This photo of Peyton and Eli (thanks to Sports Illustrated) got me thinking about family and especially little brothers. Look at Eli in this picture.
No one is LOOKING at me. Hey, over here! Look at me! Lemme play! Commoooon! (Possibly followed by a tantrum and/or running inside to tell Mom)
Little Peyton is oblivious in the image. To him it’s just another case of his baby bro being a pest and getting in the way. That’s how kids work. Older brother leads and little brother follows. Older brother strikes out into the wild blue yonder and younger brother is left with ready made tick marks on the growth chart wall of life.
As Peyton followed his old man to become a QB, all you had to do is look at this early pic to realize that Eli was also dying to prove he belonged.
Many kids try to live up to the reputation or success of their parents but while Mom or Dad grew up in a different era and faced different hurdles on the way to the top, siblings are acutely aware that they are judged side by side. Life is just one big playground and nothing is better than showing big brother that you can hang with the best of them.
Peyton wants to be a QB? Well Eli does to. Peyton is going to Tennessee and eventual stardom in the NFL? Eli is going to Missisippi (Now I’m a Rebel like Dad!) AND ends up being the #1 pick in the NFL draft just like the older bro. Peyton has a ring? You see where this is going.
It’s the real life version of “Anything you can do, I can do better” and it happens across sports, cultures, and lifestyles.
Sibling rivalry is probably the first really passionate competition many of us ever engage in. It’s almost primal for little brothers to want to take down older siblings because they represent the first real bully many kids ever face.
Before we’re strapped into our tiny uniforms and trotted out to peewee football, baseball, or lacrosse, we’ve had years of trying to beat out our brother for the last popsicle, the front seat in Mom’s minivan, or the attention of Dad when get gets home from work.
Sports is just another extension of little brothers beating the hell out of each other and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that those same kids end up dominating their respected fields. It’s in their blood.
MJ specifically called out his two older brothers in his recent Hall of Fame speech as his original inspiration, Venus and Serena have been driving each other to new heights on tennis for years, and in the Craven clan we’ve punching, fighting and wrestling our way to the top since 1987.
Look at lacrosse. It’s nothing but a family affair with the legendary Powell’s and Gait’s on the Mt. Rushmore of the sport. Paul and Gary are still going at it in their twilight years and Casey, Ryan, and Mikey have had tough opponents in their day but nothing compared to the battles that probably went on at the Powell family lax compound.
See, the whole idea of sibling rivalry isn’t something abstract to me. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had the pleasure of growing up as the oldest brother in a household so brimming with excessive testosterone that every single pet we have ever owned was female just to help balance us out. Gerbils, cats, snakes (we actually weren’t 100% sure on the snake but it ate goldfish and was deemed “crazy awesome”), horned toads, a basset hound, and a golden retriever…all females.
And after countless punch outs, wrestling matches, neighborhood Olympics (with tin foil medals and 10 specific events ranging from swimming to obstacle courses), arguments over who’s sitting in the back of the family Suburban, and more time-outs and groundings than hours in the day, I’ve seen firsthand the extent little brothers will go to prove that they can not only match me step for step, but how far they’ll push to prove they can embarrass me. Tyler still rubs it in when I fail miserably to beat him in golf, Kyle made it very clear that he was the football prodigy in the family, and Corbin literally looks down on me now from an ever-growing gap of 2 inches. It’s intense how badly even a game of Monopoly can get when brotherly pride is on the line. Line’s are drawn in the sand, people are stabbed in the back, and Park Place might never be the same again.
I picked up lacrosse later than most lax heads but as soon as I got hooked my sophomore year of High School the local youth programs and lacrosse stores hit the 4 for 1jackpot. Within the next few years there were helmets, shoulder pads, and pretty much all the sales our Portland-area Bigfoot lacrosse store needed to retire to a villa in the Bahamas.
Every accomplishment I had on the field was criticized and analyzed by 3 pairs of eyes who, while always supportive, had a very clear goal…”I want to shoot faster, hit harder, dodge smoother, bench/squat/clean more, and flat out be better than him.”
Just like Eli in that picture. Dying to get in the game and prove he belongs. Sibling rivalry can take non-athletes and make them just good enough to win at a game of H-O-R-S-E, or take already good players and make them great…and sometimes it can be the fuel that makes great players iconic. Everyone needs fuel to succeed both on the field and off. Often times you don’t even need to go outside your own gene pool to find it.
(Special thanks to Mom for keeping her relative sanity despite the daunting odds. All she ever wanted was a girl…)