It's been two weeks since my beloved New York Giants took Super Bowl XLVI, and still the pernicious missives from my Giants-Hating Chargers-fan friends keep rolling in.
“F__k the Giants and that cry baby Eli Manning,” writes A., via email.
“Eli is still the Devil,” says B., on my Facebook wall.
“Eli and the Giants are the only team that can make me root for the Patriots,” blurts C., from a neighboring stool at The Tilted Stick.
The anti-Manning vitriol really snowballed in the weeks leading to the Super Bowl, but I've pretty much been hearing this stuff from Chargers-Loving Anti-Manning Malcontents (CLAMMs) since 2004. For those who don't remember, the Chargers were planning to select Manning in the first round of the 2004 draft. However, in a rare (though precedented) move, Manning refused to sign with the Chargers, instantly turning every Charger fan into a Manning-despising, Giants-hating activist and utterly complicated my life as a native New Yorker living in San Diego.
See, I'm a Giants fan by birthright. However, being that I've lived here for most of my adult life and absolutely love this town, I also root for the Bolts. And ever since the Manning / Chargers hubbub, I've come to feel like a child watching his parents go through an ugly divorce. So, I write this column to ask all my CLAMMy pals: Now that the dust has settled on Super Bowl 46, isn't it time to let go of your grudge against the Giants? Not only because we've twice crushed your arch-enemy Patriots—left them so badly mangled and twitching on their own 49-yard line that they'll never be able hurt you or your Chargers again—but also because Manning got a bum rap. It's true. The only thing he did wrong in 2004 was make a brilliant career move.
With a record of 4-12, the 2003 Chargers were one of the worst teams in the universe. Even the Tralfamadore Swampworms of '82 were better than the '03 Chargers, who, if you remember, had an offensive line that couldn't stop The Dixie Chicks, receivers who couldn't catch a shoplifter in a refrigerator store and a defense that formed a human pyramid every time coach said they needed a “goal-line stand.” Worst of all was that Manning knew the Spanos-addled front office—as we all know now—could never win a Super Bowl.
If you don't think that was enough motivation to keep him from signing, then just imagine what holiday dinners at the Manning house would have been like if he had signed? Picture father Archie Manning—the QB legend—at the head of the table, boasting, “Did y'all see Peyton throw that winning touchdown in the fourth quarter last night? Outstanding!” And his mother, Olivia—the former Homecoming Queen—cooing, “Oh, yes, Arch, our son the superstar threw for 350 yards and six touchdowns!” And Cooper, the other brother, saying, “Hey, Peyton, can I touch your ring again?” Meanwhile, Eli toys with his food and mopes.
“So, Eli,” Archie says, finally aware of his youngest son's existence, “how's it going down there in, um, in—what's the name of that town again? San D'onofre? San Da Cruz? San Dancisco? Olivia, help me out here.”
“San Diego, honey,” Olivia says.
“Yeah, that's it. How's it going with the San Diego Churros, Eli?”
“Great dad—only got sacked 15 times on Sunday. Oh, and I would have completed my first TD pass of the season if Osgood hadn't ducked from the ball!”
“Why did he do that?”
“He thought a fan was throwing feces at him again.”
I know what you're thinking, CLAMMs. You're thinking, OK, maybe, the 2003 Chargers stunk, but Manning cheated. He didn't abide by the rules of the draft.
Simply put, you do not have to play for the team that drafts you. The rules state that if a player refuses to sign, then he's not allowed to play in the upcoming season, but he can re-enter the draft the following year, which was a risk Manning was willing to take. And the risk paid off—for everyone. The Chargers drafted Manning and traded him to the Giants for (ultimately) Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding.
Regardless, San Diegans raved with contempt and have been calling Manning a “cry baby” ever since. But I never understood why. Why begrudge a person for wanting to improve his station in life? How does that make him a “cry baby”? It's actually the opposite. When you take hold of the reins of your life—when you change something about it that you don't like—that's not crying, that's doing.
Crying is when you complain about something you can't change—like, say, when a coveted football player snubs your team. “Waah, waah, wah, Eli doesn't like us, waah, waah” is what it sounds like to me. As for Manning, he's no baby. Manning's the Man, man! He never complains or talks shit in the media. He doesn't get rattled in the pocket or point fingers when he's knocked down. Dude's a badass.
So, c'mon San Diego, don't be sore. He just wasn't that into you is all. Time to kiss and make up, you know, for the sake of the children. That'd be me—for the sake of me. I can't stand it when the two of you fight.