Peyton Manning: The Symbol of America’s New Pastime

On Sunday night, Peyton Manning passed Brett Favre and set the record for most all-time touchdown passes in the NFL, with 509, and I couldn’t help but think my post needed to be some sort of Manning tribute. I mean, this guy has been unbelievable. Look at his stats: in the 16 seasons in which he has played, he has 509 touchdowns, over 66 thousand yards, a completion percentage of 65.5 and an average quarterback rating of 97.5. The guy is a first ballot hall of famer, and he’s still going strong. The Broncos have the best chance to win the Super Bowl this season, according to Vegas, and by the time it’s all said and done, Peyton may have more records to add to his belt. As the current face of America’s signature sport, it’s time to take a look at Peyton and his role in America’s new pastime.

In 1868, in his work titled British Sports and Pastimes, Anthony Trollope looks at several sports that he claims are British pastimes. He calls them “…sports which are essentially dear to the English nature, and which are at in the present day so strongly in the vogue of England as to have a manifest effect on the lives and characters off Englishmen” (Trollope 1). If you consider this the definition of a national sport or pastime, then I think it’s safe to say football is the new national sport in the USA. For years and years, baseball was America’s pastime. Everyone knows we love baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet (twice!). But as America becomes more about instant gratification and shorter attention spans, we have marked football as our newest national pastime. People just don’t have the patience to sit through a 3 hour long baseball game anymore. In his book, Trollope went through a series of sports- horseracing, hunting, fishing, etc- and described why they were British national pastimes. He goes through in each sport and talks about why the Englishmen loved them. Once common theme Trollope has when discussing each sport is citing a specific example of a star in that sport. For horse racing, it was Godolphin Arabian, the famous horse. In hunting, he mentions Captain Ross and Lord Huntingfield. Every sport has icons that are recognizable, that make the sport more fun to watch, that transcend history and change the sport to look like an art. Peyton Manning is one of those American football icons.

America has always been enamored with Peyton Manning. He’s a small town kid with an endearing Southern accent, and from his early days at Tennessee to his crowd pleasing, hilarious commercials, Peyton always has played his cards right. In an age where it seems like every day a different football player is getting in trouble with the law, Peyton never has. He is the definition of class. After sitting out a year due to a neck injury and then being cut by the Colts, what could have been a messy break-up turned out to be very civil. And not only is he such an amazing character off the field; talk about his on the field production and he has to be in every conversation of best quarterback all time. If you want my two cents, I think he is the greatest, and a Super Bowl win this year would only cement his legacy and firmly plant him in that number one spot.

Even when he was cut from the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton held his head high and moved on

Had Anthony Trollope wanted to try his luck with American pastimes, we know he would definitely have written about baseball in football. In the baseball chapter, he would have discussed Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willy Mays, and Mickey Mantle, along with more modern day legends like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. In the football section, there would have been mention of Joe Montana, Jim Brown, and the great Jonny Unitas. And when Trollope was to start talking about the modern game, the first name he would have mentioned would have been that of Peyton Manning. Manning transcends the sport, is a face and name we all know, and even at the age of 38, he is still setting records. Peyton Manning is an American sports icon, and the greatest player to ever play our new national pastime.

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7 thoughts on “Peyton Manning: The Symbol of America’s New Pastime

  1. I agree with the fact that Peyton Manning is a really important icon for the game, especially now. I also think that in recent times that, yes, football has become a sport that Americans identify with in the way Trollope describes other sports in relation to British Identity. However, I feel like football is starting to get shadowed by a number of negative things. The amount of injuries and scandals, especially this year, have brought a big concern about the NFL’s image. Ex-players are coming out and talking about how that football is not safe enough, and causes serious health concerns later in life. Last years lawsuit between ex-players and the NFL regarding head injuries, that resulted in a 756 million dollar settlement, speaks for itself. Peyton Manning is an example of a player who does not experience the physical grind, that say a running back or a linebacker would go through, in terms of physical head trauma over a prolonged career. Will the NFL make any big strides to change this? I hope so. The big question is how will America’s “new pastime” maintain its status in decades to come, with all of these looming issues with the sport?

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  2. I agree with you that Peyton is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and I also agree that it seems like football might be becoming our great nation’s new “pastime”. I am going to have to defend some of your points from other commentors. I think that football will keep growing, regardless of the health issues, and I feel like it is our pastime. I am wondering if you could have compared it more to the text. It seems like all you said was that Peyton would be talked about in a modernized version of the text. You made great points, and kept it interesting but I did not see much intertwining with the political science aspect.

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  3. I agree with you that football has become increasingly important to American culture, and quite possible America’s “new pastime.” After reading your post however, I began thinking about what pastimes really mean in America. I wonder if America’s new pastime could relate to newer forms of entertainment- possible the internet or technology. I am not doubting the importance of sports in American culture today. I still think there’s few activities that pump us up quite like sports. But with the exponential usage of television, internet, social media, and other technology, is it possible that America’s new pastime could be moving in this sort of direction?

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  4. I think it is tough to declare one sport as our “national pastime”. Baseball certainly has the edge if you look in the past. Up until the 1990s, baseball would pretty much unanimously viewed as our pastime as Americans. Then, during the Jordan era, it seemed as if basketball emerged as a possible favorite. Although football dominates now, it is tough to say whether or not that trend will continue. Being the dangerous sport it is proving to be, its hard to say that modern football won’t make several changes to the game in the coming years. With soccer’s increasing popularity, for all we know it could be our “pastime” before we know it.

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  5. I like your point about Americans and instant gratification. However, I don’t know if football will continue to fit that bill. You mentioned that baseball games take sometimes 3+ hours to complete, but so do football games. I think football’s saving grace, at least for right now, is that it’s a much more physical and fast-moving sport. However, I can definitely see a point in time where even this will not satisfy the “instant gratification” need, and we’ll move on to something faster paced and more instantly gratifying.

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  6. I certainly agree with your assessment of Peyton Manning’s importance in the current state of the NFL. I also agree with you in that football has become an essential part of our identity that American’s hold dear, such as Trollope writes about other sports, and their relation to the British identity. However; I wonder if football will continue to hold its dominant spot in American sports. We, as a society, have essentially concluded that it is unsafe to play, many parents currently forbid their children from playing, and it seems like there is some new lawsuit levied against the league regarding player safety on a yearly basis. Will football change in response to this situation? And if so, will these changes ultimately hurt the sport as we know it? Or will the league seek to maintain the status quo even in light of this situation? Both are dangerous paths, and I think it will be interesting to see how they proceed while other sports, such as soccer, continue to grow in popularity in our country.

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  7. First, I would like to state that Peyton Manning is my favorite player in the NFL and has been since I began watching football. He makes the game a form of art and he is quite the cerebral player. With that said, I think declaring him the greatest player to play our new national past time makes sense. Only, though, if you are considering the time frame for when football became our new past time being since the 2000s because there are many greats that came before. There still will be those who disagree and would say Tom Brady, because he has the Super Bowl edge, and pretty glamorous stats himself, but it would be a tough debate. There were good comparisons for how you implemented Trollope’s ideas. So, good job on that. Also, is it possible that America’s most popular sport (American Football) isn’t quite our “National Pasttime”? Is there a difference?

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