By Tom Quiner
It is easy to be classy in victory unless, perhaps, we’re talking about Donald Trump.
It is in defeat when true character is revealed. Peyton Manning revealed the character of a winner in the most humiliating defeat of his majestic NFL career.
I’m talking about the Denver Broncos’ public thrashing at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 48, two years ago. (I’ll get to Super Bowl 50 in a minute.)
His record setting year came to a screeching halt before a national audience of 110 million people, 43-8, as his favored team was manhandled, mauled, and pulverized in an orgy of turnovers, sacks, and miscues forced by a team with a monster defense.
Seattle had the best defense in football that year; Denver the best offense.
The mighty Broncos’ offense made their team the pre-game favorite, which only compounded the sting of defeat.
What did Mr. Manning do after such a humbling experience? He got cleaned up. He put on his suit. He made the long trek to the post-game press conference, which you can watch on the video below, and faced the heat like a man. (Please watch the entire video.)
This NFL titan who is worth $145 million took questions. He answered thoughtfully, giving credit to the other team. The last place on the world he wanted to be was in front of a national audience reliving one of the worst games of his career. But that is what he did, because Peyton Manning is a class act.
It gets better.
After his press conference, he waited around until the celebration in the Seahawks’ locker room calmed down so he could check in on his adversary, Richard Sherman, the demonstrative (some would say ‘classless’) cornerback for the Seahawks who is every quarterback’s worst nightmare. Sherman had sustained an injury during the game and was on crutches.
Manning was concerned and stuck his head in, along with his young son, to see how Mr. Sherman was feeling. Sherman was shocked by such classiness:
“He was really concerned about my well-being. After a game like that, a guy who’s still classy enough to say ‘How are you doing?’ To show that kind of concern for an opponent shows a lot of humility and class. He’s a Hall of Fame player, he’s a living legend, he’s a record-holding quarterback, he’s a Super Bowl champion, he’s been a Super Bowl MVP. Peyton is the Classiest person/player I have ever met! I could learn so much from him! Thank you for being a great competitor and person.”
This leads me to yesterday’s Super Bowl 50, with an entirely different twist on class and classlessness.
Cam Newton is the hotshot quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. He had a killer year, masterminding a seemingly unstoppable offense.
Newton threw for 35 touchdowns and ran for another 10. With each touchdown, he’d rub it in with on-field showboating and celebratory antics that by any objective standard was disrespectful to the other team.
Former Chicago Bears’ great, Richard Dent, was asked how he felt about Newton’s showboating. He didn’t pull punches:
“I’m going to knock your ass out of the game. That would’ve been my approach. At some point in the game – not with a cheap shot – I’m going to try to get a shot that puts you out for the day. That’s the risk when you want to showboat all the time.”
In yesterday’s Super Bowl, like the one two years ago, the team with the best offense in football was favored to whip the Broncos, who had the best defense in the league.
And like two years ago, the best defense surprised everyone and won again. And it wasn’t pretty for showboatin’ Cam. He was sacked 6 times. He threw an interception and fumbled two more times. The relentless Bronco pass rush made him literally eat dirt on more than one occasion.
It was ugly, as the Broncos prevailed 24 to 10, which was certainly not the blowout of two years earlier, but still quite the comeuppance to the hotshot NFL MVP, Cam Newton.
How did he handle defeat? With total classlessness.
Watch him in action in the video above. He is sullen. He responds with one word answers or short sentences. After just a few minutes, the man with a $103 million contract just stands up and walks out.
What a lack of class. The guy who feels no compunction at rubbing it in when things are going well lacks the character to show grace in defeat.
Yesterday was surely Peyton Manning’s last game. He was too classy to make a retirement announcement and steal the limelight from his teammates. The game will miss him, and not just for his football prowess.
They’ll miss his class.