It was as if the Seattle defense dealt him a sucker punch to the solar plexus. The perma-stunned look on Manning’s face said it all. It was supposed to be the perfect match of the NFLs most powerful offense and defense. But little went right for Peyton Manning right from the first snap. Everything clicked for the Seahawks and they put the ball in the End Zone every way possible. Most people felt Manning’s frustration and shock.
Perhaps it was in this darkest hour that Peyton showed his true character. He resisted any inference to his team’s effort as an embarrassment. He held respect for himself and his teammates for what they were able to do this year. Even though the loss was a hard pill for him to swallow, he defended and acknowledged the work of his team to get to the Super Bowl.
Ironically my respect for Peyton’s character actually deepened more in his context of defeat. When I saw videos of him signing autographs and greeting fans after the loss it was humbling. But for me, the biggest surprise and affirmation of Manning’s character was from one of his strongest opponents and critics. In the weeks leading to the event Richard Sherman (Seahawks Cornerback) criticized Manning for “throwing ducks”. Manning made light of it saying “I guess I’ve thrown a lot of touchdown ducks.”
Following the Super Bowl, Sherman limped up the stairs (due to an upper ankle injury during the game) for an interview. He described that someone put their hand on his shoulder and asked if he was ok. He looked up to see Peyton Manning in a suit expressing concern for Sherman’s well being. For the opinionated, outspoken and critical Richard Sherman, it humbled him right there.
On Monday, Richard Sherman joined ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning radio show (h/t Pro Football Talk), where he relayed the following about Manning:
“He was really concerned about my well-being. After a game like that, a guy who’s still classy enough to say ‘How are you doing?’ To show that kind of concern for an opponent shows a lot of humility and class.”
Sherman defended Manning’s reputation and asked fans to keep their criticisms to his play on the field, not trash talking his worth as a person. Even though he was outplayed doesn’t mean that he is less of a man and less worthy of respect. He encouraged his fans to celebrate the win without showing disrespect for Manning. Why does our culture exalt champions but criticize, joke about and demonize those who lose?
The way a man acts when he wins or loses demonstrates what his character is. I hear more men saying they respect Peyton’s character for the way he carried himself through this loss.
Perhaps the bigger test of a man’s character is the losses. How a man reacts when he loses shows the depth of his self respect. It shows his security is not dependent on winning.
Even more, Manning showed respect and care for his fiercest opponent. He is living for something greater than his own ego. He didn’t let resentment, bitterness or trash talk cloud his care and concern (respect) for Richard Sherman. This situation demonstrates to me that Manning is a champion at what really counts, character. It doesn’t mean its easy and it doesn’t mean you don’t feel the pain of loss but more people genuinely respect you for it. It demonstrates the same kind of forgiveness and concern Jesus had for his enemies. When insults, torture and death were inflicted on him he said “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).