EXT. A ROADSIDE IN RURAL NEW JERSEY – DAY
CAM NEWTON, ELI MANNING, DOUG MARTIN, and ANTONIO BROWN stand glumly in front of the wreckage of a black pickup truck.
CAM: Okay, so maybe we can’t drive…
ANTONIO: Maybe we can call an Uber?
CAM: None of those asshole drivers will accept a pickup from me. I think they all mistake me for Jameis Winston.
ELI: Looks like we’re gonna have to hoof it after all.
DOUG: Man, that’s gonna take all day. Maybe even all night.
CAM: Eli, are your folks gonna notice that you’re gone? Maybe you should give your mom a call so she doesn’t worry.
NARRATOR [voiceover]: I knew that all Cam was trying to do was keep me out of trouble, but his words stung. That summer at home, I had become the invisible boy.
Fade to ELI’s house, where we see ELI leaning out a window overlooking the back yard. His parents OLIVIA MANNING and ARCHIE MANNING are engaged wordlessly in menial tasks.
ELI: Mom? Do you know where I can find a jersey that could pass as game-worn?
OLIVIA: [ignores ELI]
OLIVIA: [continues folding laundry with a robotic expression on her face]
After a long, portentous silence, ARCHIE looks up.
ARCHIE: There’s one in Peyton’s room.
NARRATOR: In 2016, my brother Peyton had announced his retirement from the National Football League. Shortly thereafter, he’d been gunned down while working for a corporate-owned police force in the city of Detroit. Two years had passed, but my parents still hadn’t been able to put the pieces back together again*.
The camera follows ELI into PEYTON’s room, and looks around from his point of view. We see a series of trophies and pennants from the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, and a shelf featuring various mementos of Peyton’s time playing for the University of Tennessee.
ARCHIE: [standing in the doorway] You found it.
ELI: [startled] Huh?
ARCHIE: You found it. A jersey.
ELI passes ARCHIE and walks down the hallway. ARCHIE closes the door to PEYTON’s room behind him.
ARCHIE: Why can’t you put up numbers like Peyton’s?
ELI: Dad, they’re okay.
ARCHIE: They’re a disgrace. You’re this millennium’s answer to Jim Plunkett.
ELI: I made the big throws when it counted, Dad. I have as many rings as Peyton did.
ARCHIE: He had more wins in the playoffs than you.
ELI: Sure. And three times as many losses. He didn’t even had a winning record in the playoffs until he hitched a ride with Von Miller and that Denver defense.
ARCHIE: Yeah, but…
This goes on for a while.
ELI: …and without my last-minute heroics Tom Brady has seven Super Bowl wins, and an undefeated season…
Fade back to an exterior shot of a set of train tracks, joining the boys mid-conversation as they approach a short trestle bridge.
CAM: …and what do you need a comb for anyways, Doug? You don’t even have any hair.
DOUG: I just thought Antonio here could use it, in case we get on TV.
ANTONIO: [fakes throwing a punch at DOUG]
ANTONIO: Two for flinching. [punches DOUG’s shoulder twice]
CAM, who is leading the four, stops right before the bridge. The rest follow suit.
ANTONIO: [softly] How far do you think it’s going to be?
CAM: If we follow the tracks all the way to Fair Lawn, it’s gonna be about twenty miles. Sound about right to you, Eli?
ELI: Yeah. Yeah, it might even be thirty.
DOUG: Gee, maybe we should just hitchhike.
ELI: No way. I’m in enough trouble already. If my mom finds out I’ve been taking rides from strangers I’ll get the hiding of a lifetime.
CAM resumes walking, as do the rest. They have a long way to go.
— [to be continued] —
*The pieces of Peyton Manning were, in fact, eventually put back together by scientists in the Omni Consumer Products cybernetic research division.