Peyton’s Puzzling Pitch for Budweiser Amid Thanks to 'The Man Upstairs'

Remember the good old days when star quarterbacks celebrated Super Bowl wins by going to Disney World? Those days ended Sunday when Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos revealed his post-game plans – “to drink a lot of beer.”

Yes, you heard that right. The all-American athlete once dubbed “Mr. Clean” by the hobby magazine Tuff Stuff suggested to a television audience full of impressionable youth that the best way to celebrate victory is to get drunk.

As if that public pledge from a man who considers himself a Christian weren’t perplexing enough, Manning followed it by announcing his plans to “say a little prayer and thank the man upstairs.” To recap, Manning thought of beer first and prayer second, amplifying it all with an arguably blasphemous reference to God.

As a preacher friend of mine put it on Facebook: “Not really the way I want to remember Peyton as he goes out as a legend and two-time Super Bowl winner. Ruined the moment for me.”

Christendom has been divided on the issue of alcohol consumption for two millennia, and Manning falls squarely into the pro-drinking camp. “Christians drink beer,” he wrote matter-of-factly in a joint autobiography with his father.

But even believers who agree with him, or reluctantly concede the point as a matter of judgment for discerning adults, cannot convincingly defend the kind of behavior Manning advocated. The Bible demands sobriety and self-control, and it condemns drunkenness. Downing a lot of beer moves both mind and body from the former state of being into the latter.

The sorriest part of this story, though, is that Manning probably didn’t get drunk. I saw him on the Today show several hours after the game, and he didn’t exhibit any signs of inebriation – no red eyes, slurred speech or incoherent thoughts.

Cynics think Manning’s canned post-game speech, repeated to two different CBS inquisitors, was a not-so-thinly disguised pitch for Budweiser. Although he was not paid directly for plugging the company, Manning appears to have a financial stake in it and stands to benefit indirectly from the equivalent of $14 million in free ads.

Budweiser also openly thanked him for the endorsement and hinted that it will show its appreciation with 50 cases of beer for the Broncos.

Manning is as calculated a person on and off the field as there is in the NFL,” Indianapolis sports business writer Anthony Schoettle said. “If he’s mentioning Budweiser, it’s not just because he loves the King of Beers. Besides, who really believes No. 18 feels that strongly about Bud?”