You’ll laugh. You’ll cry.
You’ll probably do both at once.
The Book of Manning, airing Tuesday as part of ESPN’s “SEC Storied” series and previewed Wednesday evening at the pater familias’ self-titled Fulton Street restaurant, will evoke those emotions, particularly from those of us of a certain age who marveled at Archie’s athletic abilities at Ole Miss and who watched Cooper, Peyton and Eli grow from infants to accomplished adults, all reflecting the good qualities their parents (Olivia’s downplayed role is one of the few quibbles with the production) passed along to them.
“Life has been good, but not easy,” Archie says near the end of the show.
That’s part of the show’s theme, brought to life by writer/director Rory Karpf with narration by John Goodman.
Archie’s career at Ole Miss (Seldom-seen clips of him in college rekindle memories of a quarterback with racehorse running ability combined with a great knack for finding receivers) was nearly derailed shortly before his junior season when his father, Buddy, committed suicide.
It’s a well-known story that Archie found his father’s body and cleaned up things before his mother and sister got home.
What’s less known is that Archie felt compelled to remain in Drew, Miss., and support his family instead of going back to Ole Miss.
“I felt like I had to be a man.” Archie said.
But in the end, he returned to college and carved out a legendary career followed by 11 valiant years with the then-lowly Saints, an experience most of us would want to get away from but that led Archie and Olivia to become permanent New Orleanians.
Just as poignant is how Cooper’s playing career as a wide receiver at Ole Miss was over almost as soon as it began when it was discovered that he had a spinal condition that left him one good hit away from being paralyzed. As it was, the corrective surgery was nearly fatal.
When Cooper recalls the moment from 20 years ago when his teammates, especially the seniors who hardly knew him, were so supportive of him when he found out he could no longer play, he has tears in his eyes.
We challenge you to watch the scene without doing the same.
But those are the down moments.
There are a lot more good ones.
In a day when we should expect that our every action is going somehow be digitally recorded, we should be grateful that back in the 1970s and ’80s, Archie and Olivia were into home movies.
Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to see those marvelous backyard Saturdays with Cooper, Peyton and their friends (Eli, five years younger than Peyton, was too little to join in except as a crash-test dummy for his brothers) would pretend to be their favorite NFL players, none of which, apparently, were with the Saints.
Three-year-old Peyton’s crying because 5-year-old Cooper pulled his jersey is priceless. As is Peyton, who wasn’t allowed to play organized football until the seventh grade, giving the same hand directions to a group of seemingly younger teammates as he’s done throughout his NFL career. He’s even wearing an Indianapolis Colts T-shirt while doing on.
Even from the start, it was obvious that Peyton was serious about his football. He probably did film study while in kindergarten.
Not so much, at least at first, was Eli. But by the time he was finished at Ole Miss, his coach, David Cutcliffe, is calling him the best player in Rebels history.
But we don’t want to give away too much.
Watch the show.
And when you do, appreciate the show’s true message: the importance of being a good father.
Archie has always expressed the desire he had been closer to his father. And he resolved to be just that for his sons.
“I never regretted spending time with my family,” Archie said in a lesson all of us should heed. “My father once told me, ‘I just want you to be a good guy.
“What I want my children to think of me is that I’m a good guy.”
No need to worry about that Archie.
You’ve always been one and always will be.