Two Words if Manning Decides to Retire: Good Riddance

The most annoying thing about pro athletes who happen to be sons of fathers who were also pro athletes is that so many of them exude an obnoxious sense of privilege and entitlement. For not only did they grow up in affluent families, but given the extent to which we idolize our celebrity athletes, they grew up thinking they were special. And why wouldn't they?

In regard to an almost glandular sense of self-importance, these athletes resemble nothing so much as the sons and daughters of movie stars. I would include in this group: Peyton Manning (son of Archie), Eli Manning (son of Archie), Barry Bonds (son of Bobby) and Kobe Bryant (son of Joe "Jellybean" Bryant). Mind you, in no way are we suggesting these guys aren't amazing athletes. Their ability is beyond question (with or without the steroids).

While the Mannings are far and away the best examples of the "I-am-superior-to-the-jock-environment-in-which-I-play" mentality, Bonds and Bryant aren't far behind. Barry has always bristled at being considered a "regular" Major Leaguer, and Kobe, having traveled the world as a boy and becoming fluent in Italian, clearly sees himself as a cut above the NBA's "ghetto products."

How "special" did Peyton Manning consider himself when he played for the University of Tennessee? Well, as Archie Manning's kid, he was special enough to insist on playing college football even AFTER he graduated. Because he hoped to win a national championship, and wanted desperately to win the Heisman Trophy, with another year of eligibility left to him, Peyton enrolled in grad school.

As much as his football skills were universally admired, Peyton's arrogance was another matter. His conceitedness must have stuck in the voters' throats, because not only did they not award Manning the Heisman, they gave it to Charles Woodson, marking the first (and only) time in Heisman history where the award went to a defensive player. If that wasn't a slap-down, what was it?

Most recently, Peyton Manning was accused of taking illegal HGH (human growth hormones) to treat a neck injury, among other ailments. The story broke, Peyton's handlers vehemently denied it, and then, mysteriously, the people who claimed to have evidence of his HGH use melted into the woodwork. They're gone. They're out of the picture. The "hot" story instantly became a non-story. Very strange.

As for Eli Manning, son of Archie and brother of Peyton, he took the "We-don't-believe-the-normal-rules-apply-to-the-Manning-family" philosophy a step further when he refused to go to the team that had drafted him after college.

Even in this age of uninhibited self-entitlement, Eli's move was a real shocker. By announcing publicly that he was refusing to go to San Diego, the team that had draft rights to him, Eli figuratively extended his middle finger to the NFL, and more or less said, "Hey, we're the Mannings. The normal rules don't apply."

Which is why one of my all-time favorite athletes was the NBA's Allen Iverson. His mom gave birth to him when she was fifteen years old, and he never really knew his dad. Not only was Allen Iverson not a "child of privilege," he came up hard, and even though he was a little man (listed at 6' 0", but closer to 5' 10") he excelled magnificently in a big man's game.

Moreover, when he was drafted out of Georgetown University by the pitiful (with an 18-64 record) Philadelphia 76ers, Iverson didn't "pull a Manning," and refuse to play for such a lousy team. Instead, he dutifully reported to Philly and, as a rookie sensation, instantly improved them.

So best of luck in retirement to Peyton, who (besides owning 21 Papa John's pizza shops) is reported to be the American athlete with the most product endorsements. No one deserves being in the Hall of Fame more than Peyton Manning does. He was a class act on the field. As for the classiness of "Manning Rules," we'll leave that to others to decide.