It shouldn't be game over for Peyton Manning

SHOCKER: The snap goes over Peyton Manning's head and into the endzone for a safety as the Seahawks score early.
SHOCKER: The snap goes over Peyton Manning's head and into the endzone for a safety as the Seahawks score early.

The only thing more predictable than the questions about Peyton Manning's legacy was that he would be asked about retiring after the Super Bowl shellacking.

It's one of the questions that keeps recurring once an athlete hits a certain age. Manning is now 37 so he can guarantee getting asked it on a regular basis until he hangs up his cleats. Not that I'm suggesting he should retire. One poor game (even if it was on the biggest stage) should not send him out to pasture.

The man himself clearly believes he has a few good years left.

"I've been dealing with those [questions about retirement] all week," he said after the 43-8 hammering. "This doesn't change anything as far as I want to do."

A sieve-like offensive line and a set of receivers (Wes Welker excepted) with the dropsies didn't help Manning, but he was certainly outplayed by his much younger counterpart, Russell Wilson. However, considering he is coming off a record-setting season - most touchdowns and most yards ever - it's ridiculous that he has to field retirement questions.

It often seems as if we're only too eager to push the most talented athletes to end their careers early. For those not in the top echelon of talent, there are different rules. There's no hurry to see them go and they're left to make their own decision.

But when it comes to the uber-talented, such as Manning and Dan Carter, we're ever alert to the slightest lessening of skill or pace and happy to urge them to go. For some reason we don't want them to continue playing in any diminished capacity, for example with Carter coming off the bench for the All Blacks. But if he doesn't mind, then why should we?

A psychiatrist might suggest that it is related to feelings about our own mortality. But the more likely explanation is that when it comes to the true greats, we simply want to remember them as they were at their peak.

For athletes it must be a tough task deciding when to call time. Legendary quarterback Brett Favre kept trying to retire and his team would send a deputation by jet plane to plead with him to carry on.

The money involved only makes the decision harder as basketball's Charles Barkley explains.

"I remember sitting down with the Rockets and saying, 'Yeah I'm going to retire.' They said, 'Well, we'll give you $9 million.' And I said, 'You got a pen on you?'."

But eventually Barkley had the decision made for him. Known as the "round mound of rebound", he suddenly found that he could no longer jump properly after returning from injury. And a rebounder who can't jump isn't much use to anybody.

Boxing would be one sport where it is definitely better to go too early rather than too late because it can have such serious health implications. A beating in boxing hurts more than just the ego.

Surfer Kelly Slater has been fielding retirement questions for more than a decade. Now 41, he has dominated the sport for 20 years and is still going strong, winning the Pipe Masters in the final event last year. With 11 world titles he has more than twice the number of the next best.

Yet he is still driven to compete despite the frequent urgings from others to "retire while he's still on top".

Slater said if he had stayed retired after first quitting the tour in 1999, he would have always wondered how many more world titles he had in him.

By competing as long as he possibly can, he will never have to wonder 'what if?'. Nor will Peyton Manning.

You're a long time retired.

Fairfax Media