The Best Sports Documentary of All Time: The Book of Manning

By Patrick Schmidt
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Book of Manning was a story on the football exploits of the first family of football, but the overriding theme of the 90-minute presentation wasn’t so much about what happened on the gridiron but rather the family bond.

Archie Manning and his sons Peyton and Eli are obviously some of the best players to ever play football at Ole Miss and Tennessee respectively before embarking on NFL careers, where the Manning sons have won three Super Bowls. However, The Book of Manning told the story we didn’t know about and needed to be told.

This was a story of a father’s bond with his three sons who understood the importance and value of the father in a child’s life after losing his own at such a young age and in unfathomable tragic circumstances. This was the prevailing message in every chapter of the Book of Manning.

Losing your father rips a hole in your heart as big as the Grand Canyon and as deep as the Pacific Ocean. Nothing can ever fill that hole until you become a father. He was a father three times over with Cooper, Peyton and Eli, putting together the broken heart from when Archie lost his father to suicide while in college.

He made his children and his wife Olivia the focus of his life. Football was his occupation, but it was not his life. Those two get reversed far more than they should. That is heart-breaking.

“I never regretted spending time with my family and spending time with my children. I’ve really been blessed,” said Archie.

What was heart-warming was feelings shown by the family while watching the home videos with the boys playing football in the backyard, and a father who wouldn’t miss the chance to see his kid’s play football for anything in the world.

Anyone with a brother can appreciate the bond that brothers share. They are roommates, best friends and often each other’s biggest rival growing up. We saw all of those stages in their relationship, but we also were privileged to see the stage where they become peers through success, failures and heartbreak.

Watching the family dynamic from the eldest Cooper to the baby Eli was enough to take me back to my youth with my brothers playing catch as our dad watched us play. How can that not pull at your heartstrings? A strong family bond built around football makes the Book of Manning what it is. The goal of each of the boys was to make their dad proud, and isn’t that what all kids hope to achieve?

Thanks to the 90-minute documentary by ESPN Films, there is a new best sports documentary of all time. That’s the story of the Mannings, who showed us what being a “good guy” is all about.

Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Follow him on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt and add him to your Google network.

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