canadian Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, who has won two Stanley Cups and who might have expected to be captain. Only after Crosby got Toews’ blessing did he accept the position.

Maybe I think sportsmanship is a great story because I’m a girl, which, in the sports realm, I guess translates into meaning I’m soft. But I still believe it’s nice to see our athletes aren’t just getting pulled over for DUIs, getting arrested on suspicion of murder or getting suspended for terrible off-field conduct.

I think there are a lot of little things that superstars do that make them truly great, and the people in the media need to do a better job of highlighting them — even if I don’t think they’ll ever stand in a circle and chant about those they appreciate.

 

Contact Shannon Carroll at [email protected].