In the middle of the Manning circus

slider az_cardinalsI’ve always wondered what it’s like to go undercover. Well, now I know. Sort of.

I was part of “The Watch.” The 2012 Peyton Manning Watch.

It’s arguably the biggest national story in sports and this weekend the circus hit Phoenix. We knew it was coming. We just weren’t sure exactly when and to be quite honest, we may never know exactly.

As word leaked Saturday afternoon Manning was leaving Denver after meeting with Broncos officials and heading to the Valley, I grabbed a camera and headed to the team facilities in Tempe. 

The wait was on.

Little did I realize it would last well into Sunday afternoon.

I spent Saturday evening and most of the night staked out at team headquarters as various Twitter reports of Manning’s whereabouts filled my timeline. Some said he was flying into a private area of Sky Harbor. Others heard he may be arriving at one of the smaller airports in the East Valley. 

So myself and one other media member waited…and waited…and waited.

Around 7:30PM we believed our break was coming when we spotted Cardinals Offensive Coordinator Mike Miller driving through the security gates. He quickly exited his car and headed into the office area. The pieces were starting to fall into place, right? Not really.

After waiting close to another two hours with no sign of #18, it was time to call it a night.

Sunday morning shortly after 9:00 Manning was spotted entering the building.

I arrived to a much bigger media frenzy than the night before. The NFL Network satellite trucks dwarfed the large number of cars in the parking lot and a detailed set was erected on a nearby walkway. Local television cameras, media and groups of fans lined the barricades near where Peyton would likely exit. People showed their support wearing Cardinals jerseys and hats. Heck, some even had the nerve to arrive in Broncos gear. 

This was a scene you’d see at The Academy Awards, not an NFL facility on a Sunday afternoon in March.

As was the case when he met with Broncos officials, Manning took his time. Over six hours later, he and head coach Ken Whisenhunt appeared walking up a ramp adjacent to the offices where they quickly loaded into Whiz’s car.

It all happened in less than a minute.

As of now, we know nothing more about Manning’s future than we did Wednesday when news broke he and the Colts were parting ways.

A decision is coming. Sooner rather than later.