I celebrated the Denver Broncos win on Sunday evening, February 7. For several years, I’ve escorted teenagers from our youth group to Incredible Pizza for our annual Super Bowl Party. I find the spot perfect for sports lovers and those who care not one whit at the outcome. The teens uninterested in the big game can spend money on arcade games and special attractions while we sports enthusiasts huddle around a gigantic television screen. Going into Sunday night, my brain picked the Panthers while my heart longed for a Bronco’s win. I think Peyton Manning might hang up his cleats for the last time this off-season, so seeing him win another championship just felt right. And for those who ignore all sporting events, even though Peyton failed to play a spectacular game, the Broncos defense stymied the Carolina Panthers, and Denver pulled off the unlikely victory.
As soon as the game clock wound down to zero and the confetti cannons fired, I rounded up the teens driving them back to church. My younger sons, not yet in the youth group, met me at the church, and on the way home my 11 year old asked if I’d seen his interview after the game. I had not. He said,
“Dad, did you know that Peyton said he was going to celebrate by drinking a lot of Budweiser?” I could hardly believe it. This wasn’t “Manning-esque.” After arriving home, I found his actual quote:
“This has been a very emotional week and an emotional night. I have a couple of my priorities in order. I want to go kiss my wife, kiss my kids. I want to go celebrate with my family. And I am going to drink a lot of beer tonight – Budweiser. Those are my priorities at this time. I will take some time to reflect on the other. I am going to say a prayer and a ‘thank you’ to the man upstairs for this opportunity as well.”
Here’s why I’m concerned about his comments.
First, he told the entire world he planned to celebrate by drinking “a lot of beer.” I’m not naive. I imagine many star athletes celebrate by downing alcoholic beverages, partying into the wee hours of the morning after a victory. Though I imagine this to be the case, I don’t know for sure because I’m not a witness to the after game festivities. In other words, out of sight, out of mind. Instead of keeping the lid on his post-game plans, Manning announced his intentions to down a lot of Budweiser. Peyton blew an opportunity to be a shining example for the younger generation.
In Children’s Church on Super Bowl Sunday morning, a four year old sported a Peyton Manning jersey to Kids’ Church. I told the youngster I loved his apparel and that I liked Manning because he had been a role model to thousands of young boys just like him. That night, the man I held up as an exemplary example, gushed about carousing with plenty of alcohol. A seed I planted in a young boy’s mind about a sports figure he could look up to, withered before it had a chance to grow.
Secondly, this man who speaks in interviews about the importance of faith in Christ, referenced God as “the man upstairs.” This statement, though used by many well intention-ed people, demeans our Creator. God is Holy, Righteous, Just, our Creator…not the “man upstairs.” Certainly people listening to his post-game comments knew his reference alluded to God, but somehow his words fail to give God the true awe and respect He deserves.
Sure, some will see this as petty, reminding me and others that Peyton’s a professional athlete, not a pastor of a Southern Baptist Church. I understand that. However, when a person claims to know Christ and earns the right to speak on a global stage, I’m not sure insinuating I’m going to go out and get drunk is the message that should be conveyed to hosts of people who place the Manning family on a pedestal.