A Pastor's Pondering
2/10/16 at 11:29 AM 0 Comments

Peyton Manning: The Man, The Model and The Mistake

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The Man: Peyton Manning, undoubtedly, is a member of the greatest football family in America today. Known as Football’s Royal Family, Manning is joined by his father, Archie, who played for the University of Mississippi and the New Orleans Saints, and his brother, Eli who followed in his father’s steps as quarterback of the Ole Miss Rebels and now plays for the New York Giants. The future Hall of Famer started his football career at Isidore Newman high school in New Orleans. As a three season starter, he led his team to a 34-5 record and earned many accolades. From there, Manning surprised fans by passing on his father’s alma mater and choosing the Tennessee Volunteers as his university home. As a freshmen, Peyton was forced to move from third string to starting quarterback due to injuries. He would never relinquish the starting role his entire college career, setting numerous records and gaining prestigious awards. In the 1998 NFL draft, Manning was the first overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts. From High School to an 18 season career in the NFL, Peyton has lived a story book life on the gridiron. Along with success in football, “the Sherriff”, as he’s known by football peers, married Ashley Thompson and together, they have been blessed with twins, Marshal Williams and Mosley Thompson. Beyond the football business, Manning owns 21 Papa John’s Pizza franchises in Colorado, among other investments. Clearly, Peyton Manning has enjoyed a life of success on many levels.

The Model: While professional sports is littered with role models who are less than stellar, Peyton is a welcomed exception. Outside of a questionable dust up in college, Manning has maintained the reputation of an intelligent, level-headed athlete who has not permitted success to make him a primadonna. His behavior on the field is business-like. Peyton is the undeniable leader of the team, calling plays and directing players. Seldom do you find him displaying theatrics over a bad call or questionable hit. Manning is quick to offer praise to his teammates and slow to criticize, win or lose. His work ethic is worthy of admiration. This was proven by his ability to return to professional football after sitting out the entire 2011 season with a neck injure that would have been career ending for most. Sports reporters find Peyton to be refreshing to their trade. He approaches interviews with clear, intelligent answers and a cordial spirit. He’s never been labeled an excessive partier or abuser of team rules. Peyton clearly adores his family and keeps it his top priority. Along with the aforementioned noteworthy characteristics, Manning also claims to be a Christian. At age 13, young Peyton committed his life to Christ and professes his faith to be most important to him. Indeed, Peyton Manning has been a positive role model for young sports fans to emulate.

The Mistake: Peyton Manning, the man, has lived an undeniably blessed life. Peyton Manning, the professional athlete, has set the bar for what a sports role model should strive. It is expressly because of these two facts that his Super Bowl 50 mistake was such a disappointing blunder. After what many speculate was his final football outing and on-field postgame interview, Manning succeeded in tarnishing his otherwise honorable image. When asked what his plans were following the game, Peyton answered, “I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family. I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, I promise you that.” In a later interview, he added, “I’m going to drink a lot of beer tonight. Budweiser.” Along with the guarantee of guzzling lots of Budweiser, Manning also committed to offering a quick prayer to the “man upstairs.” Whether or not a Christian can consume alcohol and maintain a “right” standing with God and His church is a hotly debated issue in this day. It is this writer’s opinion that alcohol and Christianity is a poor mix at best, yet others would certainly disagree. One thing is for sure. With what we know in this day about the excessive consumption of alcohol and its devastating effects on marriages, families and individuals, it can only be concluded that an emphatic commitment to drink lots of beer is not the impression that needs to be left by a man of Peyton Manning’s stature. It is estimated that 111.9 million viewers watched 2016 Super Bowl 50. Undoubtedly, among those viewers were thousands, if not millions, of impressionable minds who heard arguably the best NFL quarterback in history endorse the drinking of lots of alcohol. Many young boys and girls were among those impressionable watchers. One should cringe to think that the final words uttered by a sports legend at the end of his stellar career would be to backhandedly support large alcohol consumption. This is tragic. No one would argue that this was an intentional endorsement, but that really doesn’t matter. It was an endorsement, nonetheless. The second part of the mistake was likely non-offensive to those who claim no faith in Jesus Christ. But, to those of us who have a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, to address the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as the “man upstairs” is extremely disheartening at the very least. To call the maker of the universe and savior of our soul the “man upstairs” lacks respect and denies the glory due our wondrous God. It leads one to believe that the relationship with God claimed by Peyton is either very impersonal or shallow. Whether that be true, only Manning and God know, but the words chosen to describe God were poorly uttered. Was this intentional? Again, not likely. But, perception is reality which is why a Christian must choose his words, or lack thereof, very carefully, especially when he has been given the world stage.

Peyton Manning will certainly go down in history as one of the greatest football quarterbacks in the NFL. His induction into the Hall of Fame is all but sure and his prowess on the field will live on. It is my hope that his parting words following an outstanding career will not cast a shadow over his legacy. For many, it will not because they are unconcerned with excessive alcohol consumption or have no regard for God. Some will take Manning’s words to heart as a justification for their own behavior. Others, like myself, will continue to have respect for his career and take him at his word concerning his faith, but will also have the little sting of being let down. The lesson for us is to realize we are all on a stage of some sort, therefore we must be cautions with our words…they tend to follow us.

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