Last night I followed what has become a recent Sunday Night habit of trying to watch some of the Sunday Night football game. Often I do not have an opportunity to watch live football on Sunday due to work, family or shul obligations or some other "pressing issue" which arises. When my Jets were worth watching, I would record the Jet game and watch it later on double speed. As the Jets are anything but good lately (and had already lost in a Thursday Night game which I could not watch as it was on YT), I was looking forward to catching some of the Sunday Night game, after a long day of family and work. It did not hurt that the teams playing (SF and Denver) were teams which I really enjoy watching.
Before I even turned the game on, I knew that Peyton was closing in on Brett Favre's record for touchdown passes in a career, but I thought that it would be unlikely that it would happen against a stout defense like the SF 49ers. Still, I thought the game was worth watching, if only because it was Peyton and Colin K - two talented and very different QBs.
Well, after watching some of the second and third quarters, the game was no longer worth watching. Peyton threw three TD passes to eclipse the Favre record and then added another for good measure. The SF defense had no answer for the master tactician and SF could not get out of its own way on offense. By the start of the 4th Quarter, Denver was playing Brock Osweiler at QB and there was no reason to watch the rest of the game, so I turned it off ... but turned it back on to watch the post game show and the interviews with Peyton and other team representatives.
In watching the post game show, I was struck by how humble Peyton was, despite this incredible lifetime achievement. For QBs, there is no greater accomplishment than throwing TD passes. In surpassing Brett Favre, Peyton stands alone as the NFL's most prolific QB of all time. Yet when Peyton addressed the team he commented about how there was a "great team effort" as if the game was just another game, or the feat had been accomplished by his team in one game, rather than over the course of a Hall of Fame career.
Peyton's humility in the face of this accomplishment made be think about the gemara expression about one who works at a task and succeeds vs one who did not work at the task and claims that he has succeeded. Every year there are players drafted out of college who are proclaimed "the next great" player at any given position. But often these players do not pan out on the professional level. Sometimes this is due to a lack of skill, but more often than not it is the player being unwilling to devote the time to study and prepare for the game.
While driving to work this morning, I heard a piece of an interview with one of the Denver WRs who when asked whether they should be taking Peyton out to celebrate, responded that Peyton would probably prefer that they sit down and study game film. This is the consummate professional, although he has now ascended to the top of the list, he chooses to prepare for the next game instead of celebrating the accomplishment.
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