ON SUNDAY night,
Sept. 10, Olivia Manning will be upstairs in a luxury suite at Giants Stadium,
part of a sellout crowd watching two of her sons make history: Peyton, 30, and
Eli, 25, will become the first brothers to start at quarterback in the same NFL
game. "It's kind of exciting to be part of football history," Olivia
says. "I don't want anybody to say, 'Oh, poor Mrs. Manning.' This is a
great thing." Olivia smiles, but should we believe her? After the game one
of her boys will be miserable. "It's not easy to be around either of them
after a loss," she says. "Your heart just hurts for them."
Neither son is
thrilled about discussing the uncomfortable circumstances: One will jump-start
his season at the other's expense. It is why, as eldest brother Cooper says,
Peyton and Eli "seem to have developed a case of lockjaw" in recent
months, and the flow of football information between them has dried up.
"Before, I would study [Peyton] on film and ask him questions about what he
saw and compare notes about other defenses," Eli says. "That's all
stopped." At dinner with his two NFL sons one night over the summer, Archie
Manning asked about LaVar Arrington, the Giants' newly acquired linebacker.
"He's a good guy," Eli answered, "and he's going to give us some
big rushes. I think we'll use him ..." Eli stopped; Peyton had pulled out a
Sharpie and was pretending to take notes on a napkin. All three men cracked up.
"The next night we were at a friend's house," Archie says, "and the
NFL Network was showing a Chiefs-Giants game from last year. The guys in the
Giants' secondary were miked, and on the sideline they were talking strategy
and calling out specific numbers. All of a sudden the TV went off, and Eli was
standing there with the remote, half smiling."
If this sibling
rivalry must play out in our living rooms, so be it--but no football game is
going to alter the Manning family fabric. Late last spring Archie and Peyton
met in Las Vegas for a speaking engagement and entertained questions from the
audience. A woman took the microphone and asked Archie, "Who do you like
best, Peyton or Eli?"
A hush fell over
the room. "Actually," Archie replied, "Olivia and I like Cooper
better than both of them, because he's got the grandchildren."