Guy Fieri without the bold flavors

Typically when a beloved player departs his long-time team for retirement or another franchise and wishes to leave a lingering aftertaste of classiness, he takes out a full-page ad in the hometown paper thanking the fans for their support. Reporters gush and talk up his integrity, because reporters are saps like that. But Peyton Manning is no ordinary icon leaving one team for another; he’s a master media manipulating icon, the Sheriff of Coverage Stroke Junction. So Pey-Pey went the extra mile to call up Fat Hump reporters to thank them for their many years of toadying.

The reporters, in turn, did what everyone expects of reporters when granted attention by the stars they fawn over: they effused wildly and acted like happy little fanboys. Especially the Indianapolis Star‘s Phillip B. Wilson.

Not to get overly sentimental, but it always bothered me in the past when there wasn’t an opportunity to say good-bye to Colts most enjoyed. Marcus Pollard comes to mind. Still have never been able to tell him thank you. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch up to others down the road, Edgerrin James, Ken Dilger, Kelvin Hayden, Tarik Glenn, Mike Peterson, Marlin Jackson, Gary Brackett, David Thornton, Jake Scott, the list goes on. Dallas Clark was considerate enough to send out an email to many of us after his recent release.

Thanks for the checklist of every Colts player since they relocated from Baltimore.

“Don’t these football players know that we can’t just cover them as journalists? We get attached! Sure, they come and go with nary a second thought, but it’s the reporters who are left to pine after them and namecheck them in print as people we were close with. If only they granted us closure, and maybe a signed glossy.”

It’s just the second time Manning has called me. The other time, he was in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl. The story pertained to his PeyBack Foundation. I remember teasing him about giving me his cell in exchange for the interview, since the caller ID read “blocked” that day, too.

Peyton: “HAHAHAHAHA! Eat sh*t. You want this puff piece about my charity or don’t you, pissboy?”

Anyway, Manning said thanks for my work over the years. Classy. He said everything had happened so fast, but he wanted to call the local writers and express his appreciation for what we had done while he was in Indy.

Note that Wilson holds out until the seventh paragraph before he calls the move “classy”. That’s serious restraint or the product of editing. Pretty sure the first draft of this was the word “class” written out in a heart shape around the Fetushead.

Manning is the most clever athlete in handling the media. And while his critics will suggest this was just a PR move, it doesn’t really matter. Not really.

“BECAUSE HE TALKED TO MEEEEEE! IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!”

He’s gone. We all are in different stages of acceptance, or perhaps denial. I wasn’t going to write anything about the call. I didn’t want anybody to think it was about me.

“I wasn’t going to write about it because that would be obnoxious and unethical, but then I did! WEIRD, huh?”

But when I said it was a privilege to watch him play and write about him all these years, I mentioned my respect for his so many fans here in Indianapolis, that they touch base with me every day it seems, and so many will never accept that he’s gone.

As he expressed at his farewell presser last month, he responded, “Tell the fans I appreciated them, too.”

If I was going to pass along that message to his fans, well, you have to write about the call.

It’s not that often you get a peak into how the mind of an asshole reporter works. “Well, I can’t rightly just regurgitate a piece about me and Peyton exchanged goodbyes because that would be annoying at best and pointless bragging at worst. Oh, I know! I’ll get him to make a perfunctory remark about appreciating the fans. So now it becomes about them. Genius!

Done and… filed!”