Generally speaking, I’m a pretty mainstream guy. I tend to like the things the general public likes. I eat at chain restaurants. Buy clothes at outlet stores. Drive a cheap, ordinary make and model of car. Watch the shows everyone is talking about. If I were to list my favorite movies, it would look very much like the list of highest-grossing blockbusters, without a single obscure, subtitled French crapfest or Swedish snore-apalooza anywhere on there.
Seriously, I’m like a one-man focus group. Corporations should save themselves a lot of time and effort and just pay me ridiculous amounts of money to judge their products and ad campaigns. Because I AM mainstream America. I might be writing this from my basement, half-drunk on cheap scotch in my pajamas, but I’m still the Man in the Street. What I like, America likes. I drink the same beer, eat the same food, check the same websites and drop what I’m doing during the Super Bowl to ogle the same cleavage as most other red-blooded American males. I’m everybody’s target demographic.
But still, every once in a while, something comes along that the public likes but I just don’t get. NASCAR, for example. We keep hearing how huge it is and yet somehow I just can’t seem to sit through the long, boring parts between the grotesque, disfiguring crashes. Another example? Adam Sandler movies. Everybody loves them, but I’ve taken all I can take of his “Obnoxious, Doofusy, Immature Everyman With a Heart of Gold Who Gets the Hot Chick to Fall in Love With Him” stink bombs. And I might be the only guy in America who doesn’t find Charlie Sheen making sexual innuendoes to a nine-year-old with Juvenile Diabetes to be hilarious.
But there’s one thing in our culture today where I disagree with the rest of mainstream America more than any other. I HATE Peyton Manning. I hate Manning with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. He’s all my in laws rolled into one. I hate him like I hate soiling my pants.
And yet, the rest of the country loves him. If you polled the public on Peyton Manning’s Q Rating, his popularity would be somewhere between the Statue of Liberty, the Stars & Stripes and Hannah Montana. And call me a bed-wetting, feetsie-pajama wearing Patriots partisan, but I just don’t get it. Not only do I find Peyton hard to like, I find hating him as easy as hitting the floor after falling out of bed after a scotch-induced drunk. Let me count the ways:
1. He’s had everything handed to him.
Like him or hate him, no one can deny this simple fact: Peyton Manning has had every advantage in life. He’s the consummate guy who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. From youth football to high school to college to the pros, the starting quarterback’s job has always been handed to him. Every single one of us has had to compete against the coach’s kid or some small town legend’s boy, but how easy do you suppose the skids are greased for the son of an NFL legend? I mean, fine. Good for Peyton. He got his chances and made the most of them. But since when do Americans root for that? As Bill Murray put it in Stripes, “We're Americans, with a capital 'A'… We're the underdog. We're mutts! ... But there's no animal that's more faithful, that's more loyal, more loveable than the mutt.” So why do so many of us root for the ultimate NFL pedigree?
2. He’s a lousy teammate.
It’s hard to count the number of times Archie’s kid had responded to adversity by introducing his teammates to the underside of a Fung Wah. For starters, there was the time after blowing the 2005 Divisional Playoff to Pittsburgh when he infamously said, “I'm trying to be a good teammate here, let's just say there were some issues with protection." Translation: “Don’t blame me; I just throw the ball.” Then there was the hissy fit he threw on the sidelines on Monday Night Football in ’06 when he went after Jeff Saturday like a My Sweet 16 debutante yelling at her limo driver for being late. Or the time against Baltimore when the mics caught him screaming at running back Donald Brown “Goddammit, Donald!!!” while the Colts were still running the play. But in a more general sense, Manning has proven his Bad Teammate-ism by never excepting less than the max contract, while his counterpart with the Patriots has taken more pay cuts than a TARP money-receiving Wall Street exec in order to bring championships to Foxboro. But when you’re born with an NFL QB’s silver spoon in your mouth it must be hard to maintain that lifestyle because…
3. There is nothing he will not endorse.
Seriously. Remember when Tiger Woods got caught, um … playing from the ladies tees? … and we read the lists of all the endorsement deals he had, and how you didn’t realize until then that he was slapping his name on more useless crap than Billy Mays and Krusty the Klown put together? Well compared to Peyton, Tiger is a Trappist Monk. He’s doing so many ads now that during this Super Bowl we’ll only see 25 percent more of Peyton than we would if he wasn’t playing. And don’t be at all surprised if you see one with him and Mrs. Manning walking down the beach where he says “Mom? Do you ever get a… ‘Not so fresh’ feeling?”
4. His looks.
I appreciate that even a handsome guy like me shouldn’t be looking down his perfectly shaped Irish nose at any other guy’s appearance. Still, I can’t get past that insufferable, dumb jock expression Manning has on his face at all times. Like you just know those eyes have seen more band geeks thrown into lockers than they have touchdown passes. I can’t watch him give a post game presser without thinking of Chet from “Weird Science.” Or as Mikey Adams has so eloquently put it, “Peyton Manning’s head looks like a thumb that’s been hit by a hammer.”
5. His attention-whoreism.
I’m sorry, but I’ve watched a lot of tackle football over the years, and you can’t convince me that that pre-snap semaphore he does before every play has any practical application on the field. I’d concede the point if he was, say, simply pointing out the Mike linebacker to set up his protection or checking off to an audible based on his reads. But don’t try to sell me on how it’s meant to deceive the defense. All the spastic, “Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man” stuff is meant to sell only one thing: Peyton Manning.
6. The media asskissery he receives.
If you’re not that Manning gets a shameless amount of fawning, obsequious, worshipful brown-nosing in the press, I’d like to say two things. 1) Welcome to the United States, and 2) Those announcers you’ll be hearing Sunday night are not 15-year-old girls and that “Peyton” they keep talking about is not one of the Jonas Brothers.
7. He works for a weasel.
Granted, this is guilt by association, but so be it. Peyton’s boss Bill [Na]Polian is a lecherous, conniving dirtsack. For starters, he’s been caught piping crowd noise into his stadium. Furthermore, he wormed his way onto the NFL’s Competition Committee for the sole purpose of outlawing any practice by any other team that has any chance of defeating his team. It’s so blatant now that you should expect at least three calls of “Personal Foul: Defending a pass from a QB whose name rhymes with Dayton.”
8. He plays in a dome.
It’s maddening that in all the NFL “Team of the Decade” debates we’ve had to endure over the last few weeks that Manning and Brady’s numbers enter into it. Brady plays his December and January games in a wind-swept airport tarmac in Foxboro. Comparing a dome quarterback to him is like putting a ’roided up Barry Bonds with a corked bat in that Jericho, VT Fenway Park wiffle ball field and counting his numbers against Babe Ruth’s. It’s like giving Kobe Bryant an eight-foot basket and a mini-Nerf ball and comparing him to Paul Pierce.
9. He won a championship, but it was against nobody.
Granted, Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl. There, I said it. And it is true. The trophy he got looks just like the ones true champions like Brady, Montana, Bradshaw, Elway and Rypien won. Short of Polian getting caught committing NCAA recruiting violations, no one can take Manning’s championship away. But we can point out the truth. Which is the Pats team he defeated in the 2006 AFC Championship Game had suffered more casualties and illness than the Union troops at Antietam. By the time that game rolled around, the Pats were putting old men and teenage boys into uniforms that hung off them and sending them to the front. They so decimated, their starting middle linebacker and leading tackler in that game was Eric Alexander. And Manning shredded the Pats D in the second half on the way to Super Bowl, where he faced the Chicago Bears, the NFL’s equivalent of the Washington Generals. Again, not to sound like a sore loser or take anything away from Manning’s one accomplishment — I’m just sayin’. And this takes us to the last point:
10. He’s good.
I mean, really good. Like crazy good. As in you could take Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and the winner of the Crazy Lou’s Greater Indianapolis Pre-Owned Audi Dealership Lucky Ticket Winner, put them together at wideout and Manning could engineer a seven-play, 90 yard drive without raising his heart rate.
I can forgive Peyton Manning for many things, but for forgetting he’s the Patriots whipping boy whom we could always count on to fold in the clutch? Never. In the words of Wes Mantooth, “I hate you, Ron Burgundy. But gawddammit, I DO respect you.”