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Devin Hester

For Archie Manning, a rough day of watching sons play

Archie Manning leaned back in his chair and muttered: "I hate football."

At just about any other moment, he feels anything but that. Manning and his wife often marvel at the good fortune achieved by their quarterback-playing sons.

On this particular Sunday evening, though, their father was just one more football fan bemoaning how cruel this sport can be — not to mention the absurdity of the league's rules on what constitutes a catch. Twice he had celebrated what appeared to be yet another stirring comeback by Eli against the undefeated Patriots, only to stare dumbfounded at the words "incomplete pass."

"Unbelievable," Archie kept...