In the wake of the surprising, one-sided results of Super Bowl XLVIII, there was one predictable storyline of scrutiny you could see coming from a mile a way, or more specifically, right at the moment the gaffe-snapped pigskin was fallen on by Knowshon Moreno in his own end zone: Peyton Manning’s legacy.
This isn’t an astute observation because it was also the topic every pundit couldn’t help but talk about BEFORE the game. In fact, the only reason I wanted the Broncos to win was because of Peyton Manning. I think he’s had a wonderful career and it would’ve been awesome to celebrate and laud him as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game had they won.
But boy, that sure didn’t happen. And in the 24-hour sports news-cycle culture, the expression of joy and celebration of one’s career achievements seems to be worth less nowadays. It’s just more fun and intriguing to talk about how he screwed up Sunday and may not be as great as we thought he was in this short-attention span culture we live in; rather than, you know, take his whole career in context and not let recent events carry more weight than they ought to. But when you got the likes of Skip Bayless & Stephen A. Smith barking at one another like electroconvulsive seals, you get the sense that pragmatism is not among us.
Seriously, there are plenty of talking heads and trite “shock” jocks and former players and analysts and sports writers that have got Peyton’s fate FIGURED OUT. Just Google “Peyton Manning legacy” and watch the Barnum & Bailey Circus parade across your computer screen. Or, if you don’t have time to research it all but still want to understand what all the analysis is about, get up from your chair, run to the nearest wall, find a stud and smash your head repeatedly until you achieve complete loss of consciousness.
I allege Peyton’s legacy will always be debated if he never wins another Championship. There will never be a coalition of agreement on said matter. I reckon that’s what makes the definition of one’s “legacy” so contentious: ambiguity.
Legacy isn’t a scientific law, especially not in the world of Sports banter. We get to write our own history when we choose how we want to remember an athlete. We focus on the numbers we think are the most telling, the plays that decided his/her career, the trophies and accomplishments that mattered the most. And then we get to scream about them with our mouths seeping of brimstone while perched on bar stools like satanic parrots because, uh….this stuff REALLY matters.
All this talk about Manning’s legacy got me thinking about just that: how one leaves their own legacy. We can’t necessarily control what it looks like or how it’s perceived by others. All we can do is live a life that’s controlled by our own personal impulses and philosophies and ethics and ambitions, hoping that everyone we know and care for sees a sentient, externalized expression of ourself that we deem to be authentic regarding who we really are.
Much, if not all, of what defines our legacy lies within what we value most. What we want is what we seek, and if we can reach and obtain it, it could stay with our name after our bodies disappear.
Achievements can be another formation; a consequence of passionate curiosity or a devoted career. This could be more of a global recognition from those who do not know the person individually but greatly appreciate their success(es). This is currently highly regarded in societies that idolize celebrities and elite, notable figures, but it’s not whole or precise.
Our greatest mistakes can also form our remembrance. In a broken world, the inimical forces that afflicts us can stay with us longer and weigh heavier than the good we strive to feel. Many lives can be tainted by a single mistake that leaves no room for redemption.
It begs some questions to ask: from what or who’s vantage point does our legacy really matter the most? Should our greatest desire be to make our legacy understood clearly to those closest to us? Does it all even matter if, presumably, we’re not around to see our legacy take effect?
There are no global answers to these questions because, ultimately, legacy is a concept too personal to box and sell standardly. The axiom of legacy is ruled by existential meaning, and this is a highly contested abstraction.
At 25 years old, and close to turning 26, I find myself, for the very first time, seriously questioning and theorizing what my legacy will be. What will people who outlive my duration have to say about me? I sure hope they’re more objective than those who unfairly archive athletes. In fact, I regard the concept of my legacy as unimportant in saying anything about myself. Rather, I see it’s utility in being a means to an end. Something greater and more lasting than I could ever hope to stand for.
If I do it right, I hope they can only see the influence of the One who loved me enough to give His life freely.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”