Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/18/13
I love to watch the NFL. I follow all the headlines and analysis that have anything whatsoever to do with the game.Every day I check in with my favorite media personalities to see what the important football topics of the day are, and I'll probably continue to as long as there's an NFL to watch.It adds flavor to the experience of being a football fan.That doesn't mean I always agree with them. Of course, they don't even agree with each other most of the time.One of the latest topics to resurface following the Denver Broncos' shocking upset loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional round of the playoffs, is whether or not Peyton Manning is given too much praise considering his less than exemplary record in playoff games. I find that debate to be laughable.Most of the talking heads on sports shows have, at one time or another, been part of the NFL. This is where they earned their respectability on the subject and I do not dispute their expertise.However, I've noticed that most former players and coaches have the view that its "all about the ring". I understand. That mindset is part what made so many of them great athletes.Fans often see it a little bit differently, though. Fans watch the game for entertainment. It gives us a break from our everyday lives. On Sunday afternoons NFL fans can shut out everything else, no matter how good or bad, and cheer on their team.We spend week after week anticipating games, predicting outcomes, bragging on our favorites when they achieve the greatness we've assigned to them, and making excuses for them if they come up short. The best reward we can receive for all of our loyalty is simply a win.  We'll continue to reciprocate by displaying bumper stickers and buying caps and jerseys. Our excitement grows with each win throughout the season, the "fair weather" fans join in and it becomes part of our daily lives. This behavior builds until the season ends then we can't wait until the next season to begin so we can do it all again.Peyton Manning is the fans' quarterback. He played 13 seasons in Indianapolis before having to sit out 2011 due to neck surgery. During that time, he only had two seasons without double digit wins.From '03-'09 he led the Colts to 12 or more regular season wins every year, plus two trips to the Super Bowl, and one World Championship. In 2012 he moved on to Denver where he, once again, amassed 13 wins. And 160 times in the last 15 years Peyton Manning has helped his fans bask in the afterglow of victory. Real fans don't forget that.To the former football players, the regular season is just to get ready for the post season, because, to them, those are the games that really count. To the fans they ALL count. We know we're going to watch our teams play 16 games in 17 weeks, and we'll be there. Maybe in front of the tv, but there nonetheless. We hope for playoffs. We hope for the Super Bowl, but these are just bonuses. The whole season is what we look forward to year after year.We want our favorite players to be part of teams that win games. Each week the most important game is the one we're watching. By this standard, Peyton Manning is likely the best who ever played football.
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