In a span of just two weeks, directly in the path of Super Bowl 50, NFL superstar and perennial “good guy” Peyton Manning had an HGH accusation thrown at him and a sexual assault case that resurfaced from Tennessee. He was cleared of both in the shadow of his awkward, robotic performance in the Championship game.
Two other strange and somewhat startling things happened at that same time; he kissed Papa John, the infamous Pizza Don on national TV directly after winning and then named dropped a beer, Budweiser, before leaving the field. Broiling in controversy, it would seem Peyton stuck his sold out, surgically repaired neck in front of millions to flaunt his sponsors.
The accuser was immediately picked apart, first by the Denver Post, and then later by other publications to discredit her story. It was said she had accused over 30 other people in her lifetime of sexual assault, that she was some sort of bitter woman on a rampage of accusing as many people as she could “probably for money.”
The lawsuit was brought to Tennessee where many people from Peyton Manning’s college team were implicated. His was the only name that was asked to be taken off of the lawsuit by request of the University of Tennessee. A judge ruled that his name stay on the lawsuit.
Manning had settled out of court with the accuser, Dr. Jaime Naughright, after admitting in his book that what took place was “crude maybe, but harmless.” The lawsuit that was started right before the Super Bowl was against Tennessee for creating a “hostile sexual environment.” There were 8 total accusers in the case. The judge ruled that Manning’s name be left in because Tennessee had prior instances where sexual assault cases were not handled properly.
Right around this same time Charlie Sly, a former anti-aging clinic employee from the Indianapolis area, had two hired goons show up at his parents’ door. At first one of them announced themselves as law enforcement. They were hired by Peyton to dig a little deeper into what Al Jazeera had previously reported.
The Manning getting HGH sent to his house headline lasted about a day, but we're still talking about deflated footballs pic.twitter.com/xGT1ZzfAfQ
— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 17, 2017
Charlie Sly had admitted on camera that Peyton was taking HGH in 2011 from packages that were being shipped to Ashley his wife. After the clip aired, Sly recanted the statement.
The NFL launched a seven-month investigation into whether or not Manning had actually taken HGH. They of course, found him innocent, although admitted that it becomes more difficult to accurately determine whether or not someone used illegal performance enhancing drugs five years after the fact.
Kissing Papa John
As the clock struck zero and Denver became the National Champion, the first camera angle showed an elated Peyton Manning, looking proud as ever. He did not find a teammate or a coach, but rather Papa John. The way he waited, staring back in the distance, the crowd parting as if Moses himself was coming for him was arguably contrived.
It was, either way, a great way for thousands of drunk Super Bowl Party goers to remember that Papa John’s delivers pretty late.
Drink a Lot of Budweiser Tonight
Not too long after Peyton’s odd rendezvous with Papa John, he then named dropped saying that he was going to “drink a lot of Budweiser tonight.” Most athletes say they’re going to Disney World, or they toss a bunch of cliché’s out at the reporter about the love for their teammates, coaches, and family.
A surprisingly cool Manning casually stated his plans which happened to include swilling Bud. And not just one but “a lot.” If anything, he connected with most of his fan base, or at the very least most of the Super Bowl fan base, as beer and watching football seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Now for the Excuses
Manning in the late 90s was just a young man. His “crude but harmless” act could have been just that, nothing more than a frat boy style prank that happened to put Dr. Naughright in its path. It probably could be written off as “boys being boys” and nothing more.
In the case of the Al Jazeera report and Peyton’s HGH use it could have been just as Manning said. His wife, Ashley, was using it. She probably went to the same clinic as many other professional athletes because of her husband. It is certainly a probable story.
And Papa John could literally just be a really good friend of Peyton’s. Peyton owns plenty of franchises, has performed in commercials, and is generally known for his partnership with Papa. It is entirely plausible that Papa had seats and special passes to get on the field just as Denver won and that handshake and peck was more about their friendship than the brand.
Budweiser is one of the most popular brands of beer in the world, not just in the US. Peyton could be a huge fan, and probably hadn’t been drinking due to the season and was just super excited to kick back with a few bottles of wobbly pop after a long and difficult season.
Now for the “What If”
What if Manning did do something horribly offensive to Dr. Naughright? What if he was a continuous user of HGH and other performance enhancing drugs? What if he was paid millions to bring Papa John on national TV after winning the Super Bowl? What if the Budweiser drop was part of his retirement package?
What if Peyton Manning’s image is contrived and he literally is not a good person? Does this mean anything? Does anyone care?
Manning has become a poster child for the NFL, an American gridiron hero who overcame injury to win a Super Bowl. It’s the American Dream for damn near everyone in the fifty states. I can’t imagine a better person for it — a perfect reflection of America; teetering on disaster, steeped in controversy, an imposter posing as the personification of an ideal, a dream, a utopia that exists only on TV.