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The Column

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
2/6/05

The biggest football story I've heard recently has nothing to do with the Super Bowl. The biggest football story I've heard is that there's a third Manning brother. And he doesn't play football.

For those who don't follow sports, the Mannings are a football dynasty. The youngest is Eli, quarterback for the Giants and last year's first overall draft pick. The middle child is Peyton, arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the last few decades. And the eldest is Cooper, an institutional broker.

That's right - an institutional broker. I'm not even sure what that is but if I were in his place, I'd need to be institutionalized, too.

The father of the three is Archie Manning, a former MVP quarterback himself. Cooper did play college ball - and was regarded quite highly until an injury ended his career. And his ability to rub anything in to his little brothers. Can you imagine what Thanksgiving is like in that house?

"Pass the stuffing?"

"Like your brothers and I passed our way into the record books?"

"Yeah, dad. Just like that. Shoot me."

I always knew there were sports families - but I never gave much thought to the other brothers. You know, the guys who didn't quite make it. And they're all over the place. Rarely does a whole family break in - and so the father and son tales of glory are made that much more awkward by the son who is an institutional broker.

Barry Bonds, known for his 703 home runs and his 703 inch forehead, is the son of baseball perennial all-star Bobby Bonds and the nephew of Olympian Rosie Bonds. If Barry's steroid flap doesn't keep him out of Cooperstown, he'll be enshrined in baseball's Hall of Fame. Which will be a momentous occasion for everyone in the family except Bobby Bonds Jr. Junior never made the majors, but hung on as a minor leaguer for eight years before finally retiring. Did I mention the poor kid is also Reggie Jackson's cousin?

In 1990, Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Sr. became the first father and son to share an outfield together when they did so in Seattle. At the time, Ken Jr.'s little brother Craig was in high school, about to be drafted by the same Seattle Mariners. What a story - three Griffeys on one team! The hype was there - and several baseball cards and posters featuring all three were made. But Craig never made it past the minors. I wonder if he has any of the posters.

The Hulls are one of hockey's biggest dynasties. Brothers Dennis, a six-time all-star, and Bobby, a Hall-of-Famer, dominated the NHL in the 1960s. A few decades later, Bobby's son Brett became one of the top three goal scorers of all time. Brett Hull's agent? His brother Bobby Jr. Junior did have some hockey experience of his own - five years playing for low level minor league teams and one game of (get this) professional roller hockey. But using his famous last name, Junior now makes extra cash running a hockey training camp.

"Now kids, this is how you earn an income while slowly drowning in your sibling's enormous shadow."

It's got to be terrible for Bobby Jr. to represent his brother during negotiations. Keeping with the Mr. Saturday Night credo of "never manage family," his life is based on his brother's life. There's no way that could possibly be fun.

Sometimes having a famous sibling allows you to jump some hurdles and get famous as well, even if you don't have much talent. (See Simpson, Ashlee). But that doesn't work in sports. Just ask Ozzie Canseco, who is only as talented as his big brother Jose in brawling, going to jail and taking steroids. Ozzie couldn't cut it in the big leagues and he was dropped quickly. At least having a famous brother might get people to be nicer to him in prison.

It is possible that Cooper Manning, Bobby Bonds Jr., Craig Griffey, and even Bobby Hull Jr. are very happy with their non-sports lives. Maybe they're better off this way. Being a professional athlete is a tough, demanding life, where you have little time for anything outside the game. It's possible that not being professional athletes gives them more time with their families, more time to pursue hobbies, and most importantly, more time to bang their head repeatedly against the Thanksgiving table.

Enjoy the game.

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