In which the Poet questions his authority, Peyton calls upon divine inspiration and the spirit of football is invoked.
The street is cold and quiet. You and Peyton continue to walk side by side. Your neighborhood begins to dissipate around you. Houses transform into line markers, goalposts, silent referees with whistles dangling. You ask Peyton Manning where you are going. “You know the old saying you gotta go through Hell to get to Heaven, right?” You shake your head and tell Peyton that this is not a saying. “Well, we gotta go through Quarterback Hell to get to Heaven. You know, to climb Quarterback Mountain. It’s pretty simple, really.” Peyton claps his hands. Hums a little. Bobs his head like an ostrich.
You tell Peyton that you haven’t played since high school. You’ve hardly touched a football since your devastating interception in the state championship. You are washed up – how can you possibly make it through Quarterback Hell?
“Boy, you sure sound depressed.” Peyton lets out a weird laugh that falls somewhere between a snort and a “huh.” He continues to bob his head like an ostrich. “Man, look. Me and Russ weren’t even gonna make the trip down here – hang on a sec.” Manning looks right, looks left, fires down field to a streaking Reggie Wayne – touchdown. Arms in the air, triumphant, he turns back to face you. “We weren’t coming until your old coach called me up. And he’s like, I talked to Joe and we both think this kid’s gotta chance, you know. And I’m not saying no to Joe am I? If it was Brady, huh, no way.”
You tell Peyton, you’re just not feeling up to it.
“What?! Man, we gotta loosen you up a little. How bout some music?“
Peyton begins to dance.
“C’mon man, you gotta get into this thing, woooo!” Fist pump right, fist pump left, ass drop. Peyton continues, unabated by your stoicism. “Alright, this ain’t working, lets get your old coach in here.”
“That’s what I am talking about, Jerry!” Peyton yells. Your entire high school team emerges from the early morning fog. They are clapping their hands around you as your coach and Peyton Manning dance and dance and dance. You feel better, somehow. You feel ready.
“Alright, let’s get it!” Manning yells and runs into the pre-dawn light. You follow at the ready though you do not know your fate.