We should stop worrying about who refuses to stand, who knees, at the beginning of each game. They have rights, pesonal beliefs.
And we have the right and belief to recommend In The Name of the Father: Family, Football, and the Manning Dynasty (Liveright Publishing , $29.95), an unflinching portrait of a football dynasty that transcends the sport itself, sheds new light on a family everybody knows but few truly understand. Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning’s storied careers would be remarkable as singular accomplishments, but taken together they know no parallel in the history of American sport.
Mark Ribowsky explores the father-son/brother-brother bond (and often rivalry) that drove the Mannings to success and reshaped college and professional football over the last 50 years.
Archie Manning was born in tiny Drew, Mississippi in 1949, and was profoundly shaped by his father’s suicide. A star at Ole Miss, Archie would win the SEC Player of the Year award in 1969 and become a kind of regional folk hero and legend before he had even turned 21. Yet no amount of fan worship and God-given talent could salvage his pro tenure with the New Orleans Saints in the ’70s, which went on to an abysmal record in the league.
Determined to be a presence in his sons’ lives as well as a financial bulwark, Archie turned his attention to his three boys: Cooper, Peyton and Eli. Cooper may have been the most talented of the three: A wise-cracking wide receiver whose entire football life came to an abrupt halt when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and was never allowed to play a down again. This shook the family to the core and provided extra motivation for Peyton. He bucked Archie’s legacy, rejecting Ole Miss in favor of rival Tennessee, where—like his father two decades prior—he became a campus god and a national sensation.
The unlikeliest success story though would be little brother Eli, who did follow in his father’s footsteps by going to Ole Miss but suffered in the shadow of Archie’s collegiate achievements and Peyton’s more recent fame. Never quite as good as Peyton, and always considerably more awkward, his NFL career would take off after signing with the Giants, an association that has had arguably more dramatic highs than Peyton’s ever did, but also much lower lows.
Ribowsky colorfully recounts these moments of triumph and loss, but also the savvy marketing of the Manning brand that father and sons has so skillfully capitalized on for years; the trilogy has become as immediately recognizable as some of our most memorable political dynasties, and perhaps no less influential. In Ribowsky’s telling, the Mannings have always been bigger than football. They’re as American as capitalism itself. In the Name of the Father is a quintessentially American saga of a lineage that forever changed the game.