Tom Brady was outmanned and outplayed by Manning on Sunday, but that doesn't mean it wasn't fun to watch him work that Patriots offense down the field late and make everybody wonder if one of the all-time greats was about to add to his own "legacy" of brilliance.
Watching sports is supposed to be fun, and the greatest fun of it is watching tremendous athletes stretch our definition of what's possible. Manning delivers that for us -- all of the time and on myriad levels. He's the third quarterback to go to the Super Bowl with two different teams, and if he wins, he'll be the first to win it with two different teams. If that's not a Super Bowl-specific example of individual greatness in a team sport, it's hard to imagine what is.
But the point is that the Super Bowl isn't the be-all, end-all of legacy definition. If he loses this game, that won't lessen anything about Manning. It won't change the fact he elevated the Indianapolis Colts into one of the league's elite franchises, set countless records, came back from four neck surgeries to break a lot of those same records, is in the playoffs every season and gives whatever team he's on the chance to call itself the best in the league, every week and every season.
It won't change the fact he's taken the quarterback position to a clinical place no one else ever has. It won't change what an absolute pleasure it is to watch him play, or the extent to which we should remind ourselves to enjoy something special while we still have it.
Peyton Manning is a true master at work in our time -- the best to ever do what he's done. The result of one football game can't possibly change that. And if you think it can, you're missing the point. Not to mention the fun.