When the Indianapolis Colts released quarterback Peyton Manning in March of this year after a full calendar's worth of neck woes, teams lined up for a chance to sign the future Hall of Famer despite the inherent risks that accompany an aging and injured athlete. As I watched the whole episode unfold, with secret hops that Manning would somehow land back in Indy, I saw a clear favorite emerge from the list of Number 18's suitors. To me, the Tennessee Titans looked like a natural fit, given the fact that Manning began building his legend during college in the Volunteer State and the Brinks truck that owner Bud Adams dangled in front of the superstar. In the end, Manning turned down Bud's advances to sign on with the Denver Broncos, but Peyton has apparently not lost the warm spot in his heart for Tennessee. On October 5, USAToday.com reported that Manning will join a group to become minority owners of the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies.
As Colts fans, we have been spoiled by Manning's brilliance over the years and lulled into the illusion that he is an NFL quarterback and quick-witted product pitchman. With this move, it's clear that Manning is at least beginning to think about what he will be doing once he hangs up his cleats for good in a few years. It's not too surprising to see that his first venture is a combination of sports and business, both avenues which could presumably let him satisfy some of those competitive fires that are often so had to quench for former world-class athletes. In this respect, he won't be alone with his new basketball team, as former NBA player Penny Hardaway is also a part of the group buying into the Grizzlies. Singer Justin Timberlake is also in the mix, so it's not too hard to imagine some creative three-way advertising gigs in the Grizzlies' future.
One interesting aspect of this deal is the light that it casts on the Titans. By most reports, Adams offered Manning more money than any other NFL owner would cough up, and there were also whispers about codicils that provided Manning with future ownership interests in the team. It could be that Manning just really did not want to join a division rival of the Colts and be forced to dismantle his old team twice a year, but that seems unrealistically altruistic and loyal, even for Peyton. More likely, Manning didn't see enough to make him think that Tennessee could compete any time soon, which has been born out by the results so far this season.
With the Grizzlies, Manning doesn't have to worry so much about how long it will take to win a championship. After all, they're already pretty good, and Manning has the rest of his life to figure out how to snag an NBA title.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.
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- Indianapolis Colts
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- Memphis Grizzlies