Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Peyton Manning Makes The Cut As TV Pitchman

The Mannings — Eli, Archie, and Peyton — on the set of a Reebok commercial shoot in 2006. i i

The Mannings — Eli, Archie, and Peyton — on the set of a Reebok commercial shoot in 2006. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for Reebok hide caption

itoggle caption Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for Reebok
The Mannings — Eli, Archie, and Peyton — on the set of a Reebok commercial shoot in 2006.

The Mannings — Eli, Archie, and Peyton — on the set of a Reebok commercial shoot in 2006.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for Reebok

I know the season hasn't ended yet, but I firmly believe that Peyton Manning is better at what he does than anybody else.

For that matter, I'd say, there's not an athlete in any sport who's his match.

In fact, I think Peyton Manning is the best ever — any sport, all time.

What's amazing about him, too, is that he's a pretty darned good quarterback.

But, hey, as a sports guy doing commercials, he's in a class by himself.

Manning is so good, he's overexposed, but nobody seems to care. One Web site that picks his top five even refers to the fact that it's out of 100,000 Peyton Manning commercials. Certainly seems that way. For openers, he's hustled MasterCard, DirecTV, Oreos, Gatorade, Xbox, Sprint, Sony and Lord knows what else.

He works as a single or sometimes as a double, with his baby brother Eli — who's not half-bad himself. Occasionally his dad, Archie, and his mom, Olivia, are even part of the act. Stand-up or ensemble, always, it's comedy.

Peyton Manning during an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on  Dec. 17 i i

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning during an NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 17. Phil Coale/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Phil Coale/AP
Peyton Manning during an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on  Dec. 17

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning during an NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 17.

Phil Coale/AP

In fact, traditionally, at least since 1973, when the Miller Lite beer campaign started — "Tastes great! Less filling!" — humor has been the best way to use athletes to sell a product.

And the comedy works best when you go against type — take a big hero and let him make fun of himself. It's the self-deprecation of the idol that makes him — and hopefully the product, too — appealing.

But while all sorts of athletes have let themselves be laughed at in commercials, what sets Manning apart is, first and foremost, his deadpan expression. The guy is Buster Keaton in shoulder pads. Sure, Tom Brady is better-looking, but he's just another pretty face. Manning's countenance is, to borrow a word from one of his products, priceless.

He also possesses excellent timing, which is the sort of thing in comedy that is hardest to learn. Maybe Manning picked that up calling signals, checking off at the line of scrimmage, getting the play off just in time.

And so, while the NFL regular season isn't even finished yet, and it's weeks away till the Super Bowl, this is a different time of year. 'Tis the season to be jolly, so forget the quarterback, No. 18, and let us raise our eggnog to the No. 1 pitchman in the game.

Joy to the world.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford