Epic Carnival | Where Sports and Pop Culture Collide: BIRTH ORDER: ELI MANNING

BIRTH ORDER: ELI MANNING

by wwtb?, Pacifist Viking

In the Time article "The Power of Birth Order," Jeffrey Kluger mainly gives us updated scientific details on a thesis that scientists have been studying for years: that one's birth order has a great deal of control over one's personality and fate. To generalize, "eldest sibs are the dogged achievers and youngest sibs are the gamblers and visionaries." According to the the thesis (popularly articulated by Frank Sulloway), first-borns tend to side responsibly with authority and the status quo, while later-borns have a tendency toward innovation, revolution, and rebellion.

Introducing the subject, Kluger briefly mentions several younger siblings of famous people. He also drops this nugget:

"It can't be easy being Eli Manning, struggling to prove himself as an NFL quarterback while big brother Peyton polishes a Super Bowl trophy and his superman stats."

Hmm. Well, Peyton is actually a middle child, so we have to scrap the simple interpretation of him as the responsible first-born dedicated to study of the game. But Eli is the youngest child in the Manning clan. What can we learn about Eli from birth order?

Kluger says that "later-borns score higher on what's known as agreeableness, or the simple ability to get along in the world." Well now we have an explanation for Eli's "aw shucks, I don't really know what's going on and I don't really care what's going on" look on his face. He's just an agreeable later-born. Wins, losses, interceptions, touchdowns, it's all the same to him--he's a master at just getting along in the world.

Kluger also writes (citing Sulloway) that "Later-borns are similarly willing to take risks with their physical safety," that "Younger siblings are the ones who put themselves in harm's way." And here we can really understand Eli. Giants fans may grimace at some of Eli's wild passes. But you can't really blame Eli's accuracy or decision making for any turnovers. He's a later-born. He is, as Kluger identifies it, "courting danger." As a later-born, he's willing to take risks, and that means chucking the ball where defensive backs lurk.

It all makes sense: Eli's wacky passes are merely the result of his environment. As a later-born, he agreeably learned to throw risky passes.

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