For weeks now football fans, particularly those in Indianapolis, have been preoccupied with the fate of Peyton Manning.

And now ESPN is reporting that a decision has been made.  Manning and the Colts will part ways and will officially announce the decision at a news conference at Colts headquarters on Wednesday.

As many of you know, the Colts had several options, they could have chosen to pay Manning a $28 million bonus, release him and try to negotiate a new deal, or do what ESPN is reporting: say goodbye and thanks for the memories, by letting the 14-year veteran become a free agent.

Peyton Manning Waves Goodbye

This has easily been the biggest sports decision ever made in Indiana’s capital city.  But deciding to release Manning, who has had at least four “procedures” or surgeries on his neck in two years, and didn’t play this past season, has ramifications that loom far beyond the stately, retractable roof, downtown football stadium that Manning’s greatness helped build.

Most at stake is the collective psyche of a city.  For more than a decade, despite an impressive 21st century resume as an important sports magnet, Indianapolis feels far more relevant because of number 18.

Making Manning even more important to Hoosiers is the love he has heaped on his adopted hometown.  From all appearances this was a two-way love affair.

Peyton Manning fully embraced Indianapolis.  And the city bear-hugged him back, fully aware that most superstars in small markets tend to hit the road once the season’s over or eventually look longingly at the green grass of another place to play.

Twitter, Facebook, the newspaper and sports radio in Indianapolis have gone crazy since the season ended, with fans debating what owner Jim Irsay and the Colts should do as the clock ticked down on the contract bonus deadline.  Although Irsay desperately didn’t want to look like a villain, for weeks he tweeted and talked like he had already decided to move on to a post-Peyton Manning era, which angered many fans.

What made this decision difficult and delicate for Irsay and the Colts and even for the most loyal of Manning supporters, is the looming prospect of Manning’s potential replacement taking over – the guy many say is Manning 2.0, Stanford’s all-everything quarterback, Andrew Luck.

Some believed that Manning and Luck could have co-existed, with Luck learning the ropes as an understudy to an all-time great.  But that presumed Luck would have been willing to wait for his career to get started by sitting on the bench a year or two.  And it also assumed that Manning’s neck and throwing arm are sound.  His health status is something so far no one knows for sure except maybe Manning himself.

But while fans in several other NFL cities are salivating at the possibility that Manning, even in recovery mode, is the best new option for their teams, there will first be a period of mourning for the loss of Indianapolis’ favorite son.

No, this is not an ordinary football parting. This will be painful.  How do you say goodbye to the greatest player of any sport in Indianapolis history?  Peyton Manning helped the city of Indianapolis and its residents feel proud of him and themselves.

He made the city a winner in every way that matters.  To say he will be missed is perhaps the biggest understatement of all.


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