Aw Shucks, Peyton!

USA TODAY Sports

I wish I knew how to hate you.

(note: none of the links are work appropriate. They feature strong language, as is the nature of many prime time comedy shows)

It should be easy, right? I hate the Yankees. I hate the Lakers. I hate the Canadiens. I hate the Colts, the Jets, and the Ravens. I hate Kobe Bryant, Aaron Boone, and P.K. Subban.

But Peyton, I just don't know how I'm supposed to hate you.

I should be able to point to Tom Brady's greatest rival and say, "Peyton Manning is easily the most hate-able player in football."

But I can't.

Maybe it's because we learned to pity your performances when the rivalry was young. Bill Belichick undeniably had your number so your threat seemed to be minimal at best.

Or when you broke free from the narrative that you couldn't be winner, it seemed to be okay because you had only won once, while Brady already had three.

Or maybe the way you were injured and your franchise- because the Colts were Peyton's team- went down in flames and you were ushered away as damaged goods.We could relate. Seeing the pain and waste of a season full of potential. No one wants to see such needless loss.

Fans of one great quarterback acknowledging the greatness of another. We would always take our Brady, but we could understand that you have had one of the great careers in all of professional football.

Still, it should be easier to dislike someone whose successes and failures have come so interwoven with the team that we root for with so much passion. The tribulation of 03 and 04 so easily offset by 06. The fact that your brother will forever ride your coattails and be the bane of both yours and Brady's existence. That Manning 04 led to Brady 07 and back to Manning 13.

Your history is so much  a piece of the greatest franchise in the new millennium and the Patriots history wouldn't be the same without you.

And you find a way to still be so gosh done likable. Lovable, even.

Whether you're teaching kids to play football:

"I throw, you catch. It's not that hard." Instant classic and absolutely incredible.

Or maybe its his explanation of what the city of Omaha means to him. The inflection and delivery is perfect for football pregame shows for when he retires and inevitably stays in the spotlight. And maybe Belichick will know that he has to defend the run/pass/play-action if there's any wind and the Broncos are wearing orange. You might not get that reference, but that just means you haven't watched the video. Do it. I'll wait.

Seriously, go do it.

And then there's Peyton as Mike Tahoe, proving that justice is a team sport:

And whether Peyton's cursing his own player while on the Colts, or cursing his own player while on the Broncos, you know that he doesn't mean it. Or he totally does, but he's just demanding greatness from his players in a hilariously viral soundbite.

But that's just Peyton in the spotlight. Hamming it up for the cameras. He can't be more irresistible than Tom Brady in the workplace, right? Peyton's not handsome, attractive, or not not attractive, so how can he win over so many hearts? And if you didn't get that reference, you need to stop what you're doing and click the link about Brady in the workplace (not if you're in the workplace, though!).

I'll wait for you. Again.

It turns out that Peyton is actually this genuine of a person. Brady and Manning will be the first to admit their friendship and respect for one another goes for both on and off the field. They'll be the first to reach out to the other if they're undergoing some sort of hardship. Heck, they even traded their favorite short, white, slot receivers for the season.

Peyton was the first to mention that even though he broke Brady's touchdown record this season, it's just as likely Brady will return the favor next year. It's not a relationship that's based in spite for one another. It stems from the desire to achieve greatness and in knowing that greatness will come from the competition that is rooted in their relationship. Yin and Yang. Fire and water. 12 to 18.

And Peyton's compliments know no boundaries. He went on the record today to tell the world about Bill Belichick and hopefully make up for the ludicrous comments on Julian Edelman that came out of safety Mike Adams' mouth.

"Coach Belichick is the best coach that I’ve ever competed against," Peyton said to the press. "And I think it’s safe to say he’ll go down as the greatest NFL coach of all time."

High praise from one of the best competitors on football.

Peyton, we've learned to respect your greatness over the years and appreciate what you've brought to the sport. Your rivalry with Brady will go down in history as one of the best in all of sports- and barring a tragic event, we'll have been able to witness a full 16-game season's worth of head-to-head match-ups after next regular season.

But through the respect and appreciation, we've built a greater connection to Belichick and Brady for all that you've done for your teams and for the sport, they've done more. They're our Patriots. They've brought us to the top and have left us with such enduring success that is put so clearly in perspective by the shortcomings of your teams. Your teams that couldn't win in the playoffs, or against Belichick and Brady. They make our seasons mean so much more for what Belichick and Brady have been able to squeeze out of cast-offs and nothings.

You're a great guy, Peyton. I'm fortunate for having been able to watch you on TV. While Brady might not be as destined for the silver screen spotlight as you are, that just means we'll finally be able to root for you when you end up on the pre-game show. And hopefully the pre-game show is the only place you'll have left to be once the Patriots walk out of Denver.

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