Why the World Turned on Peyton Manning, Save Indianapolis and Knoxville

tre wellsCorrespondent IApril 5, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 02:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on against the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 2, 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

If you watch professional football you either love the Indianapolis ColtsPeyton Manning or you hate him.

Judging by the message boards and fan sites I’ve seen over the years, it’s pretty clear that if you live outside a 100-mile radius of the new Lucas Oil Stadium, you fall into the latter category. And there in itself lies the beauty of watching and having a rooting interest in sports.

If any decent amount of time is invested into a team, or player, that causes an admiration of some kind, then it seems almost inevitable that an equal and opposite degree of feelings are grown for a different team, and or player.

We all do it. We all hate certain teams, and or certain players.

Being a die-hard Miami Dolphins fan, I hate the New England PatriotsTom Brady. I don’t wish season-ending injuries on him, although I don’t recall sending him a "get well soon" card when he went down in the first week of last season, and ultimately for the year, to the Kansas City Chiefs.

I don’t wish him ill in life. I just revel in every interception he throws, smile with every sack he takes, side with all his weekly foes, and puke with every model he dates.

So I get that we all have some athletes we hate.

But this coup against Peyton seems to be a little different. There is more to it here than just a typical sports fan love/hate relationship.

My mom hates Peyton Manning, and she doesn’t hate anything. But you start talking about Peyton and you can literally hear her blood pressure rising.

She is not alone.

Mention his name and you can divide a room faster than an economic stimulus idea.

With anyone other athlete that draws a negative fan base like this, you usually write it off to jealousy. In my case with Tom Brady, it is everything to do with jealousy. He has three rings. He dates supermodels. He owns the Dolphins. And with every golden boy smile he flashes after a 40-yard touchdown strike, I have to reach for the Alka-Seltzer.

But Peyton hasn’t always won. He’s been labeled as a choker and while hoisting the Lombardi Trophy slowed some of those claims a bit, his detractors are quick to point out that it is his only one.

During his career at the University of Tennessee, he never beat the Florida Gators and Steve Spurrier.

After going 0-3 against them following his junior year, he didn’t run to the NFL. He went back to try again. This guy actually gets it.

It’s what you pray for in athletes. Who doesn’t want their athletes to actually care about the school or the team they are playing for?

This is a guy who did the right thing so much, he would make Spike Lee proud.

After the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in a rainy Super Bowl, where the Bears' Rex Grossman out-fumbled Peyton with a wet football, it was discovered that Peyton and his center practiced snaps with wet footballs during the week to prepare for such weather.

Do we hate him cause he is that nerdy? That prepared?

He doesn’t date models, and gets accused of overexposure when he makes fun of himself in dorky commercials. So do we hate him cause he can get work? Is it not cool to be a one-woman man?

Think about his talent level. The man is gifted to say the least. He can throw the ball through the zero in your jersey from 30 yards.

But how many times have you heard about how he watches more film than anyone in the league? Aren’t we as fans always wishing the players who gave effort had talent and the players who had talent would give effort?

This guy is giving us both. In all essence, he should be an athlete embraced by almost all football fans. Someone you could actually want your kids to look up to.

There are no "off the field" police incidents. There are no drug suspicions.

He doesn’t hold out for a new contract. He doesn’t miss meetings. He doesn’t miss games with injuries.

He doesn’t dance in the end zone after a touchdown with a scripted routine begging for attention.

Peyton is an old-school quarterback. He should be playing in a different time. He would be greater appreciated had he played decades before.

Times have changed and peoples ideals of heroes have evolved. They no longer want the squeaky clean image of "for truth and justice in the American way".

Batman is darker. Superheroes in movies now battle demons within themselves. They kill. Their alter egos are alcoholics. It’s no longer cool to do the right thing.

It’s easier to forgive Tom Brady for having a child out of wedlock than it is to forgive Peyton for doing too many commercials.

We’d rather dismiss domestic abuse charges from a player than deal with Peyton flapping his arms up and down the line of scrimmage trying to confuse the defense.

I mean we don’t really want our athletes trying that hard do we? It's cooler if they are good and don’t appear to be trying.

The world turned on Peyton when it became uncool to do the right thing. All heroes need a vice nowadays. And unfortunately for Peyton, doing the right thing isn’t what the public is looking for.