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The Prichard pilgrimage to Peyton

Peyton Manning might go down as the best quarterback in history. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Expert
1st February, 2014
14

I’ve arrived in New York on a pilgrimage. I checked the dictionary meaning of the word to make sure that I was – and I am.

Pilgrimage: A journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.

I’ve wanted to go to a Super Bowl for a long time, but beyond just being at this great event I wanted to get the chance to see Peyton Manning win one.

Now I do.

It might be the last to see him play in one, too, which is why I simply had to be here.

Manning says he wants to play on next season regardless of whether his Denver Broncos team beats the Seattle Seahawks in this Super Bowl, and I believe him.

I reckon he feels he should have more than his one ring, maybe even more than two, to his name, and wants to take every chance he can to add to his tally before time, and his body, finally catch up with him.

Manning is entering his late 30s and has had four neck surgeries, so the end can’t be too far away.

But it’s hard enough to make a Super Bowl, let alone win one, so there’s obviously no guarantee he’ll be back in the big game again next year.

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The Roar's Greg Prichard in New York's Times Square before Super Bowl XLVIII. Photo: Greg Prichard

The Roar’s Greg Prichard has made a pilgrimage to New York to see NFL superstar Peyton Manning. Will he see him win Super Bowl XLVIII? Photo: Greg Prichard


Everyone has their favourite sports, their favourite teams and their favourite players.

And it’s weird, sometimes, the circumstances under which you start following a team, or an individual.

I live in Australia, with no shortage of football teams and players from different codes to pick from, but pay television and the internet mean you can follow many overseas sports almost like they are playing in your backyard.

I first saw Manning play early in his first season as quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.

Straight away, he captured my imagination.

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He came up with way too many ill-advised, rookie-style interceptions, but the brilliance underneath the inexperience was plain to see.

The Colts had a 3-13 record in Manning’s first year, but turned it around to 13-3 in his second year.

He has never looked back from then when it comes to consistent excellence.

There are plenty of Manning critics out there who point to his 11-11 record in playoff games – including eight one-and-done exits – as not being good enough.

Hey, I’m sure he’d love to have a better record in the playoffs as well.

But as someone who has seen every one of those games I can tell you that while Manning made some decisions on plays he would have liked to have had over, he was let down by teammates in plenty of instances too.

It is unfortunate Manning wasn’t coached by Bill Belichick, rather than have to play against Belichick-coached New England Patriots teams that knew how to take advantage of any Colts deficiencies.

If you don’t think Manning would have won at least as many Super Bowls as Tom Brady if it were him playing under Belichick instead, you are dead-set crazy.

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But these are just all interesting side arguments that will go on and on.

All that matters right now is that Manning has the opportunity to cap the greatest season by an NFL player ever if the Broncos win.

He’s broken the records for most touchdowns and passing yards and is a certainty to be named the league MVP.

Plus, if the Broncos succeed he will become the first quarterback to win Super Bowls with two different franchises.

All this at 37, after going under the knife so many times in tricky procedures on his neck and then basically having to learn how to throw all over again before finally getting to the stage where he could make an NFL comeback.

It’s phenomenal for him just to be in the Super Bowl. If he can win it, well, tell me when you last heard a story like that.

And he’s a tremendous person on top of being a superstar player. Manning is a great role model, from an outstanding family.

If you haven’t seen the ESPN documentary ‘The Book Of Manning’, which centres mainly on Archie Manning, Peyton’s dad, have a look.

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It’s a life lesson in how to bring up your children.

Anyway, that’s why I’m here in the Big Apple, getting ready to go to the big game at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey.

I was here for the first time in November, when I took my 19-year-old son, Jack, to New York and also to Boston to see the Patriots-Broncos game.

It took me 55 years to get to New York and now I’m here for the second time in nine weeks.

I’ve brought my son with me again, too – you’ve got to have someone to celebrate with if Manning and the Broncos pull it off.

It just doesn’t seem real, but I know it is because I’ve got nothing left in the bank. My wife is very understanding.

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Times Square in New York before the The Roar's Greg Prichard in New YTimes Square in New York before Super Bowl XLVIII. Photo: Greg Prichard

The Roar’s Greg Prichard in Times Square in New York before Super Bowl XLVIII. Photo: Greg Prichard


I’ve been fortunate enough to see some fantastic live sporting events, but if I see Peyton Manning win this Super Bowl I will have got my fill.

Whatever other great sporting achievements I witnessed after that would just be a bonus.

Go Peyton.