NEW YORK — The grass in the Mannings' front yard took years to recover. Archie Manning used to stand on the steps and try to fling the football just out of his sons' reach in a game they called ”Amazing Catches.“ The boys would have to make diving, one-handed grabs. If it was a rainy day, even better — though not for the lawn.
The only problem was that Archie, the former New Orleans Saints quarterback, was too accurate.
”You couldn't throw a bad ball,“ youngest son Eli reminded him.
Eli and big brother Peyton didn't throw many bad balls in winning the last two Super Bowls. Peyton earned the game's MVP award as he quarterbacked the Indianapolis Colts to victory in 2007. Eli did the same with the New York Giants this year.
On Saturday, they were tossing around a Nerf football with their dad at an event billed as the world's largest parent-child catch.
It was an early Father's Day gathering for Archie.
As he roots on his sons, Archie feels a certain twinge of empathy toward the other team, because he knows what it's like to watch your child compete.
”I always think of the daddy of the other quarterback,“ he said.
If the Colts win in the early game on a particular Sunday, Peyton knows the high of victory will wear off quickly if the Giants are playing the late game: He'll already be getting nervous for Eli.
Separated by five years, the two didn't become that close until Eli started playing for Ole Miss. They joked that as an eighth-grader and a college freshman — their ages when Peyton left for Tennessee — they shared little in common. That changed when Eli became an SEC quarterback, with Peyton already in the NFL.
”It was something all of a sudden in common we could talk about,“ Eli said.
They've had much to talk about ever since. Peyton is familiar with the unique position of going into the season as the defending Super Bowl champion. He likes how Eli is handling it so far, observing that his brother hasn't treated this offseason differently than any other.
”It certainly carries a little more pressure with it,“ Peyton said. ”As long as you've worked hard in the off-season to prepare for it, it will take care of itself.“
The brothers won't admit to any sibling rivalry, even when it comes to rooting for their alma maters. But Peyton did note, getting in a jab at Eli and his father, who also played for Ole Miss: The Rebels haven't made the series very competitive.