Why Does Eli Manning Have to Be So Darn Likable?

Eli Manning should be objectionable. We should detest him. He’s the son of an NFL quarterback. He was the star quarterback himself in both high school and college. He was the NFL’s No. 1 Draft Pick. He has won multiple Super Bowl MVPs. He plays in New York. Any one of those factors in isolation could have contorted his ego into an unconscionable menace, yet he emerged unscathed. He’s pleasant, sincere and untouched. It’s unnerving.

He is laid-back. He’s self-effacing. He’s not chisled from granite. He’s not cloyingly tight with the man upstairs. His wife is attractive, but from real life. He displays the precise measure of awkwardness someone normal would show when run through a media obstacle course. As his more ostentatious teammates (and ex-teammates) preen themselves, he looks away sheepishly. Manning is the anti-Brady, or, perhaps, Brady without the inner torment and the celebrity facade.

Peyton can be charming. Eli just is. He has many of the same qualities, but his competitiveness is transparent. We can see his effort, his frustration and his maniacal mind at work. He’s in your face. He erupts on you. Eli sneaks up noiselessly, stabs you with an economy of emotion and walks out with the same “aww…shucks” expression. Afterwards, he’s inoffensive and incredibly gracious. Peyton is similar. We like his commercials, but he’s a little too brilliant. We don’t hate him, necessarily, but when the schadenfreude is there it’s easy to revel in it.

We can root against Eli Manning. We can criticize his quarterbacking acumen, but he does not have that one annoying or sinister personality trait that fuels our animus. Our brains strain, trying to conjure something, anything grating before resigning in defeat. We can hate the Giants. We can really hate New Yorkers, but Eli, the face of the whole thing, inspires no genuine, visceral reaction. As a Patriots fan, there is no outlet. It’s a terrible feeling.

[Photo via Getty]

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