Mannings go about business amid Saints mania
AP Sports Writer
THIBODAUX, La. (AP) – Archie Manning has long wondered what it would be like to experience “the madness” that would envelop New Orleans if the Saints won a Super Bowl.
In some ways, he’s still wondering.
The patriarch of the so-called first family of football was not among the estimated 800,000 people to enjoy the Saints’ Mardi Gras-style victory parade last February. Manning and wife Olivia have sought to be happy for New Orleans, even as they hurt for their son Peyton, whose Indianapolis Colts lost to the Saints.
“It’s just been a little awkward,” Archie Manning said Friday at his family’s annual football camp at Nicholls State, about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans. “I could never say that I got dealt any bad cards or anything like that. We’ve been blessed a million times. I’m really proud of the Saints and everything. I guess now I kind of almost wish the Colts hadn’t gotten to the Super Bowl.
“Olivia and I kind of got cheated out of the madness,” he continued. “It’s been months of madness here and we’re really not part of that.”
Every summer, Peyton and his younger brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, meet their father and oldest brother, Cooper, in New Orleans for a few days of family time before heading together to Thibodaux to host the Manning Passing Academy, now in its 15th year.
This year is a little different, though. Reminders of the Saints’ championship are everywhere in the form of flags, hanging banners, bumper stickers and caps worn by Who-Dats everywhere.
“It’s good for the city of New Orleans, and I understand that,” Eli Manning said. “If it weren’t the Giants or the Colts, I guess I’d have it be New Orleans. … They have the right to celebrate. It’s a fun time for them and the players – and they should enjoy it.”
Peyton Manning seemed less interested in giving his take on what it’s like for him to come home to omnipresent reminders of the tough loss.
“I don’t have a take on it,” he said tersely, before moving on to other matters, such as the family’s efforts to keep attention focused on efforts to restore the eroding and now oil stained Gulf coast.
Before the camp opened this week, Peyton and Eli recorded a public service announcement for the group Women of the Storm, of which Olivia Manning is an original member.
The group initially formed to lobby national lawmakers for help in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but now has widened its scope to include coastal restoration and the BP oil spill.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to everybody affected by the oil spill and unfortunately it’s not going to go away any time soon,” Peyton Manning said. “So I think we’re kind of evaluating how we can make the biggest impact and help out.”
The football camp itself became symbol of the Mannings’ commitment to the area after Katrina. The Mannings kept it in Thibodaux in 2006, less than a year after the devastating storm, when some of the campers were New Orleans residents whose homes and schools had been wiped out.
This year, 1,060 quarterbacks and receivers attended the camp, along with host of college and pro players who served as counselors. Among them was Greg McElroy, quarterback of defending national champion Alabama, who said being around the Mannings was a thrill even for him.
“You get to see not only their dedication to the game but to their communities,” McElroy said. “They find a way to give back and dedicate what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished individually to the people around them. The fact they do give back as much as they do and try to help us individually really says a lot about their character.”
McElroy said he’s enjoyed talking football with the Mannings, but has consciously avoided one topic.
“I have not talked to them about the Super Bowl,” he said. “I imagine that’s somewhat of a sore subject for Peyton, but he handled it with tremendous class and I’m sure he’s happy for Drew Brees and all those guys.”