All right fans of The Sports Debates, brace yourselves. Babe Ruthless is going rogue. I am not picking Derek Jeter as the greatest sportsman of 2009 (largely because an upstart rival publication that shall not be named already awarded him the title). But, have no fear, I am choosing someone almost as cool and equally deserving – Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
He is arguably the best quarterback of the 2009 NFL season, if not the entire decade… or maybe of all time. Since entering the NFL in 1998 he has started in 191 games, passed for 50,033 yards, and thrown for 366 touchdowns (no less than 26 TDs in any season). He has won a record three league MVP awards (tied with Brett Favre). Time and time again he has brought national attention to the Indianapolis Colts franchise, which without him would be as contemporarily relevant as, well, the Cleveland Browns. To list all of Manning’s accolades would take a while, so let me assure you that he is really, really good.
In 2009 Peyton Manning has been nothing less than spectacular, having thrown for 4,405 yards and 33 touchdowns, ranking him second in the NFL in both categories. He was declared the number one ranked player in the NFL by the Sporting News. Probably most astonishing, Manning has led the Indianapolis Colts to set an NFL record 23 consecutive regular season wins. On top of all this he accomplished these feats without his former head coach Tony Dungy or his usual go-to targets, Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez. This streak was brought to a close this past Sunday, but you can not blame Manning, who was benched early to keep him healthy for the playoffs, again proving just how much Manning serves as the lifeblood of his team.
You might be thinking, “Bu,t Babe Ruthless aren’t Drew Brees and Tom Brady having good years too? What makes Peyton Manning any more special?” The difference is his personality. Peyton Manning is an absolutely amazing athlete, entertainer, and philanthropist. It is like he was made from the DNA of Archie Manning, Will Ferrell, and Oprah.
Peyton Manning might just be as entertaining as he is athletically talented. Think about it. Manning has endorsement deals all over the place with companies like DirectTV, Mastercard, and Gatorade just to name a few… so he has to be doing something right. With that much exposure America would be getting sick of him if he was not entertaining. Manning is funny. For proof look no further than his appearance on Saturday Night Live. His United Way skit is still a hit on the Internet.
Peyton Manning is also an involved philanthropist. Just like his commercial exposure, Manning tends to be everywhere in the charity world as well. In 2009, his charitable organization, The Peyton’s Peyback Foundation, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help underprivileged kids in Indiana, Tennessee, and Louisiana. He is also an advocate of the American Red Cross. He currently serves, alongside his brother Eli, and others, on the Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet. Similarly, the Manning brothers are still involved with Hurricane Katrina relief programs. Peyton Manning is not just another self-absorbed athlete, he is a real person who cares about others. This guy just keeps getting better.
Ultimately, Peyton Manning is a great all-around guy. He is the type of athlete role model you want your kids to be like (he just barely edged out Adam “Pacman” Jones and Plaxico Burress). He projects a funny, affable nature that makes him marketable and the subject of many platonic-man-crushes throughout the country. He also had a good 2009, and I see great things in his future. That is why he gets my vote for the best athlete of 2009.