Eli Manning Is An Entitled Brat (And Other Sports Narratives)


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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67 Responses

  1. Avatar Paul says:

    My God. Get a life. Eli haters come off as somewhat imbalanced with no life whatsoever. What is wrong with you?Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Believe it or not, I actually don’t hate Eli Manning for what he did. Sports is such an artificially constrained market for the athletes to sell their talents that I don’t mind them using whatever leverage they might have to secure the best possible arrangement for them. I know it might seem silly to talk about constraints on guys making millions of dollars, but many of them would make many more millions if not for those constraints. So it goes.

    So, I don’t object to what Manning did. Nor did I object when Steve Francis did it. Or when Elway did it. What I do object to is when the exact same action is viewed through different lenses because of narrative. If you object to Francis and not to Manning, I’m going to cry foul. Your inconsistent application of a supposed principle may be because of race or may be because of other factors; I can’t know what is going on in your head. But if the best you can come up with is, “Well, it’s just different,” I might just go ahead and construct my own narrative about you.

    There are few trends worse in sports media (and probably media in general, but sports media is what I know best) than the construction of narratives and then parsing of facts to fit those narratives. The reality is all of these people are complex individuals who are never as great as they seem on their best days and never as bad as they seem on their worst. A simple narrative simply can’t capture the complexity of a human being. More importantly, judge the action, not the actor.

    Also, great piece!

    In your original comment, you mentioned how you would be uncomfortable voicing a similar criticism about a black QB… even if you voiced it equivalently to black and white QBs alike. I read an interesting article recently about 20-something things anti-racists shouldn’t do. One of them was obvious: Do not criticize people of color for something you wouldn’t criticize a white person for. One of them was less: Don’t not criticize people of color for something you would criticize a white person for. If a black athlete acts in an arrogant or obnoxious way, we should not hold back criticism for fear of being racist. This creates separate standards. However, if our criticism is grounded more in race than in the man or his actions, one would be well served to pause and reflect.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      “There are few trends worse in sports media (and probably media in general, but sports media is what I know best) than the construction of narratives and then parsing of facts to fit those narratives.”

      This is modern political journalism in a nutshell. (heck, this is Politico in a nutshell)Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Also, I don’t find Will’s position that such behavior is obnoxious or evidence of brattiness objectionable. I disagree with it but it seems a fair position to hold.Report

    • Avatar daveNYC says:

      With Manning though, we’re talking about using his leverage to circumvent one of the major elements that is there to try and keep an even playing field between the teams. Using free agency to get the maximum cash money is one thing, deciding to be in the draft while demanding to not actually be subjected to being drafted is something else.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        Did Manning really choose to be in the draft though? To the extent that he chose to be an NFL player, yes, he chose to be in the draft. But had he full freedom to choose his place of employment, he never would have.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        By the way, if someone (*coughcough* @jm3z-aitch *coughcough*) were to write a post on markets in sports, I would be thoroughly interested.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        This is where your natural pull towards free association pulls you one way, and my natural pull towards technocracy pulls me another.

        I’d actually quite like to get into a discussion about the artificial construct that is the NFL labor market. It’s an interesting case for various sorts of market and collective action failures.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I’m unclear on what a “technocracy” is but I would welcome any and all enlightenment on market issues in sports.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        Does the draft really do much to even the playing field? Football isn’t basketball, where one elite talent is all it takes to move up significantly. Good organizations make good drafting and free agent decisions and bad organizations don’t. It’s not like the Steelers, Patriots and Ravens are relying on players that were top 10 picks and a decade of high picks hasn’t done much to help the Raiders, Browns or Lions. The teams that seem to get the most bang for their high picks are the ones with a one year crap out (like the Colts) or those that strategically trade-up.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Technocracy is, loosely, “let the experts figure out the rules that keep things balanced between efficiency and normative principles”.

        Rather than putting things to a vote, or letting the market decide, a panel of experts figures out the right way to do things. (I realize in practice technocracy has failure modes just like anything else, to be clear. I’m not so much a practicing technocrat as a reforming one, but I have a natural bias that way).

        In the NFL, to be clear, we don’t have anything like a free market. The teams have a degree of revenue sharing, the players have a draft but they get free agent opportunities, the whole thing is of course rife with rent seeking when it comes to its interaction with the local government that’s providing the host city, etc.

        The problem, of course, is that you want to provide a stable national assortment of teams, with some degree of parity, while some owners can draw on particularly lucrative local revenue streams (New York) and some cannot, at least, not to anywhere near a competitive degree (Green Bay). The League, as an entire body, has a vested interest in keeping rural American as engaged in sports fandom as urban America, because they want Football to be an American Experience. This means that geography comes into play, as well.

        It’s the same problem you have in baseball, exacerbated by the lack of a farm system, and the extreme limit on the number of games, relatively speaking. In football, there is a definite talent dropoff from the top 5-10 at most skill positions and the second tier, which has maybe 10-25 members, and then you get a really big dropoff for the third tier, which is the majority of the league, and then finally you get another dropoff (albeit a smaller one) before you get everybody else.

        In this sort of talent distribution, particularly given the necessity of coordinated play (unlike baseball and still considerably worse than basketball), if you went entirely with an open market you’d wind up with the NY Somebodies getting a top five QB, 2 of the top 10 WRs, a top 25 tight end, a top 5 RB, a backup top 25 RB, and an offensive line with 4 of the top 30 offensive linemen and maybe even a couple of backups in that skill set. Not to mention what the defense looks like.

        And you’d wind up with the 1994-95 San Francisco 49ers, who were put together by Eddie breaking scads of rules, except that would be the norm instead of the exception (an exception made by breaking a bunch of rules).Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Even though teams trade draft picks and do good with them or badly with them, the fact that the draft gives bad teams the chips to trade is in and of itself significant. For that to happen, they have to be able to pick who they want.

        Having said all that, I think the NFL-AFL merger was bad for the game. For multiple reasons. But if the two leagues still existed independently of one another, it would provide players a little more opportunity insofar as they would be drafted by two teams. I’d consider this a perfectly acceptable arrangement.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        I honestly don’t think that would work, for the reasons you mention in the OP.

        Professional sports, as an entertainment medium (as opposed to just athletic competition), thrive as a profitable enterprise precisely because of narrative.

        Narratives require stories, and stories require participants.

        Ain’t nobody going to enjoy arguing whether the AFL Foobears were better than the NFL Barcats when the Foobears and the Barcats not only don’t ever play each other, they don’t play teams that ever play each other.

        Granted, a monolithic league like the NFL isn’t the only viable sports league construct, but two parallel monolithic leagues don’t work, historically. One league will acquire the best players, and the other league will fold, unless it is understood to be a subordinate league.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Oh, there would still be a championship game between the two leagues. They’d just be independently-run leagues. Different TV contracts, different drafts, and some different rules (like the two-point conversion). You could even save a week or two for inter-league play, if the leagues were so inclined.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        People argue whether contemporary teams/players are better than historical teams/players with the two sometimes separated by decades.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Thanks, Kazzy. Both for the compliment and inspiring this piece with your own.

      The reason why I would be uncomfortable – or could be made to be uncomfortable once it was brought to my attention – making the same criticism of a black person is that the criticism is plainly unevenly applied. I want to give Elway a pass. I want to come down hard on Manning. If the guy I wanted to come down hard on was black (with such a flimsy distinction between the two cases) and the guy I wanted to give a pass on was white… well, that could be problematic. Or it could be entirely different. But given that I suspect more people are going to come down harder on the black guy than the inverse, I figure I probably shouldn’t add to that discrepancy to whatever extent it exists.

      (I had to look up Frances, who I knew about but wasn’t familiar with the story of. To be honest, I look at the Frances situation more favorably. Wanting to be close to home, especially in light of how the NBA is different than the NFL (I think?). Which is another thing that differentiates Elway from Manning, however slightly. My objection to Manning is rooted in fair part to what came across as an “I don’t want to play for losers” attitude. Which, if I’m being honest with myself – and I will stop being so as soon as this thread is done! – does apply to Elway as well. Part of the point of a draft is to put young talent with losers, so that they stop sucking. Which is actually what happened to the Chargers when they did get a good quarterback.)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        It sounds like your hesitation was couched more in consciousness of the broader context for such a criticism than in creating different standards for different races. That seems wholly consistent with the aims of anti-racism. Were Eli black, there would be a way to discuss your hatred of him that would avoid the easy pitfalls into lazy racist narratives.

        I’m curious… having written this piece… has your opinion of either Eli or Elway changed? Or do you still think they’re different?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        While I’m being contemplative and honest, it’s really not very different. But ask me six months from now, I’ll probably start talking about the differences again. It’s just too fun to root for and against certain people. That said, the thing that gives me most pause is your spectrum theory. That… would change things for me.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I think humans are bad at assessing act vs actor.

        I’ve had this conversation with folks vis a vis dating culture. If a cute or charming guy does something to gain a woman’s attention… say, drop a cheesy pickup line… he is less likely to be labeled a creep than if an ugly or socially awkward guy does it. Even if the act itself is identical. That’s not to say that those factors should be considered when identifying potential mates, but that they don’t really help us determine whether or not “dropping cheesy pickup line” is itself creepy. It’s just a hard thing for humans to do.Report

      • Avatar Michelle says:

        Will–I have no trouble saying, with full conviction, that Elway was just as much of a douchelord as Eli Manning–a smug prick who seemed to think his shit didn’t smell. And I’ll happily be rooting for his team to get crushed this weekend.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I think humans are especially bad at separating act/actor in sexual relationships.
        This is a design feature, not a bug.Report

  3. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    Great essay, Will. I, too, like P. Manning and despise E. Manning. And partly for the same reason, with the same recognition of its problematic nature. But you forgot to mention his face. He looks like a smug entitled brat. But of course that just may be the face he was born with, and my interpretation of it doesn’t reflect the inner person at all.

    But he also plays for New York. While his brother played for my team, in the humble midwestern town of Indianoplace. Add it all up, and you have the perfect sports narrative for an east-o-phobe Hoosier like me.Report

    • I rather like his face, actually.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I wouldn’t say he’s not good looking, but he looks petulant to me. It’s the set of his mouth. But that’s why I suspect it’s just the way his features naturally are, and may have nothing to do with the inner person.Report

      • FWIW, I’ve been told on a number of occasions that Eli is my celebrity doppelganger. So….Hanley, we’re no longer friends. Doc – we really do need to meet up soon. I need my ego stroked more.Report

      • If telling you that I think your celebrity look-alike is cute will speed that much-desired outcome, then I am happy to repeat that I think Eli Manning is cute.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        @mark-thompson I don’t see it, myself. For you, I’d say John Cusack. You handsome devil, you.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “I need my ego stroked more.”

        Is that what the kids are calling it?

        OOO! Can we do a post where we talk about our supposed celebrity dopplegangers? Either the ones we tend to get or — for those of us who’ve met in real life — who we’d assign to one another?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Once upon a time, two of my best friends and I were all compared to Neil Patrick Harris. The funny thing is that none of us looked at all like one another. We just all had things in common with him (my hair, Clint’s facial shape, Kyle’s frame).

        The comparison I’ve gotten the most, especially when I am thin and without facial hair, is Tim Robbins.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Clean shaven Kazzy gets Jerry O’Connell.

        Hairy Kazzy gets Jeff Ross.

        The best is when you get such a comparison from an unexpected source. I had a young (early 20’s) Hispanic guy in a baseball hat approach me a couple years ago about the Jerry O’Connell thing, noting that I looked like, “That guy from ‘Sliders’.” I wouldn’t have pegged him as a fan of an obscure SciFi showed that might have concluded its run before he was born. Yet somehow he saw me and immediately thought: Sliders.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I have a picture of you with a giant pretzel that proves those folks are wrong.Report

      • Mmmm…..giant Bavarian pretzels.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:


        The comparison I’ve gotten the most, especially when I am thin and without facial hair, is Tim Robbins.

        LOL good one

        I still maintain you look like Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Not joking, actually. I don’t particularly see it myself, but I’ve been told that on multiple occasions. It’s been a while, but (a) Tim Robbins isn’t as well-known as he used to be, (b) it’s weight-dependent, and (c) I’d guess the beard throws it off.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I’ve got a theory on Eli’s dopey look that I’m not sure I’m comfortable sharing quasi-publicly.Report

      • Now I’m curious. You know how to text me.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        And you have my email.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Whatever… I’ll just say it.

        It wouldn’t shock me to learn that Manning is somewhere on the spectrum. I had a friend who worked for the team who noted that he cannot make eye contact and rarely socialized with teammates. His remarkable poise under pressure may be because he is unaware of the social context around him; he doesn’t really perceive the difference between the Super Bowl and the preseason.

        If I’m right, he is definitely on the very high functioning end of the spectrum.Report

  4. Avatar Mo says:

    Bo Jackson using his baseball leverage out of pure spite, was pure space awesomeness.Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I hate Eli Manning for an entirely different reason: whenever I start him on my fantasy team, he throws something in the neighborhood of 14 for 38, with 3 INT’s, two unforced fumbles, and zero touchdowns. I bench him in favor of the backup QB in frustration, and the next Monday his Peyton-like performance has the Post pronouncing him “Redeemed.” He’s good enough that you have to consider him if you are at a certain point in the draft, but inconsistent enough to reliably take you out of contention.Report

  6. Avatar Chris says:

    Nice. You captured my thinking in this sentence:

    The short actual answer is: I don’t know any of these men.

    This is actually my thinking for all celebrities, not just athletes. I hear people, quite frequently, talking about celebrities like they know them. “Oh, she needs to do this, and he needs to do that.” “You know what her problem is? She doesn’t do this or that.” How the hell do you know? What we see is public personas, often carefully crafted, if not by the celebrities themselves than by their handlers. We see news stories that never present more than a fraction of the story, the fraction that fits a narrative that will get viewers or readers so that ad can be sold.

    I fall victim to it as well. I think Michael Crabtree is an asshole. I have no real basis for thinking he’s an asshole. Hell, even if he’s an asshole on the field, that doesn’t tell me much about his personality off of it. When I played sports up through high school, I turned into a hyper-competitive ass on the field or court. I was ejected from two basketball games in high school, one for throwing another player to the ground and another for throwing a ball in the general direction of an official (I missed). I had a quick temper on the court that, if you asked anyone in my life, they would find completely incongruous with my off court near complete lack of one.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      The stress of competition brings this out in a number of people. Something I think a lot of California Supreme Court critics are forgetting in their rush to condemn its ruling denying Stephen Glass’ bar admission application.

      In sports, which is a superficial spectacle at the end of the day (as you all know, I enjoy pro sports a lot but I recognize its superficiality) we ought to be more willing to tolerate this sort of thing because it provides a stepping stone for healthier ways to compete about things that matter (e.g., money) and stunts like Sherman’s are is quite entertaining. Just remember when making decisions that these sorts of things are for entertainment, not as patterns for modeling one’s real life decisions, is what I’m saying.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      Speaking as a 49er fan, here, I can state that I think Michael Crabtree is an asshole, too, for whatever that’s worth.

      I think he’s a different type of asshole, though.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I believe it to be more true generally that we all have sort of different personas. With the exception of our closest acquaintances over prolonged periods of time, most of what we see of one another is the sliver of a circumstance. So to the players on opposing high school teams, the competitive ass you are on the court is who you are. Everybody is the villain of somebody else’s story.

      Of course, it all goes up to another level when you have PR people involved, millions of dollars on the line, and tens of millions of spectators of fans and detractors.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      @chris & @will-truman : “Nice. You captured my thinking in this sentence:
      The short actual answer is: I don’t know any of these men.”

      There is something to this, perhaps more than is intended.

      One of the things I have noticed over the years is that I am far more forgiving in some instances, and far less in others, of Laker players. (Less so with Dodger and Seahawks players, since I follow roundball far closely more than baseball or football.) And I think this is because even though I don’t really know any Laker players, I get to know them far better than I do players on any other team.

      When Richard Sherman was in the middle of his now infamous post-game rant, I tweeted: Richard Sherman is the Ron Artest of the NFL. And it’s true, especially on a person level for me. Both are guys I recognize that I would hate if they played on another team and their big missteps were all I ever really knew about their off field/court selves. (And in fact, I hated Artest before he became a Lake — and a Metta World-Peace.) But I do know more about them now, and not only am I more forgiving, I actually love watching them be them in an interview.

      This works both ways.

      The only basketball player in all of history I hate more than the Blazer/TImberwolves Isaiah Rider is Isaiah Rider the Laker. I went from respecting Dennis Rodman to seriously disliking him more after he put on the yellow and gold, and I went from feeling sympathy to feeling antipathy toward Kwame Brown when he did the same. And don’t even get me started on Cedric Ceballos.

      When a player is on your team, you *do* get to know a lot more about them then when they are simply a league star. And in some cases that works in their favor, but not always. I have come to believe that it really depends on the measure of the person behind the athlete.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Hold on… Ron Artest demonstrated some legitimate mental issues and an inability to control himself when his emotions got amped up. I don’t think EITHER of those are true of Richard Sherman.

        I was all about Ron-Ron until he decided to become a jump shooter and thought he got a bit of a raw deal after the Malice in the Palace. But comparing him to Sherman seems unfair to the latter.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        My point being that if you look at them both from their most infamous incidents, they look like villains. (Or thugs, or spoiled brats, of whatever.)

        But once you start learning more about them out of uniform, the more you see that they’re actually better — and nicer — human beings than most of the people around them.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Ah… yes… That makes much more sense.

        As I said above (and it is not an original quote), people are never as good as they appear on their best day nor as bad as they appear on their worst day. I think Mike Greenberg said it while discussing Armando Galarraga. Previously, Galarraga was venerated for how well he handled losing a perfect game on a dubious call on the 27th out. During a later start, he ends up blowing up on an umpire, I believe over balls and strikes, and just goes nuts, handling himself quite poorly. Some people were left wondering, “How could the guy who showed such remarkable restraint in one situation be the same guy going crazy in this one?” Hence the quote. Which I think is fairly astute. Neither of those situations sums up Galarraga as a man. They are but two data points.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Knowing someone who has done TV, I’ve gotten to hear more than my share of
      “behind the scenes” commentary.

      You can generally judge an author by his work (Have Some Fun: Try GRRM!)
      To some extent you can judge a musician by his compositions… [Vindictiveness,
      at any rate, often comes through.]Report

  7. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    On a different note, narrative. Is a fine way to sustain public focus and enhance public interest over time in matters of little substance and much personality. Sports, entertainment. But for about ten years now, it’s bled into politics and public affairs, to the point that individual statements, actions, and policy proposals must now fit in to some sort of over-arching mega-narrative about how history is unfolding. Not a useful tool for informing the public about matters in which there are complex decisions to be made amongst competing visions of the good.Report

  8. Avatar Slugger says:

    The main question here is about the pervasiveness of racism in American culture. Is everything a black person does or says tainted by the lens of racism? A group of my friends were very disturbed a few months ago when a Brit visitor said that we were all racists. I am white like everybody else commenting on this thread. I don’t have a racist bone in my body just like every person I know/sarcasm. I’d be interested in hearing from an actual black person. Is driving while black a real thing? Do ER docs give less pain medicine to black men? Do old ladies get upset when they are in an elevator with you?Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Driving while black is a real thing. (so is driving while white, in my city — far less universal).
      Doctors do statistically give worse treatment to fat people.

      I have known folks who have said “Excuse me” (quietly and gently)
      and had women piss themselves in fear.Report

  9. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Elway is an entitled jackass too. I remember his incessant whining that The Play, which ended his very last game at Stanford, ruined his college career. Well, good!

    (Yes, I did go to Berkeley. Why do you ask?)Report

  10. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Does the combination of the hard salary cap, revenue sharing, and the new high minimum spending requirement (each team must spend at least 89% of the cap in cash) make the draft obsolete? With the hard cap no team is going to go the Yankees and Red Sox route and buy up the pro bowl line-up. With the minimum spending requirement no team is going to discard everything but the dregs of the league. And with revenue sharing, no team can plead poverty. It would simple come down to building the best team with the fixed pot of money, and amongst the players you can negotiate with are those coming out of college.

    The people who would be hurt the most are owners like Dan Snyder, an idiot that burns through coaches, and whose only chance to get a (potential) top-notch QB is the draft. If I were in some godlike position with the NFL responsible for putting a quality product on the fields across the league, getting rid of the Snyders in the ownership pool would be a fairly high priority for me.Report

  11. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    If [Manning] was African-American, however, it wouldn’t be hard to perceive my criticisms of him as being entitled and by extension arrogant as being commentary on how black people are.

    Is this why you wouldn’t comment on Cassius Clay?

    As for Elisha, while I can’t refute anything you say about him, he did lead my favorite team to two Super Bowl wins. So he has that going for him, which is nice.Report

  12. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    It is worth noting that Giants fans were not always in love with Eli.

    In 2005, the Giants were the 4 seed in the NFC. They proceeded to get drubbed in their playoff game by Jake De L’Homme and the Carolina Panthers 23-0. Eli had a passer rating of 35 that game.

    On November 25, 2007, the Giants lost at home to the Minnesota Vikings 41-8 to fall to 7-4. This put them 3 games behind the Cowboys with 5 to play Eli had a passer rating of 33.8 that day.

    For context, a player who throws only incomplete passes has a default rating of 39.6.

    I can tell you that many Giants fans were about to give up on Eli after those games. After the Vikings loss, the Giants finished that regular season 3-2, including a “moral victory” loss against the Patriots on the last Saturday night of the season. They then went on their Super Bowl run.Report

  13. Avatar Kazzy says:

    From the Manning family biography (entitled, “Manning”):

    “The Manning-Stewart competition accelerated when fifth-year senior Jerry Colquitt injured his ACL in the season’s first game. Backup Todd Helton struggled with ineffectiveness and then injuries,1 leaving the job to the freshmen. While Manning and Stewart were always on friendly terms, Manning never missed a chance to gain an edge. “I locked [Stewart] out of a quarterback meeting one night,” Manning wrote. “We were scheduled to meet with coaches at eight o’clock, when a lot of the buildings on campus are closed and everything looks deserted. I was walking through one of the doors they had kept open for us and it ‘accidentally’ closed behind me, locking automatically. I knew Branndon was running late and that he’d have to get through that door. I didn’t bother to prop it back open.”

    These small acts of subterfuge became commonplace. Manning didn’t write about his collegiate duplicity with pride, but he admitted it was a critical time, even remarking that a crucial Stewart interception when the two were still competing “made a good situation even better.””

    Link here: http://grantland.com/features/peyton-manning-denver-broncos-offense/

    I wonder how many people will read that and think about terms like “plucky” and “scrappy” and “smart” and “dedicated” and “competitor”. I wonder how they would have read it before Peyton Manning became Peyton Manning. And how they’d read it if it were written about Jeff George or Cam Newton or Michael Vick.Report