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Monday, February 08, 2016

Peyton Manning's Weird Year

Like many other Americans, I watched the Super Bowl yesterday. It was, by most standards, a dreadful game, but not if you're into defenses, as the Denver defense really stuck it to Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. It may also have been Peyton Manning's last game, and to cap it off it was his 200th win, breaking Brett Favre's record.

As I watched the game, I didn't really have a rooting interest. I kind of always was a Manning fan (my father's side of the family really loves him, as my grandmother's maiden name was Manning). But in reading this column by Drew Magary and I had to agree with much of it. I rooted for Manning in all the games against New England, though, even if Tom Brady went to Michigan. The Patriots have a Yankees vibe now, and I liked the Colts under Tony Dungy.

Manning is an immensely popular athlete, with all sorts of endorsement deals and a willingness to make fun himself, as evidenced in his terrific Saturday Night Live appearance, When the 1998 draft came down to the choice between Manning and Ryan Leaf, the Colts went with Manning, primarily because he was a stalwart citizen and Leaf was not, and the decision was resoundingly correct. He is sort of a Gomer Pyle as well as football genius, cited as being the first person to practice and the last to leave.

Over the years he's had his ups and downs. This was his second Super Bowl win against two losses, and that second win really helped cement his legacy. Sure, he has a ton of records, but that second win silenced a lot of critics. However, there are things we've learned about Manning this year that have gnawed away at his sterling reputation.

The biggest was an Al-Jazeera report that he was using HGH to recover from injuries. I have no idea if it's true or not, and he firmly denies it, but that sort of accusation can really hurt an athlete's reputation (for some reason it hasn't made as much of a splash in football as baseball). Now we've come to know his politics. He is a huge donor to Jeb Bush, and has a long-standing business relationship and friendship with John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John's pizza. When he won the game yesterday, his first smooch went not to his wife but to Schnatter, an odious businessman who fights against worker's rights at all costs but has a huge fucking mansion.

Then there was Manning's strange statement after the win that he was going to drink a lot of Budweiser. The beer company stated that there was no deal for him to make that obvious plug, but Manning does own Budweiser beer distributors. What a craven and calculating thing for him to say.

I hope Manning goes out with this win. He didn't play all that well and seems held together with string and rubber bands. He was benched earlier this year and sat out a few games with an injury. I think his time has the "good guy" quarterback (as opposed to Tom Brady's "bad guy"--listen to how he got booed in the introductions yesterday) has come to an end.

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