To help break Kentucky’s 25-year losing streak against Tennessee I’m going to relive my favorite (and only) Peyton Manning story for the Wildcats to do it. Nothing else has worked for the long-suffering Kentucky fans, so maybe retelling this story will do… something?
During my senior year in high school a few buddies and I took a trip to Charlottesville to stay with several friends at UVA for the weekend (I went to a nearby all-boys boarding school and this was the kind of “FREEEEDOM!” William Wallace screamed about in ‘Braveheart’). And at a Zete house frat party on either Friday or Saturday night, much to our delight we ran into Peyton Manning who was up from Knoxville visiting his girlfriend.
She was good friends with our crew, so we spent the later parts of the evening bouncing around C-Ville hotspots with Manning. Shockingly, at some point deep into the night a football appeared out of thin air and a few of us began running skinny slants in front of parked cars and deep post routes across parking lots.
The first to release, my buddy Sanders inexplicably ran a quick hitch and Manning went nuclear on him and it sounded like a Big Bertha off a par-5 when he tried to catch it. Unsure of the severity of his digit damage at the time, I recently saw Sanders and his hand still doesn’t fully operate. Next up, I sped off on a wheel route towards D.C. (open beer in hand) and Manning catapulted a spiral high above the Charlottesville skyline that probably decapitated several unsuspecting birds during flight (ala Dave Winfield).
As I ditched my cold unit at the very last second for the catch, I went Willie Mays and let it drop in my basket. Thoroughly pleased with myself for hauling it in, I exploded into a mid-90’s touchdown dance soaking wet after running 128 yards with an open beer. Truly, I felt like someone had given me a
Gatorade Bud Light shower and it was settled. After one catch I had one-upped Archie, Eli and Cooper as Peyton Manning’s best man if he ever got married, naturally.
Fast-forward two years… During my sophomore in college, a small group of us travelled to Knoxville to see the Vols play and ended up at the SAE house later that night. Shortly after we arrived it got eerily quiet as
God Peyton Manning walked in, and immediately I was fired up to say hello and show off in front of my buddies because Manning would certainly remember who I was. I mean he did throw me one pass, and we did have a few small-talk conversations totaling seven words well past midnight more than two years before this encounter. Seeing Manning again was going to be great and, like any good kick-off return man, when I saw my crease I hit the afterburners and it went something like this:
Me: Peyton, what’s up man (probably throwing him a crusty handshake)? It’s great to see you again! Unreal game out there today and some of those throws reminded me of the ones we threw to each other a few years back in Charlottesville.
Peyton: .00032 seconds spent blankly staring at me.
Peyton: Looking right past me.
Me: I know. I know. That was awesome. That time in Charlottesville when we met at the Zete house … I’m friends with so and so.
Me: Wrestling with a moment of awkward silence.
Me: Ummm… You want a beer?
Peyton: Still yet to speak, he horizontally nodded his head and wore a facial expression like he just opened the fridge and caught a whiff of something rotten.
Me: Whatever, DUDE. You’re a loser.
UT Offensive Line: Swiftly escorted me outside the SAE house like I had murdered someone in the Double Deuce and was told not to come back.
Me standing outside the SAE house looking at my wide-eyed buddies: Well, that was fun. I guess we better send it back to the hotel.
The moral of the story? There isn’t one. But Kentucky will beat Tennessee to break the oddest sports losing streak since A.C. Green played in the NBA for like 42 years and somehow kept his virginity intact. Because I’m still waiting on my best man and wedding invitation, Peyton, the Wildcats will win on Saturday in your honor.