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Peyton Manning should retire, but likely won’t

Going Long with Geisler

By Andrew Geisler, Columnist

In life, how do you define rich? A common reply: whoever has more money than you. The same tends to be true in sports. Who is better, athlete x or athlete y? Our favorite way to decide: whoever has won more championships.

This paradigm can be good for quick simplistic comparisons. Snap judgments are easy with a quick look at the bottom line. And on this snap judgment it is clear who the better NFL quarterback of this generation is: Tom Brady.

Brady has now won four Super Bowls, and very nearly six. He and Montana are at least tied as the greatest of all time now. There's no real way to debate this credibly.

But, there's the problem of Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning is the master. Then, he chokes in December and January. Manning is most of us. We work hard. We prepare to the best of our ability then we go out and do what we can.

Tom Brady does the same, and then some. The man is a true maniac about football success. Don't believe me? Read the recent New York Times magazine piece about his training regimen. The man's entire life is shaped around football and being the best. There is nothing else in his life. He is excellent.

Brady's brand of narcissism is impressive, but also annoying. Doesn't he ever just want to eat some ice cream and cut loose?

Manning's brand of greatness is what's easier for most to get behind. He eats chicken parm sandwiches on Nationwide commercials. He owns a bunch of Papa John's franchises. He seems like a nice guy.

Brady is the intimidating freak of nature. Manning is the successful guy who also appears to have a nice life. Both are maximizing something, but one lacks balance.

Still, this sports greatness paradigm - that Brady is far superior to Manning because of his single-minded quest for success - means Manning, who made it clear he should retire when he his body failed him down the stretch this season, probably will not retire. Part of it is because athletes never really know when to hang it up. What will they do next? But part of it is also the chase that Manning can never really catch Brady in.

Philosophers may tell us we should give more respect to the balanced one, but sports is where some of our base impulses can simply run wild. Tom Brady is the greatest - 13 for 15 on the last two drives of his latest Super Bowl great. Manning is probably the smartest quarterback we've ever had. Somewhere he lacks the indescribable it factor Brady so clearly has.

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That's why even though I'll be rooting for the Manning-Kubiak marriage to work out and get Peyton one more Super Bowl - so he at least ties his goon of a brother in total titles - there's almost no chance of it happening. There's a better chance the insanely driven Brady and his diabolical coach will get another Lombardi trophy. It will cement their place in history as the two best.

The problem is Manning will never want to stop chasing, even when he might as well get off the treadmill that is the race to the top in American life. Peyton Manning should just realize he's already there - he and Brady may be peers, but they're not equals. Still, I can't help but have greater respect for Peyton Manning. We should all respect the one who appears to have it figured out over the one who is chasing for a top of the mountain that doesn't really exist.