The Onion once ran a fake news story about Peyton Manning tearfully admitting to “cheating”… at hide-and-seek when he was 5! It was funny because we all knew that Peyton Manning is the kindest, bravest, most wonderful human being we’ve ever known in our lives.

The joke’s less hilarious when you consider him allegedly mashing his testicles and rectum against a woman’s face.

Likewise, the Saturday Night Live skit where Peyton terrorizes children for the United Way and declares, “I kill a snitch!” seems less wacky now that we’ve heard about Peyton and his father’s alleged really creepy efforts to slander his accuser, not to mention his private investigators “visiting” a source for the HGH allegations against him, with one posing as a cop, according to the 911 call that followed.

At some point most of us blurred the lines between “Peyton the great player” and “Peyton the great person” and it’s helping make what should be the perfect end to a long career deeply confusing.

The thing is, it is easy to argue that an athlete is a great player: You can point to statistics, titles, MVPs, etc.

It is far, far harder to argue that an athlete is a great person. What does being a great person even mean? That they’ve avoided scandals? That they’ve had scandals but redeemed themselves? That they’re now having a scandal but they’ve been good in the past so we should give them a pass? What defines a scandal anyway? And considering that most of us only “know” these people via TV, what makes us think we know them at all?

All that is to say that at some point most of us blurred the lines between “Peyton the great player” and “Peyton the great person” and it’s helping make what should be the perfect end to a long career deeply confusing.

Side note: Should he even still be considered a great player, as he picked up a title posting arguably the worst winning performance by a quarterback in Super Bowl history while playing for a team with a defense so good they could start a tackling dummy at QB and go 10-6? Hell, is he even still a player at all, since he might or might not retire?

But I digress. If you’re a football fan, you’ve probably been following Peyton since 1994, when the son of a former NFL Pro Bowl quarterback started playing for the University of Tennessee.

And you’ve seen even more of him off the field, as he’s instructed you to buy Nationwide insurance and watch DirecTV and drive a Buick and eat Papa John’s pizza and wear Nikes and drink Gatorade… which, it goes without saying, you should chase with Budweiser.

According to the most recent Forbes rankings of The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes, these endorsements add up $12 million off the field to go with $15 million on it—in 2015 alone. To be fair, Tom Brady clears a solid $7 million or so in endorsements, but it’s possible to watch television without seeing him.

Let’s be honest: Many of us have spent more time “with” Peyton than we have with all of our neighbors combined.

And let’s be clear: This isn’t some dumb accident, with Peyton turning on the TV and gasping, “Me famous? That’s un-possible!”

Peyton has granted a great deal of media access and it’s been appreciated: Sportswriter/Football Night in America talking head Peter King told the Wall Street Journal that Peyton was one of his two favorite interviews, along with another star QB with a part of himself most would prefer to ignore, Brett Favre.

It’s also resulted in hard-hitting journalism with headlines like “Peyton isn’t what you think; he’s better,” published on January 9, 2016. Normally I wouldn’t single a piece out—everybody has bills to pay and deadlines to make and days when you aren’t doing Woodward and Bernstein proud—except that this one actually presents itself as an investigative look at how Peyton doesn’t want anyone to know his dirty little secret, which is (get ready!)… he’s even more generous than suspected.

It’s perfectly possible for a person to be delightful with you and a monster with someone else or vice versa. That’s because people tend to be infuriatingly inconsistent—nice one day, an asshat the next—making it difficult to know even folks you’ve actually met.

Unluckily for Peyton, a scrappy young muckraker came along with a fresh angle despite the risk that Peyton “won’t like this story being told.”

Yeah, I’m sure that’s the story he doesn’t feel like discussing.

Incidentally, Peyton Manning has a children’s hospital named after him. This is unquestionable proof he’s deeply generous, but it’s also a clear violation of the First Rule of Philanthropy Club: If you want to remain anonymous, do not have your name on buildings.

Peyton Manning has given millions of people a great deal of joy for many years. I’m a Jets fan and he gave me two unforgettable moments:

  1. His Colts losing to the Jets 17-16 in the playoffs in 2010. (Ah, sweet Mark Sanchez era.)
  2. His Colts beating the Patriots 38-34 in the AFC Championships in 2006. (We couldn’t stop Tom Brady from winning Super Bowl #4, but at least we delayed it a little.)

Yet after all these years, here’s a list of the only things I know about him for certain:

  1. Peyton Manning is willing to promote stuff in exchange for money and/or media exposure.

End of list.

In conclusion, I’d like to look at another guy who was at the peak of his profession, then was hit with some tough allegations, then shrugged them off to rise right back to the top.

This man, of course, is porn star James Deen. Barely two months ago, he was facing a large number of rape/assault allegations against him, including by two ex-girlfriends. His career seemed to be over.

After an initial backlash, the porn industry welcomed him back.

The former porn star Aurora Snow wrote about his return and quotes actresses noting they continue to work with him because their own personal experiences have been good.

Deen’s innocence or guilt aside (again, no charges have been filed against him), this news made me think:

“A rapist isn’t required to rape every woman he encounters for us to find him guilty.”

It’s perfectly possible for a person to be delightful with you and a monster with someone else or vice versa.

That’s because people tend to be infuriatingly inconsistent—nice one day, an asshat the next—making it difficult to know even folks you’ve actually met. Let’s return to our neighbors: You’re certain none of them are axe murderers… but then again, it’s not like you see them that often… and there have been some weird noises recently… and the guy who just moved in does seem to have a lot of axes…

That’s why the only people we know who stay true to their “character” tend be endorsement-loving All-Pro quarterbacks and star actors with new projects to promote and other celebrities: On TV, unlike in life, you get to throw out the bad takes and keep repeating the lines until you get it right.

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