Peyton Manning is more self aware than most superstar athletes, which is what has made him so successful outside of football. We’ve seen time and time again via his commercials, Saturday Night Live appearances and even now as the host of an award show that Manning knows, accepts and embraces the his public narrative as a maniacally competitive dude who might actually be kind of lovable underneath it all.
And never has he embraced that characterization more than while hosting the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night. His ability to deliver a biting punchline with charming Midwestern earnestness, combined with the respect he garners from the room as a legendary athlete himself, made him the perfect host for an award show for people who don’t know how to handle award shows.
Jokes from comedians and actors put athletes on edge and on the defensive. Their egos are easily bruised. But when it’s Peyton Manning throwing the jabs, the punches land a little softer – especially because he spends the whole show also making fun of himself. He joked about telling Eli he couldn’t come to the awards, and about being carried by his Broncos teammates to his second Super Bowl win. Manning even filmed a sketch in which he depicts himself as a new retirement home resident battling it out with new arch nemesis, Ruth, in everything from poker to floor shuffleboard.
Ruth turns out to be Tom Brady’s grandma (of course) and Brady pops up in a cameo via Skype, much to retirement-home-Manning’s dismay.
The real doozy though was his final skit of the night, in which he hosts his very first post-retirement Super Bowl party – complete with an 18-layer dip that includes bird seed and peanuts. At the start of the game, he protests that he “has no dog in this fight” and just wants to see some good, clean football. But his true loathing for Brady and the Patriots doesn’t take long to reveal itself, and Manning spends the second half of his party acting out in ways that only true football fans can really appreciate.
It’s fucking hysterical. Especially if you’re a Patriots fan.
Peyton Manning's Super Bowl party pic.twitter.com/jOrlQVMeMc
— PatriotsNation™️ (@PatsNationTM) July 13, 2017
“No autographs.” What a legend.