Manning Wins While Losing
No, I’m not talking about Peyton Manning losing in the 2010 Super Bowl. I’m talking about his dad - the motivational force behind his unusually successful sons.
Do you ever get bitter about life, playing the “what if” game?
• What if I’d worked for a winning company instead of this losing one?
• What if I’d worked in a different industry?
• What if I’d gone to a better school and played on a better team?
• What if I’d married this person instead of that one?
Archie Manning, father of successful athletes Cooper, Peyton and Eli Manning, was a great quarterback who played for mediocre teams. Stellar quarterback Roger Staubach once said, “If Archie Manning had played for Dallas, he’d be in the Hall of Fame now.” According to Archie, “in terms of real achievement, it was mostly an unfulfilling career.” His teams consistently lost. (1)
And losing teams breed frustrated, angry fans. It got so bad in the stands that his sweet wife, Olivia, stopped sitting with her friends at Saints games. She couldn’t take the brutal jeers at her husband. “Archie can take it, but I can’t,” she admitted. (2) But even after she moved to more inconspicuous seats, she heard shrill voices booing behind her and turned around to discover that it was her own sons! Cooper and Peyton, at ages seven and five, had politely asked their dad if it was okay for them to boo with the others. They also asked if they could wear brown paper bags over their heads like the other disgusted fans. (3) Toward the end of Archie’s career, Olivia stopped attending altogether. (4) Cooper and Peyton often watched their favorite teams on TV instead of their dad’s. (5)
As an adult, Peyton summed up his dad’s football career as “fifteen years of professional frustration.” (6) Although he worked as hard as anybody and played his heart out at games, his teams simply never got it all together.
So maybe you’re a dedicated salesman, stuck with a losing company. Or a first rate basketball player stuck with an unmotivated team. Or a highly skilled teacher, working at a school that doesn’t appreciate your contribution. Do you become bitter? Do you take your frustration out on others?
Here’s how Archie handled it:
1. He never took his frustration home. When he came home from a terrible loss, he was just good old dad, playing ball with his kids on the carpet and enjoying his dear wife. According to Cooper,
“Yes, when the booing got really bad at the Superdome, Peyton and I wanted to boo, too…and we wanted to wear the bags over our heads. But through all that, I never remember him bringing his defeats home with him. Not ever.” (7)
2. He embraced the community that booed him. As Jesus put it, “love those who hate you.” Rather than retreating inward and snubbing the community, he gave back to them, serving on the boards of a half dozen charities. Olivia also involved herself in the community. (8)
3. He refused to let bitterness take hold. Archie couldn’t understand players who, five or ten years after their pro football days, still bristled with bitterness - mad at their coaches, mad at the team owners, rooting against their former teams. Archie chose a different perspective, thanking God for every game he played, refusing to let the lack of winning ruin his enjoyment for the sport. (9)
4. He looked forward rather than backward. “I repeated the line often to myself those last few years: ‘Never look back. Never.’ And I haven’t. When I finally left the Vikings, it was an upper instead of a downer, a plus instead of a minus. Good-bye football, hello rest of my life. And hello Cooper, Peyton, and Eli, and the football I would enjoy through them. A whole new world.” (10)
And I’ve got to wonder, had Archie brought his frustrations home and taken them out on his family, might his children have gotten turned off to football or achievement altogether? Fortunately, he didn’t. He never pushed football on his kids, but Cooper became a high school football star, later playing college ball with Ole Miss until he was diagnosed with a serious spinal condition. (He followed his dad by refusing bitterness and moving on with life.) Today, Peyton and Eli are two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, who fortunately play for winning teams.
Life got you down? Struggling with the unfairness of the way life’s turned out? Perhaps reflecting on Archie Manning’s response can help.
Sources: 1) Manning, by Archie and Peyton Manning, with John Underwood (New York: Harper Entertainment, 2001), p. 176. 2) p. 95 3) p. 96 4) p. 95 5) p. 96 6) p. 326 7) p. 142 8) pp. 143,144 9) p. 175 10) p. 177. Copyright 2/15/10 by Steve Miller.
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