Archie Manning doesn't cotton to the notion that he and his wife Olivia are the heads of the First Family of the Southeastern Conference. For one thing, it's a presumption of self-importance, and Archie wasn't raised to be anything but humble.
"I've always said, in the era that I played, all those years with the Saints, you don't come out with a big ego," Manning said.
For another, Manning is the chair of the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame. To his well-developed sense of propriety, appearing to favor one conference over another is downright unseemly, like belching in church or not throwing the checkdown.
Of course, Manning also understands that to ignore his family's ties to the SEC is to ignore the fusion of history and reality, of myth and memory, of what makes college football a family heirloom. There's a reason that four-year-olds in Manning's home state of Mississippi know the words to "Hotty Toddy."
"I love the conference," Manning said on the phone the other day. "I cherish my time at Ole Miss. I cherish those four years. I've said publicly, and it's true, I've had a lot of wonderful things come my way. But personally, the greatest thing I ever accomplished was when I was named the starting quarterback at Ole Miss. That was my childhood dream, as it was thousands of kids in Mississippi. Every kid I knew wanted to be a quarterback at Ole Miss. They were such heroes in those days, Ole Miss quarterbacks. They were to me."
In the SEC Storied documentary "The Book of Manning," which debuts Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, the story of Archie and Olivia is told -- how they met and fell in love at Ole Miss, the folk hero quarterback and the homecoming queen. The film tells the story of the hero worship that Manning endured until it went away, of how Archie and Olivia settled down and raised three boys in New Orleans as normally as they could, right down to the VHS camera on Archie's shoulder.
To read the rest of the story from Ivan Maisel, click here.