By Tim Hayes

Peyton Manning – he of the creaky knees and drive-in-movie-screen-sized forehead – had done it.  He had lived the dream, climbed the mountain, and stood tall at the pinnacle of his career and the summit of his sport.

He won the Super Bowl.  So, naturally, the first thing he did made perfect sense.  It’s what anyone in that situation, in your final game, winning the ultimate prize, would have done.  And Peyton did it without hesitation or regret or embarrassment.

Swarmed by media, fans, and his fellow Denver Broncos, good old Peyton showed his real stripes.  The “Sheriff,” as he had affectionately been named by Bronco Nation, used this global stage to act like the sterling role model he has become to millions of little Peytons out there.

Before scanning the mob scene on the field for his coach, his teammates, or even his family, he actively sought out “Papa John” Schnatter – his pizza-making benefactor and TV commercial co-star – to shake his hand.  The hand that feeds him, apparently.  And he hawked Budweiser beer, saying he was going to “drink a lot of it” that night.  He talked about Budweiser before thanking “the man upstairs.”  He did this on camera twice.  Twice.

Anheuser-Busch, the company that makes Budweiser, issued a tweet almost immediately, stating that they had not contracted with Peyton to talk about their beer, but they really appreciated that he did.  Yeah, they should appreciate it.  With 30-second commercials going for $5 million a pop, good ol’ Peyton’s double-dip endorsement of Budweiser represented at least a million bucks worth of free advertising.

It came out later that Peyton, that rascal, owns a couple of Anheuser-Busch distributorships in Louisiana, and what better forum to drum up some demand down on the Bayou?

No comment from Papa John, as of yet.  Better ingredients, better pizza, better shake my hand first, Peyton, if you want those checks to keep coming in, Buddy.

I’m not sure why this bothers me as much as it has this past week.  Maybe it’s the crass commercialism of Manning’s actions and statements, although who am I kidding – this is the Super Bowl, the world’s most enormous temple to crass commercialism!

Maybe it’s the dissonance generated by the squeaky-clean image Manning has so carefully cultivated, colliding with the spectacle of him so blatantly kowtowing to his Herculean revenue streams.

But I think the part that rankles most is that here’s a professional athlete, winning the biggest prize in the most popular sport in America, before an adoring worldwide audience, in what was most likely his final game ever, in a storybook ending that every Hollywood producer must have been slobbering over – and the first thing he does is kneel before his gravy-train sponsors.

It felt disingenuous.  Cheap.  Beneath the moment.  The wrong way to end that storybook tale.

Peyton Manning may be a better businessperson than quarterback, I don’t know.  All I can tell you is that he makes a ton of money at both livelihoods.  He would have come across better on Sunday night to have just reveled in the sporting side of his life, and left the business stuff for Monday morning.

Copyright 2016 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Communications