INDIANAPOLIS – Either he was, or he wasn't. Only the family knows for sure.
Archie Manning and his family attended the New York Giants' NFC Championship game two weeks ago at San Francisco.
One of the most dramatic endings in championship play could have happened in regulation. It did not. A 17-14 Giants lead that was claimed with 8:34 to go was wiped out three minutes later with a 49ers field goal. Five and a half minutes remained. Incredibly, each team had three more possessions in regulation to break the tie. Neither team could, so overtime ensued.
With a Super Bowl berth hanging in the balance, both teams traded punts in the extra session. The Giants punted a second time and got a game-winning break on a San Francisco special teams fumble. Kicker Lawrence Tynes booted New York to Indianapolis and Super Bowl XLVI five plays later.
Manning was either coping well with the heightened drama from a booth in Candlestick Park, or wasn't he.
"They (family members) were kidding me after the San Francisco game," said Manning. "We were in the box and I was almost down on my knees. They said I was down on my knees. I dispute that. I was not on my knees. It's hard. It's really hard, especially close games like that. It's hard."
Manning has sons Peyton and Eli in the NFL. He has witnessed three conference championship games involving Peyton and two with Eli. Peyton has won twice. Eli has won twice.
One would think it would be getting easier for the elder Manning since he has been down this road more than once. Think again.
"Heck, no. It doesn't get easier. It's hard," said Manning.
Both of the Giants' victories in conference title games came by field goals in overtime, the first being in 2007 at Green Bay. One of Peyton's came after a 21-3 home deficit was erased with a second-half blitz that turned into a 38-34 triumph over New England. The Colts that day took the lead with one minute remaining and had to produce a game-saving interception seconds later. Even the Colts' 30-17 victory over the New York Jets after the 2009 season had trying times. Indianapolis had to erase an 11-point deficit on the way to Super Bowl XLIV.
The end result is Manning and his family have been to four Super Bowls recently. It is a special accomplishment, one for which Manning is most grateful.
"We pretty much pinch ourselves," said Manning. "To think I'm sitting here dealing with tickets and rooms and thinking, 'This is the fourth time I've done this in six years.' I don't complain. We feel very blessed."
Feelings of blessing can take many forms. While there is the satisfaction as a parent, Manning thinks beyond the blessings his family has known. There are others who have shared that ride with him, others who have competed against him in those moments and some he hopes can have the same eventual feeling, too.
"I think about other parents a lot," said Manning. "I think about how happy I am for the other Giants players' parents. I've never met Mr. Brady. I've never met Tom's dad. I think about him. This is five times for him. What a treat.
"I also think about some friends I have who have sons playing who haven't had this experience yet. So, I don't want to be greedy. It's fun, but I have some good friends who have some sons playing and I hope they get to experience it, too. It really is a special time as a parent."
Peyton and Eli both have won Super Bowls, and they were named Most Valuable Players in the process. Archie labored with New Orleans, Houston and Minnesota in a career that spanned from 1971-84. His career starting record was 35-101-3. Only once, 1979 in New Orleans, did his team achieve a .500 record. Twice, he earned Pro Bowl bids.
A gifted player who never sampled the side of the NFL his sons have repeatedly is proud of them for another reason, too. Archie and Olivia shaped their three sons (the eldest, being Cooper who had to stop playing football in college for a medical reason) for things beyond football.
"We always had a (family) saying, 'Take care of your business.' That involves a lot," said Manning. "It summarizes things. When you're growing up, you go to work on your morals and manners. That's kind of the package. We've been really proud of all three of them. They take care of their business."