I had dinner with Peyton Manning last night. He was wonderful. We went to an Italian place on 16th street. He had the Spaghetti Bolognese. I had the Penne Carbonara. Calamari, we shared. I drank wine.
The evening was beautiful but I’m not sure if I convinced him to be with me. He’s a difficult man to read. So many gestures. So many audibles. Perhaps I came across as desperate. Needy. But I would be so good to him…
We had just finished the calamari and candlelight was flickering below his sloping chin as I broached the subject. I dabbed some cocktail sauce off my lip.
“So I’m thinking of drafting you on my team,” I told him.
He was shoveling spaghetti into his mouth. He smiled. “Hey, that’s really nice of you to say, Adam.” Meat sauce spilled down his cheek.
I lifted my napkin towards him. “Let me—”
He waved me away. “I got it. I got it.” He wiped his own mouth. “This is some damn good pasta.”
If he was with me, I’d serve him spaghetti everyday, I’d keep his glass always full of Gatorade. “Glad you like it.”
The waiter stopped at our table and asked how the food was, if we needed anything. I sipped my wine and told him everything was superb. Peyton was focused on his food. He didn’t seem to understand what I was telling him. I was being too subtle.
“I want you to be my quarterback,” I said, as clear as the Denver sky.
He glanced up, a string of spaghetti hanging down his neck. “Is that why you invited me to dinner?”
I looked away. “No, I mean yes, I mean that’s part of it. It’s just that the season is starting really soon.”
“Pssh, you’re telling me.”
His gaze returned to his plate. Neither of us spoke for a bit after that. I’m not sure if it was because the food was so delicious or if I’d been too forward with him.
The waiter poured me another glass of wine. I was down to my last few noodles.
I broke the silence: “It’s just that the other guys in my league won’t appreciate you like I will. I’ll play you every week. Even on byes.”
He chuckled. “Sometimes I need a rest. These legs weren’t born yesterday.”
“I realize. That’s not—”
“Man, I could eat here everyday.” A shadow from the candle wavered across his ear. He reached towards my plate. “Mind if I try some?”
I leaned back. “Oh sure.”
He finished my noodles. “Damn tasty.”
A rush fluttered through my stomach. My toes curled. He was so reliable, so creative, so experienced. Like having another coach on the field.
He noticed me staring at him. “You can try some of mine too.”
Only a few strands lingered on his plate. “No, thank you. I want you to have them.”
He flashed his wide, goofy grin.
Then I asked him, as directly as possible. “So will you be on my team?”
He twisted the remaining spaghetti onto his fork. “Well Adam, I’ll tell you one thing. I sure am glad you brought me here tonight.”
And that’s as much as he would say. The waiter took away our plates. I gulped down the rest of my wine. When the bill came, Peyton went to the bathroom, so I paid for the two of us. It was a night I’ll remember forever. I know he enjoyed the meal. But… I’m still not sure if he would like to be on my team. The draft is coming up soon. I don’t know what to do. I hope he says yes. When it comes my time to pick, I would hate to be stuck instead feeding hamburgers to Eli.