Dom Amore: Eli Manning, everyone’s favorite Monday night house guest, coming to Connecticut to help Franciscan Life Center

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If there is any lingering shock over Eli Manning’s double-bird flip on “Monday Night Football,” he’s coming to the right place to atone for it, the Franciscan Sports Banquet.

“Hopefully, the sisters will forgive me for that,” Manning says. “I’ll ask for forgiveness, and they can help me through that.”

It’s a good bet, if one should bet on such things, he will be forgiven. Manning is coming to Connecticut, Oct. 18, at a perfect time to benefit the Franciscan Life Center. His appearance at the Center’s 35th annual banquet and silent auction at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington had been put off for nearly a year and a half by the coronavirus pandemic, but now comes as the former Giants quarterback, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, has settled happily into post-playing life. His No. 10 was retired by the Giants in September, and his “Monday Night Football” analysis with his big brother Peyton, the “Manning Cast,” has become appointment TV.

They’ve long been household names, but now the Manning Bros are household guests.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from it because it was a brand new idea,” Eli says. “You weren’t sure how people would respond to it because it was going to be different from what people are used to. I thought we’d be able to give people different insights into the game and teach people about football, how the quarterbacks see things. We’ve enjoyed it. It’s been fun for us.”

The “Manning Cast” is carried on ESPN2 as a second viewing option, as the conventional “Monday Night Football” telecast airs on regular ESPN, and the ratings have soared each week. It’s essentially Peyton and Eli from their couches, riffing on the game, dropping knowledge, bringing in guests like LeBron James or Nick Saban to chat. It’s been compared to “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” where a guy and a couple of robots offer running, snarky commentary over campy old science fiction movies, and it is restoring the cultural phenomenon status MNF had when it began in the 1970s, when Howard Cosell and Don Meredith were trading barbs as Frank Gifford held things together. After a three-week break, the Mannings will return Oct. 25 and work seven more telecasts.

“We’ve always tried to take our jobs very seriously, but not always take ourselves too seriously,” Manning says, “whether it was in commercials or whatever to show our lighter side, and I thought this would be that opportunity, to go do a show with your brother and your best friend that you kind of speak the same language of football. We both kind of enjoy making fun of ourselves and ribbing each other a little bit. That’s kind of how we would watch a football game.”

The idea developed from Peyton’s desire to spend more time at home with his family than a usual TV gig would allow. It got a little too free-wheeling during the Cowboys-Eagles game Sept. 27, when Eli was talking about his experiences playing Philadelphia, where a 9-year-old gave him the finger, and he offered a visual aid, later apologizing on the air.

“Peyton kind of set me up,” Eli says. “He’s heard me tell that story before, and I kind of forgot I was on live TV for a little bit.”

Peyton, 45, retired in 2015 after winning Super Bowls with the Colts and Broncos. Eli, 40, called it a career in 2019, to be forever remembered for stunning the Patriots in Super Bowls 42 and 46, proud of being “only a Giant” in his career.

“When you get drafted, you have the mindset that I’m going to leave this organization better than when I came, and I’m going to finish my career here,” Eli says. “That was the goal. To bring two championships to the organization was unbelievable, and I didn’t want to know what another organization was like. I’ve heard from teammates who went elsewhere who said, ‘It’s different. It’s not the same.’”

He knew it was time to stop playing, but determined he wouldn’t jump immediately back into something else. He rejoined the organization this season in a business and fan engagement role, and last week launched “The Eli Manning Show” on the Giants’ YouTube channel.

There was some unfinished business in Connecticut. The Franciscan Life Center honored former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride in 2012, and a few years later honored former head coach Tom Coughlin. Gilbride encouraged Manning to come and see the work done at the center and appear at a banquet, which usually is held in June.

“It was kind of bad time in June,” Manning says. “I told him it’ll probably be when I’m done playing. Sure enough, the day after I retired, Kevin sent me a note asking me. He’s told me about the great work they do and the great night involved in it, so I kept my word there, and I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’ve heard great things.”

The 2020 event was postponed due to the pandemic, and the ‘21 dinner was delayed until now. Manning will receive the St. Francis Award for dedication to Christian values and outstanding achievements in athletics. Jim Calhoun, long associated with the dinner, will be there as special guest; other honorees include Danbury girls basketball coach Jackie DiNardo, author Rich Marazzi, marriage and family advocates Tom and Donna Finn and Special Olympics athletes. The event runs 5:30-9 p.m. Call 203-237-8084 for tickets and information.

Manning is relishing “getting to be a real dad,” he says, coaching some of his children’s teams, while staying involved in football. And Giants fans, yearning for better days, showered him with appreciation as his number was retired Sept. 26.

“I never really thought much about my legacy while I was playing,” Manning says, “but as you get older and you retire, you start to think about it. I hope I just will be remembered as a person who was dependable, who was always there, you could count on him. I wanted to be there every Sunday for my teammates, for my coaches, for the fans. That’s something I thought I did.”

Dom Amore can be reached at damore@courant.com.

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