We are resentful at being the butts of the divine joke of grace that says nothing matters except plain, old, de facto, yes-Jesus faith.

–Robert Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

There are many reasons to admire Peyton Manning. He has a golden arm. He can read defenses like you and I can read a billboard. He even had to overcome adversity, teaching himself how to throw a ball again after suffering a neck injury.

On a personal level, I admire Peyton Manning because he is my age. I have a hard time recovering when I stub my toe on a coffee table; I can’t imagine what would happen to me if I were tackled by a professional linebacker. But Peyton Manning suffers that indignity every week and keeps coming back.

Strangely, though, I find that I not only admire Peyton Manning, I actually like him. Unlike many professional athletes, who cultivate an image of control and cool, Peyton Manning seems to cultivate the opposite image. One of my favorite Peyton Manning moments was his appearance on Saturday Night Live, which gave us this send-up of those treacly United Way commercials:

On Sunday night, Manning set the NFL record for passing touchdowns. Typically, when a player sets a record—or even makes a good, but routine, play—he will take the ball to the sidelines as a keepsake. After the record-setting pass, Manning tried to retrieve the ball but his teammates played keep away, making him look like an un-athletic dork in what should have been his triumphant moment:

That was endearing enough to this un-athletic dork. But it turns out that the game of keep away was actually planned by Manning himself. In fact, Manning had his teammates practice the moment so that they executed it just right.


Perhaps Manning’s joke is just further evidence of his obsessive attention to detail, employed in this instance to sell a lovable image. I prefer to see it as the willingness of a great quarterback to remind us not to take our games—or ourselves—too seriously.