It may not have been clear to those watching the New York Giants-Philadelphia Eagles game last night that Peyton Manning was in attendance to watch his brother play. Or that his brother may be in the midst of writing his next, potentially final chapter in the Book of Eli, which was actually a movie with an original screenplay, so not based on a book. If you didn't notice this subplot you also may not have heard that if the Eagles win out, they'll win the division. One wishes the broadcast would have spent more time on these things, but we digress.
The Mannings were referred to as the First Family of Football by Joe Tessitore, who isn't the first and won't be the last to do this. Are they though? What does that even mean?
Let's attempt to tackle this pressing issue.
On first blush the moniker makes a lot of sense. No position in sports holds as much importance as that of the quarterback. The Mannings, if nothing else, are presidential in their relative vanilla-ness. Save for some college indiscretions, they've managed to spend decades in the public eye without crippling scandal. Their milquetoast nature makes them palatable, yet not particularly enjoyable. They're safe, middle-of-the-road fare -- not the dudes from Duck Dynasty or the Roys from Succession. They play in the Heartland and have enough big-city acumen to navigate the C-suites.
But here's the sticking point: Who elected them to this very real and important position? Certainly not the public. They were anointed or rewarded the keys to this office in some sort of spoken or unspoken backroom deal. There does not exist a constituency pining breathlessly for Manning content. And yet it flows out in droves.
At some point the media just assumed the role of selecting this family. Perhaps it's a lifetime achievement award for contributions to the game. And possibly because staying in their good graces is good for business. One never knows when Archie is going to leak something or Peyton and Eli are going to be looking to lend some name-brand to a television network.
So in that context, are the Mannings actually oligarchs, basking in political influence without an official title? Or are the Mannings, a multi-generational powerhouse foisted into elevated status by the status quo, the very definition of what it means to be a modern First Family in America?
Consider the Bushes. The Clintons. What the Trumps will be for the next few decades. Like Hollywood recycling ideas, our government is constantly being replenished by re-heated surnames. Power becomes a birthright for the elite of the elite. And while no one would doubt the incredible talent that Peyton, Eli, and Cooper possess, they were groomed for success in the family business.
They are the bluebloods in a space desperate for new blood. They are the link to the past as the NFL faces an uncertain future. They were born on third but had the savvy and skills to create Hall of Fame (don't count out Eli!) careers.
And look, this is giving an issue that doesn't necessarily warrant a ton of inspection a pretty thorough critique. I get that. But there's plenty of meat on the bone if you want to consider the similarities between the Mannings and First Families. Or the differences.
First Family of Football means nothing in and of itself. Considering whom can become such a thing means much more. So does weighing what the Mannings get out of such honors and how that's reciprocated.
It all seems a bit complicated, a bit icky. And on the nose.