Another Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone. Celebrating the 50th Super Bowl game, the NFL has over the years turned the championship into a media frenzy and an entertainment extravaganza. It is more than just a game between two teams. It has become a battle of ads that this year cost $5 million per 30 seconds airing. Singers and dancers are brought on stage at halftime with the primary goal being to outdo what those who have gone before them did. Then there is the game with all of the hype and emotion and individual stories and matchups and intrigue that fit the individual players of the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Much of the sympathetic support and love was going toward Peyton Manning. He would be the oldest quarterback to ever play in a Super Bowl game. For those of us in Mississippi, the Manning name for decades has been held in high esteem. For Peyton, even going to Tennessee and playing football up there in his college years was treated with respect by most folks because that’s his decision as a kid coming out of high school. His mom and dad have been so positive and even classy in dealing with the twists and turns of their three boys’ lives, the great successes, and the days when their hearts were broken.
I did not see all the game, in fact when I got home on that Sunday evening, it was the beginning of the second half. I watched as Denver pressed toward success and won the Super Bowl. Following the game, I listened carefully to see if Peyton Manning was going to announce his retirement from professional football. He didn’t. In fact, he said he was going to take some time to think about it, not making the decision in an emotional moment, and that his priority for the evening was to kiss his wife and children and drink a lot of Bud Light. He repeated it on the stand later and for many folks listening, including me, I wondered what in the world. I’d never heard him do something like that. No doubt it was his swan song and the capstone of his highest achievement before he will in a few years march into the Hall of Fame.
Now for those of you who do not care anything about professional football or Peyton Manning, I understand and that’s your prerogative. But here is the reality of what was taking place. Over a hundred million people were watching the Super Bowl on Sunday night. There before all those folks, one of, if not the best known player on the planet, said that he was going to go home and drink a lot of Bud Light. It was not until the day after the Super Bowl that the news was reporting that Peyton was being paid $1.6 million for his affirmation and advertisement for Bud. I was disappointed when he said it. I was even more disappointed when I heard why.
For all the years of his career, he has been guarded in his actions, being protective of his character and his moral standing and influence among young people, but standing at the pinnacle of his career his tag line was – drink a lot of Bud Light. I do not know if Budweiser paid him $1.6 million every time he mentioned his drinking that night or if it was $1.6 for all the times, but either way, I’m disappointed. It used to be that the team leader or maybe the Most Valuable Player in the game would say, “I’m going to Disneyworld,” but now things have changed.
I’m disappointed for one thing because for the rest of his days and their days his children will hear their daddy saying after his Super Bowl win, his 200th win in his career, “I’m going to drink a lot of Bud.” That is hardly what the Scripture means when it says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). It’s not just a moment in time after a Super Bowl game, but to play out his words and to play out his influence, not over his lifetime but over theirs, will be interesting to watch. I am well aware that beer drinking for many people is a national pastime and I also am aware that for many people this is a gateway to drugs leading to other more significant drugs and addictions. I am also aware of the fact that nobody’s perfect and everybody makes mistakes.
I was disappointed, but I was not just disappointed for his children. I was disappointed for yours and my children. Alcohol consumption is a big enough problem in our society all across the generations, but when one of the most highly respected professional football players of all time says at this crescendo moment of his life, “I’m going to drink Bud,” he not only set an example for his children but all of your children and grandchildren and mine too. The family discussion and argument becomes, “Well, if it’s alright for Peyton Manning to do that, why are you so opposed to it?” It is not the best for him nor is it the best for you. Of all the things he could have done, like other players have said, “I’m going to Disneyworld,” or in his case, “It’s been a great career and a tough road and I’m so thankful for the win and I just want to shut down for a period of time and be with my wife and children and family.” For a man who has been numerous years making $20 million plus a year, I doubt that $1.6 million is going to help put food on the table. I do know that $1.6 million of influence from Peyton Manning at one of the finest hours of his life can help sell Budweiser for generations to come.
For him, it’s not much more than a mess of pottage. For young aspiring football players and those who admire Peyton Manning, it becomes a point of reference of what can become a lifestyle for them.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.