Football God was enraged. Peyton Manning, retire? After all Football God had done for him? With a clap of his hands, Football God summoned Manning.
“Football God I was in the middle of something,” Manning said, a large chicken parmesan sandwich in hand.
“That can wait. The hell is with you and retiring?” Football God asked.
“Well… I mean I want to return. But I just don’t know if my body is cut out for it any more. Those passes against the Colts? Ten years ago I’d make all those throws. Now they’re sailing high. I can’t hit tight windows like I used to. What more do I have to offer? And with all the turmoil that’s hit the Broncos, is that really a place to go back to?”
Football God scowled. “I put you on this Earth for one purpose, Peyton. To throw footballs. You weren’t created by Actor God, or by TV Anchor God, or Pizza Franchising God-”
“Yeah, can you talk to Pizza Franchising God for me? I started some Papa–”
“No!” Football God bellowed. “Your purpose is to play football. You aspire to win Super Bowls. This is the role I gave you.”
Peyton bowed his head, thinking. “I just feel like this was it, my last shot. It’s a young man’s game. I’m not a young man anymore.” Peyton looked up. “Unless… unless you can give me my youth back.”
Football God chuckled. “Peyton. You’re like a son to me. I brought you into the world, and I will guide you out of it. But there’s a natural order to things. We can’t just grant people more time. It makes things too messy down there. But I do know of a loophole. We can offer you a re-do. I can jump you back in time to the Colts game this year. We can play that over again. The other gods won’t notice. And you can atone for your mistakes.”
Peyton thought for a moment. “I would like that.”
“Then so it shall be! Any last things before we jump back?”
“Well,” Peyton said,” I guess I always thought you’d look like a football.”
“What. No.” With a mighty clap of his hands Football God sent Peyton Manning back to the AFC Divisional Round Game against the Colts.
“Peyton what the hell do you think you’re doing,” Roger Goodell yelled as Peyton entered Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Peyton was confused. “I’m getting ready for a football game.”
“No,” Goodell said. “You know what I mean.” Peyton looked at him, baffled. Roger’s voice quieted to a hush. “Look. I know you met with Football God. I know all about this scheme you have going on.” A look of panic wiped across Peyton’s face. Roger said, “You don’t need to worry. I’m the only one who knows. Now, I think this would be a good story for the NFL. ‘The Greatest Quarterback Ever Exits Game on Top.’ After the awful year we’ve had as an organization, what better way to win the good will of the people back? But I think I can sweeten the deal.
“You’re still three games away. A lot can happen.” Goodell took a picture out of his wallet. “Tell me what you think of this.”
A single tear rolled down Peyton Manning’s cheek. “I can give this to you.” Goodell said. “Imagine — your mind and your arm, combined with the body of a bronco. You’d be unstoppable.”
Peyton could barely speak. “Yes, please.”
“Then so it shall be!” Roger Goddell bellowed as he clapped his hands.
Peyton Manning trotted onto the field. His bronco legs were so swift, he felt so fleet of foot, it was unlike anything else he’d ever experienced before. He’d ran out to the roaring crowd hundreds of times before, but now it felt different. It felt like the crowd was cheering for him and only him, 76,000 people in awe of his god-like status, bowing before his immaculate form.
And then the collapse. His front legs buckled. He fell to ground. He could hear the trainers above him, but they felt so far away. “…both front ankles…. there’s nothing we can do… put him out of his misery…” Peyton closed his eyes. This time was supposed to be different. He was a better version of himself. He would make up for his mistakes. He would finally be perfect.
When he opened his eyes again, it was just him and Football God. Football God held his head in his palms. Peyton waited for him to look up. After a while, he said, “I’m so sorry, Football God.” No response. “I just wanted everything to be perfect.”
Football God looked up. “Was it worth it?” Manning didn’t respond. “All this, just so you could get your Super Bowl ring.”
“Uhh, Football God,” Manning said, “I already have my Super Bowl ring.”
“Yeah, I got it in 2007,” Manning said. Football God didn’t respond. “…we beat the Bears? 29-17? I won Super Bowl MVP?”
Football God turned red in the face. “Hey man, there’s a lot of football! Look man, I gotta go.” With a clap of his hands, Football God was gone.
“…you said you’d guide me out of this world.”
Peyton Manning bolted out of bed. He whipped off the covers. “Oh thank God, stupid human legs.”
A large, anthropomorphic chicken parm entered the room and sat at Peyton’s bedside. “Bad dream, Honey?”
Peyton looked relieved. “You know it, Large Anthropomorphic Chicken Parm.” The two kissed. “Chicken Parm you taste so good.”