No teasers leading into commercial breaks or softball questions from Jim Gray were necessary in Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon. It was just a simple, heart-felt goodbye. It’s the way legends like Musial or Russell would have done it, and it’s the way Peyton Manning went about his business today while announcing his release from the Indianapolis Colts.
That’s the kind of company that Peyton Manning belongs in, but unfortunately, Manning won’t get the opportunity to finish his career where it started like Musial, Russell or any of the other players who’ve essentially built a franchise. His relationship with the city of Indianapolis has become a casualty of circumstance.
They said it wasn’t about the money, but what they meant was that is wasn’t ALL about the money. The fact of the matter is that Peyton Manning would have been owed $28 million and Andrew Luck will likely make upwards of $20 million up front, and it simply wasn’t prudent for the Colts to lock up close to $50 million in the quarterback position. A decision had to be made.
Otherwise, things may have been different.
Mistakes were made on both sides, but nobody was to blame, and Wednesday’s Peyton Manning press conference reflected exactly that. It was polished, yet emotional–substantial, but refined. It was the epitome of a 14-year period that could only be defined by class for both Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
That’s how it’s supposed to be.
There is absolutely no doubt that watching Peyton Manning (presuming Peyton returns) donning a new jersey will be heart-breaking for the Colts faithful, but the memories of Peyton should remain forever unchanged.
In Cleveland, ill-will and disdain have transformed once fond memories of LeBron James into painful ones. They burned jerseys they spent their own hard-earned money on out of sheer hatred.
Blue and White No. 18 shirts aren’t likely to ever know that same fate. Delivery truly is everything.
Their circumstances were extremely different, but the same in one key aspect. Both LeBron James and Peyton Manning are superstars, and faces of their respective franchises, who willfully made the decision to “take their talents” elsewhere. Yet, one is celebrated and the other is condemned.
The void between the two is filled by the public relations mistakes of LeBron.
Despite playing the villain in today’s NBA, LeBron James isn’t actually a bad person any more than James Earl Jones is a bad human being for having played Darth Vader. But because of the unpopularity of “The Decision” he’s been colored as somehow unsavory.
Had he done things differently he probably still would have been vilified by a portion of the Cleveland fanbase because he left with his health in his prime; however, reasonable people would eventually understand that he made a decision that he assumed was best for his career and his family. Those are the kind of tough decisions that define us all, and for the most part, if we go about making those decisions with dignity in mind, people are genuinely understanding.
Therein lies LeBron’s blunder.
“The Decision” was grandiose, and was easily misconstrued as a slap in the face of Cleveland, the city that raised him from 18-year old boy to man.
In contrast, Peyton Manning’s farewell was understated and direct. Certainly, you can see which approach would appear more endearing?
So let this be a lesson to professional athletes everywhere. When it’s time to make the decision to amicably part ways, you’re going to want to avoid “The Decision.”
The Peyton Manning press conference is simply the better way.