Why the Peyton Manning legacy conversation is important for everyone

Football season has come to a close and the grieving process has begun for pigskin addicted Americans like me.  However, there is one storyline from the Super Bowl that deserves some serious consideration – regardless of whether you are a football fan or not.

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Leading up to the Super Bowl no topic was more discussed than the “legacy” of Peyton Manning, quarterback of the Denver Broncos.  ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and every other sports news media outlet parsed, analyzed and over analyzed the Manning “legacy”.   Apparently, America’s water coolers couldn’t get enough of it.  Countless articles were written and dozens of emotionally charged TV specials were filmed – all to document how important it was for Peyton to win the big game.  If he won, there seemed to be consensus that his ‘legacy’ would be established.  If he lost his ‘legacy’ would be tainted.  This story seemed to be as big as the Super Bowl itself.

Why does this matter to me?  Why do I think it should matter to you?  Because I believe there is something bigger at play here, and it affects you and me.  Let me explain…

What was the Manning “legacy” that was so significant that we had to hear about it everyday for weeks on end?  Here it is:  Whether or not he would be considered the best or one of the best NFL Quarterbacks ever.  Think about it.  All of the rhetoric, all of the drama and all of the interviews addressing his “legacy” were about playing a game.  What is at stake? Water Cooler discussions.  Tailgate BBQ arguments.  That’s it.  That is the “legacy” that has been extolled as supremely important.

Silly, huh? Well it is part of a prevailing lie in culture that goes beyond professional football right into the world you and I live in.  What we have witnessed with the Manning “legacy” talk is actually very relevant to you and me.

Many of the most prominent voices in our world tell us this lie: Be extraordinary at something and you will be winner.

But it’s a lie.  The proof is in death.  When you die – no one cares what you did.  What they care about is who you were.  No one tears up at your sales record.  No poems are written about the promotion you earned.  Our actual legacy has nothing to do with what we do.  It has everything to do with who we are.

The world screams be extraordinary at doing something.  What’s better is to be an extraordinary someone.  Your character will always matter more than your career.  How you lived will matter more than what you did while you were living.

Fame, Money and Achievement do not and cannot satisfy a soul that hungers for something more.  They certainly aren’t the subjects of a good eulogy.

The obsession over Peyton Manning’s legacy as a quarterback is foolish, short-sighted and silly.  He knows this.  After being pressed on it in the Super Bowl Media Day he finally addresses what he wants his legacy to be and it had nothing to do with touchdowns and Super Bowl rings.

“If I had my choice, what my legacy would be, would be that I played my butt off for every team that I played on, I was a really good teammate and I did everything I could do to win.” – Peyton Manning

Don’t believe the lie that what you achieve matters most.  All trophies get dusty and thrown away.  Don’t simply aim at being extraordinary at something.  Set your aim higher.  Be an extraordinary person.  Be an extraordinary dad.  Be an extraordinary mom.  Be an extraordinary friend.

Because in the end, who we become trumps what we did.

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