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Peyton Place

In Football on February 4, 2012 at 11:36 am

Crim Del Harris concludes its three part Super Bowl Extravaganza with a journey deep into the human psyche, where the lines between man and Manning vanish and football civilization recedes with every chop block. Read part I here, part II here and part II 1/2 here

I’d been six days since leaving the exact center of the world. At least it was the exact center of the world on the evening of February 5. By this time, Indianapolis, Indiana had likely retreated to the provincial midwest backwater that typically spent its winters enthralled in the bucolic purity of high school hoops. I was no longer in basketball country; the swampy darkness of the Louisiana night, still as the alligators that patrol its murky waters, is ruled by a much different god.

It had been a journey short on convenience but interminable in duration. A slow, methodical slog down Interstate-55 brought me to Hammond, little more than a trading outpost lost in the encompassing reaches of the Bayou. There I had a boat, chartered and waiting, prepared for the final stage of my expedition. But I’d stalled, five days lost to the ravages of a busted engine. My goal was getting no closer, and time was short.

I was a desperate scribe, working my way deep into the southern swamps for a story. That story was simple. A man by the name of Peyton Manning had vanished from civilization, holed up in a Louisiana fishing village. He was rumored to be ravaged by injury, and all through my wait in Hammond I had been party to tales of the fanatical devotion of the natives to his cause. That didn’t concern me, really. I just needed the story.

It was dusk as my airboat—which had mysteriously appeared the day before—approached the camp, the locals regarding me with a mixture of hostility and indifference. There was no mistaking my target: a massive gilded mansion set on a small rise. I chopped through the muddy riverbank and was met by an older gentleman with a shock of grey-white hair. I explained to him my intentions. He introduced himself as Archie. He had sent the boat.

“Someone needs to tell this boy’s story. He’s like no one else. He’s achieved a heightened awareness of an offense that has never been seen before.”

Archie continued to rave, trance-like, about the abilities of the man in question, but I needed the information clean. It had become difficult to separate man from myth. I required the source.

The next morning, I entered the mansion to find Peyton lying in a room. He was clearly unsound, not quite whole. He immediately became focused on the events of the previous week, the game in Indianapolis.

“The Patriots came out blazing, but they couldn’t sustain it,” I told him. “Brady put up 14 in the first, and it looked like a runaway. Then Eli settled down and with Cruz and Nicks pulled back into it. They cut it to 14 to 10 at the midway point, and won going away. The Giants line was able to get into Brady’s pocket and stifle his offense the second half. Only a field goal, while Eli threw two more touchdowns. The locals went mad for the Eli fellow. I suppose he’s got two to your one now.”

The recitation seemed to affect a change in Peyton. He understood his time had passed. A period of suspension seemed to lift, and suddenly, he became indelibly weak. The blonde boy who attended him, a Manning cousin reputedly, rushed to his side. He was no consolation as Peyton considered the opposing defenses he’d ruined, the dreams he’d murdered, careers he had destroyed. He let out a low, hoarse cry—

“The horror. The horror…”

Alarmed, I ran from the room, overcome by a necessity to compose myself. I retreated to a chair on the languid porch, regarding a fly winding along against the piercing sky.

The blonde boy emerged, his accent think with the Louisiana swamp.

“Mistah Peyton — he dead.”

Giants 24 – Patriots 17


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