The Colts and Bears are two NFL teams that I neither loathe nor love. My ambivalence for them extends so far that the main reason I looked forward to Sunday’s Super Bowl was because I could enjoy the sport without overly investing myself in worrying about who won. Neither team is a natural rival of my Miami Dolphins. I had no money on the game, and the fantasy season had long since concluded. I figured I could count on a reasonably relaxed evening.

Composed of four relatively close quarters, Super Bowl XLI was everything I hoped it could be. Each time a player scored a touchdown, I was able to appreciate it as an athletic achievement instead of a threat.

When the game was over, my screen filled with images of the Colts beginning their well-deserved celebration. I looked on listlessly. It was only when the camera cut to an image of Peyton anning flexing triumphantly and standing in the Miami rain that I felt my first true wave of emotion. I was jealous.

I knew that Manning certainly earned his victory, but all I could think of was what it meant to Dan Marino. Marino spent 17 seasons trying to win the big one for Miami, but each attempt ended in disappointment. Throughout the process, Marino rewrote the NFL’s record books, but his legacy remains bittersweet because no discussion of Marino is complete without mentioning the fact that the only ring he wears was earned at the alter, not on the field.

Until Sunday, it seemed that the arc of Manning’s career was destined to parallel Marino’s. Manning’s statistics are simply mind-boggling, and they place him in a stratosphere formerly inhabited only by Marino. Manning has already surpassed some of Marino’s most extraordinary records, and he remains a serious threat to shatter even more.

Yet beyond the numbers, Manning and Marino seemed like they would be forever linked by the frustration which comes from failing to win a Super Bowl. At least Marino has the excuse of having played on some pretty bad teams. Even when the Dolphins excelled, it was often in spite of their glaring defensive deficiencies or lack of a legitimate running game.

Marino did manage to reach the Super Bowl in 1984, but the Dolphins were throttled by a dominant Joe Montana-led 49ers team and lost 38-16. Years later, 49ers Head Coach Bill Walsh would comment on the mismatch and say, “Joe was a product of the system, but Dan Marino was a system.” A truly nice compliment, but it does little to ease the pain of unfulfilled objectives.

Until recently, Manning could not really make the argument that it was his teammates holding him back. Fortunate to play with an all-star supporting offensive cast, Manning and his running mates have been legitimate title-contenders for the past five seasons.

Ironically, it hasn’t even been Indianapolis’ defense that has let him down; each time Manning took the field for an important game, it seemed to be self-destruction that consistently did him in. Inventive defensive minds like Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau managed to flummox Manning into earning the stigma of being labeled a choke-artist.

But on Sunday, everything changed. Manning’s success means that Marino is now even more alone. It was almost as if anning’s career had been quietly validating Marino’s, proving that it really is possible to dominate the game for over a decade as a passer and still never capture that elusive title.

But now Manning will never again have to listen to the doubters. arino has thousands of supporters who will vociferously argue for his greatness, but Manning’s Super Bowl ring speaks louder than they all do combined. Manning’s sterling performance earned him the game’s MVP Trophy, and combined with a defense that forced five turnovers, it proved to be more than enough to secure the team’s place in history. The Colts achieved something that can never be taken away.

His bust in Canton still shiny, Marino’s legacy remains safe for now. But when his records are broken, those who never saw him play will claim he lacks the requisite hardware for permanent remembrance. Marino may have a litany of legitimate excuses for not winning a championship, but Manning’s going to finish his career with similar, if not superior statistics, and at least one Super Bowl ring. From an objective, numbers-based standpoint, the comparisons between the two no longer seem quite as relevant.

If I’m honest, I guess, I’m especially jealous of Colts’ fans. Not only has their team won a title, but they won’t have to endure decades of listening to ill-qualified “experts” questioning their hero just because quarterbacks such as Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson managed to be holding the right job at the right time.

I’m admittedly biased, but then again I was fortunate enough to grow up watching Dan Marino throw a football. When the topic of the greatest quarterback ever comes up for discussion, I’m always going with Dan the Man.

After Sunday, Manning probably won’t need his backers to be quite as loquacious. Whenever he finishes playing, his resume will speak for itself.

And if Manning puts Sunday’s Super Bowl win right at the top of it, he might even be able to finally land some endorsement deals, too.

Chris Seneca is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at senecathehoya.com.

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