Super routine of the NFL’s Mr. Nice Guy
NEW YORK Here is how the day will go. Peyton Manning will wake up in his hotel room. Bluebirds will circle his head. They will sing.
He will walk down the hallway and knock on doors. “Come on, sleepyheads,” he will coo to his teammates. “Today’s the Super Bowl.”
Along the way, an elevator will open and a young couple will struggle with their luggage. Peyton will carry it to their room.
“Nice kids,” he will note.
He will refuse a tip.
At breakfast, Peyton will pour syrup on his pancakes. Someone will tweet a photo, and the president of the syrup company will offer him a six-figure endorsement deal. By the time he rises, Peyton will be the new spokesman for Land O’Lakes butter, Minute Maid orange juice and Lucky Charms.
In the lobby, he will nod and turn every time a fan yells, “Hey, Peyton!” He will rub a little boy’s head. He will slap the back of a dockworker. He will see a Chinese tourist struggling with a map of New York City and race over.
“Can I help you?” he will offer.
Moments later, the tourist will have exact directions, along with a signed Denver Broncos cap.
Peyton will refuse a tip.
Strolling through the Big Apple
“Team bus at 2 o’clock,” he will yell.
“Got it, Peyton!” his teammates will answer.
“Just kidding,” he will say.
To clear his head, he will take a walk through New York. Along the way he will change a tire for a cab driver, rearrange a window display at Macy’s, buy a pizza at Papa John’s and hop a firetruck to put out a small blaze.
“Whoa, hot one, huh, fellas?” he will say to his fellow firefighters. “Let me get you guys lunch.”
He will take the prongs from a street vendor and serve them all hot dogs.
Upon returning to the hotel, Peyton will do a few windows, and then, just for the fun of it, ride up and down the elevator like a kid.
“Never gets old,” he will say.
The president of the elevator company will offer him a million-dollar endorsement contract.
Concentrating on the game
This is how the day will go, right up to his arrival at MetLife Stadium, where he will pull open the bus window and salute a stunned security guard. “Fine work, officer,” he will say. As the bus pulls away, the guard will whisper, “Was that who I thought it was?”
It is. Peyton Manning. The most well-liked man to ever play in a Super Bowl. Even Seattle Seahawks fans are rooting for this guy! He has a celebrity approval rating of over 90%, a number you couldn’t achieve if you threw Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars into a three-headed body.
It’s isn’t his youth. He’s 37. It isn’t his marquee looks. He has a big forehead, thinning hair and a crooked smile. It isn’t his Adonis body, his supermodel girlfriend or his outrageous quotes – he has none of these. He missed the 2011 season with a serious neck injury. When he removes his helmet, for some reason, his forehead is red and blotchy.
Yet he has an aura of “good guy” that is rarely seen in today’s sports world, a mojo that suggests a man who will save a cat from a tree or dance with a girl in a wheelchair or call his family before his greatest personal moment – which, by the way, he will do in the tunnel before the game starts.
And then Jay-Z will offer him a duet, and Lorne Michaels will offer another “Saturday Night Live,” and Will Ferrell will hand him a script for “Step Brothers II: The Mannings,” and ever so politely, Peyton will answer, “Fellas, I gotta get this game going, OK?”
He is arguably the greatest quarterback of our time. And should he win tonight’s Super Bowl against Seattle, he will have capped the most incredible statistical season any NFL player has constructed – more yards and more touchdowns than any quarterback in history, and a championship to boot.
Should that happen, he will credit others and never, ever, pull a Richard Sherman.
And then, late at night, he will walk back to the hotel, grab a broom from a weary janitor and say, “Take a knee, chief. You look pooped.”
“Thanks,” the man will say, watching him sweep. “So, how was your day?”
“Pretty good,” he will answer.
If you are Peyton Manning, aren’t they all?