NEW ORLEANS -- Last year, Eli Manning was the toast of the Super Bowl. This year, he's the host of it. He and his family are -- in an unofficial capacity, anyway.
The Manning name flows through this city like the Mississippi River, and in the last few days, the first family of quarterbacking -- Eli, his brother Peyton and their father, Saints legend Archie -- have been balancing the joys of having the big game in their hometown with the disappointment of not being able to play in it themselves.
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"Obviously, it's exciting to be in New Orleans, have my whole family here and get to be with them," Eli Manning said Friday. "I think New Orleans is a great place to host a Super Bowl with everything the city has to offer. I'm excited about being here. Obviously, when you come for a Super Bowl, you're not all that interested in it unless you're playing in it. We'll watch the game, but [I'm] not rooting for someone directly."
There's always next year, as they say, and next year's Super Bowl just so happens to also be a potential "home" game for Manning. It will be at MetLife Stadium.
"That's the good thing about Super Bowls: You want something unique, you want something different, and you don't want to have it in the same place every year, you don't want to have it in the same environment every year," he said. "Obviously, as special as New Orleans is and unique as it is, New York has that same, if not better. A better atmosphere, a sports town, great restaurants, great entertainment."
The Mannings would be football's undisputed royal family this week if not for another clan that has invaded their kingdom: John and Jim Harbaugh, coaches of the Ravens and 49ers.
Eli Manning has faced his older brother's team twice in his career, losing both times, and he will face him again in 2013 when the Broncos visit the Giants.
"I never dread playing a game against Peyton," Eli said. "I think obviously each year, I want to be in the Super Bowl and he wants to be in the Super Bowl . . . I think with my parents, it would probably be the hardest. I think they would be the proudest parents for those two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, but that Sunday . . . watching the game would be tough on them. And afterward, it would be tough to be so happy for one of their kids for winning a championship and feeling bad about the other one who just lost."
Manning waited a beat and smiled shrewdly.
"I wouldn't want them to feel that bad about Peyton in that situation."