When you see him on Sunday, try to block out the anger you feel over the Fall of the New York Football Giants and give Eli Manning the only kind of tribute a sports icon like him deserves:
A long, loud, heartfelt standing ovation.
An “E-L-I MANN-ING” chorus on and off for these three hours that will drown out the Dolphins fans inhabiting seats that always used to be filled with a passionate blue army when the Giants were the Giants.
Show you are as proud of him as the man who brought him to the Giants 16 years ago forever will be.
“He had a lot of Derek Jeter in him,” former general manager Ernie Accorsi told The Post. “First of all, he didn’t react to criticism — which of not easy for a star of a New York team, particularly a quarterback. He accepted it. He never said anything that would in any way embarrass the organization. He just played. He played hurt. He was there every Sunday. He was calm, and he was somebody that people could identify with. And he delivered for them. He delivered for them in the clutch when the chips were on the table, and they love him for it.”
Manning is the last survivor of the days when Giants Pride still mattered and champions lived here, a stark reminder of what was then and what is now.
Manning was everything Accorsi envisioned him being … and more.
“You hope that you’re drafting somebody that’s gonna win a championship, especially for this franchise that had won two before that,” Accorsi said. “But you’re right. He not only delivered championships, he did it with class, and that’s all you can ask for.”
When you see No. 10 one more time, you will undoubtedly be overwhelmed by nostalgia, you will have flashbacks and the journey back in time will be both exhilarating for the memories and depressing for what the Giants have become … a 70-90 decade, a 10-25 record since 2017, 2-11 now.
What will your mind’s eye see?
The hangdog look he wore and the slumped shoulders when you couldn’t be certain whether he was a Manning and wondered whether he would be your franchise quarterback?
Growing up to be the road warrior in the 2007 playoffs and outdueling and outlasting Brett Favre for a red-faced Tom Coughlin in arctic Lambeau Field?
That great escape and Hail Mary David Tyree caught with his helmet? That last-minute touchdown pass to Plaxico Burruss to ruin the Patriots’ perfect season?
Beating Aaron Rodgers in the 2011 playoffs in arctic Lambeau Field then courageously standing up to a ferocious 49ers assault in the 2011 NFC Championship game in San Francisco? Then beating Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the Super Bowl again?
Holding his first-born daughter in his arms after Super Bowl XLII?
Hoisting those Lombardi Trophies over his head on those Canyon of Heroes floats?
Showing up every damn game day for his teammates and for his franchise — painful shoulder or not, plantar fascia or not — until the wrongheaded decision to let Geno Smith end his 210-game regular-season Ironman streak?
Biting his lip and fighting off the tears seated in the auditorium listening to Coughlin give his Giants farewell?
Never once throwing a teammate or coach under the Big Blue Bus?
Suffering in silence and acting the way Giants are supposed to act when he had the rug pulled out from under him after just two weeks this season?
What will your mind’s eye see?
The Ultimate Giant.
So Manning gets what will likely be his last home start only because it would have been folly to rush Daniel Jones (ankle) back. Who you hope and pray will be the next Eli Manning. If there can be such a thing.
“I think [Jones is] gonna be real good,” Accorsi said. “I think the franchise is in good hands there.”
Accorsi will be watching his gift to the Giants on television.
“I’ve been through this before,” Accorsi said. “I’ve followed sports all my life — Joe DiMaggio retire, and [Mickey] Mantle retire. It’s just the inevitability that I’ve accepted over the years, and I knew this day would come.”
Accorsi, the public relations director at the time, was there in Baltimore for Johnny Unitas’ last home game with the Colts on Dec. 3, 1972, when starting quarterback Marty Domres called a bootleg and limped into the end zone with a 15-yard TD run to extend the lead to 28-0 over the Bills early in the fourth quarter. Unitas came in and threw a wobbly 63-yard TD bomb to receiver Eddie Hinton and Memorial Stadium went crazy.
“A lot of guys had tears in their eyes as John was coming off the field,” Domres said afterward.
Accorsi: “All the speculation was that Domres faked the [bruised hip] injury,” Accorsi recalled, “which he did. I never got him to admit it to me until about 20 years later.”
Unitas returned for one more play to start the next series, only because coach John Sandusky wanted him to get one final ovation. Unitas handed off before giving way to Jack Mildren.
“He not only delivered championships, he did it with class, and that’s all you can ask for.”– former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi
It will be a cold day in hell should Manning be the quarterback making the wrong kind of history on this day, the worst kind of history, No. 10 trudging off his field of dreams into the MetLifeless Stadium tunnel to the locker room for the final time knowing the one and only NFL team he has wanted to play for had now lost 10 consecutive games for the first time.
But don’t think about that on Sunday at 1. Don’t think about the awful offensive lines that could not protect him across the past six years or Father Time’s insidious pass rush.
Think about what he has meant to this town, this team, and to you. You watched him grow from Peyton’s Little Brother to a husband and father of four who will turn 39 on Jan. 3.
“I’m not a real emotional guy,” Accorsi said, “but there’ll be a finality to it. It’ll be sentimental for me.”
Cherish your last three hours with Eli.
Stand up and cheer.
They don’t make ’em like Eli anymore.
Thanks for the memories, kid.