The first circle. Limbo. Those with no rings. The Quarterbacks. The Minnesota Vikings.
You awaken to the sounds of Peyton Manning humming his favorite song from his favorite commercial.
“Hey man.” He hums more. “Glad you’re back.” He flashes a nervous grin. “You ready?” You do not think so. Below you is an enormous pit. Dark Mist rises with the continuous sounds of violence. Players crying for penalty flags, referees bundling over the same incorrect call, quarterbacks reading defenses endlessly, uselessly. “Well. Doesn’t really matter. Like my Dad used to say, you know, ‘if you can’t catch – throw.'” You do not think this quote applies here and you tell Peyton so. He shrugs.
You and Peyton begin to walk into the darkness. He puts his helmet on. The bright blue horseshoe shining out against his all-white tights and jersey. “Well, lemme tell you something you probably already know. This first group ain’t too fun. When I’m not playing this is probably were I’ll end up – not enough rings to be up top, not bad enough to be below. It’s tough sledding – that’s for sure.” You ask if you can go home. You say that your family probably misses you – that, at the very least, you have to be at work tomorrow. You’ve got the lunch shift at Subway and it’s sure to be crazy – you’re fighting for manager with Kelly and you can’t fuck up now.
“I get what you’re saying and, yeah, people have gotten out. Every once in awhile a great analysts appears and is able to save one, maybe two of us and brings us to the Hall or manages to get us a ’30 for 30′ or something.” You decide to stop trying to tell Peyton things.
“Well, here we are I guess. Oh, geez, these poor guys.” A group of three purple-clad men approach you. Their faces are downcast. Peyton introduces you. “Well, we got Franie, Randall and Warren.” Awkward glances and handshakes are exchanged. “Not a ring between ’em.” Manning shakes his head while the QB’s gape. “Oh don’t worry about it guys, there are some people with rings here, too.” Everyone looks slightly happier. Even you.
A large group of men – clad in purple – sit glumly on a shining bench the stretches as far as you can see. “Oh, yup, that’s the 1998 Minnesota Vikings. And the 2003 Vikings. And 2009. And, well, any Vikings team that made it to the Superbowl, really.” Manning shakes his head. You can see Gary, too. A short man attempts a field goal over and over again, missing every time.
“Man. Sad stuff. But I’ve had my share. C’mon buddy – we gotta get this show on the road. “