I don't remember when a television documentary has been more enthralling. While watching the 90-minute presentation, it was hard to take a snack or a bathroom break.
If you missed ESPN's presentation of "The Book of Manning," catch it when you can. You'll be glad you did.
It is the video scrapbook of Archie and Olivia Manning, the first family of football, and their three sons, Cooper, Peyton and Eli.
The delicious part of the piece is it wasn't really about football. It was as much about football as Duck Dynasty is about duck hunting. Quarterback dynasty that goes beyond pitch and catch.
It's about family and relationships and the various challenges through those relationships.
We saw how the foundation of Archie's character was formed the day he found his father, before his sophomore season at Ole Miss, after he had committed suicide. There are snippets from home movies and videos of the family through the years: Peyton throwing an almost perfect spiral at age 3; Archie conducting incredible scrambles through mystified defenders; Archie starring in a Gator Bowl game despite a heavy cast on his left arm from a broken arm suffered against Houston; the Manning boys fighting over just about any game they played; Cooper (the older brother who was also a great athlete) having his career cut short because of spinal surgery; Peyton hamming it up doing a tango at a school production; how the prudent Olivia, a former Ole Miss homecoming queen, was a rock to the family dynamic.
Relationships: It was also about how Archie's teammates and friends talked about him, then and now — a great quarterback. a humble athlete who never played for a winning NFL team.
"We didn't start out to raise quarterbacks; we started out of raise kids," said Archie. His boys noted that they usually could not tell whether he had won or lost when he returned home from a game. He made it a mission, in a profession of play for pay, to play for fun with his family.
If you catch the rewind, and I'm sure they'll be many, stick around to the end and watch the playful banter among Archie and his grandchildren.
A priceless ending to a treasured production.