Area man Peyton Manning had just gotten laid off from work. Within 48 hours, he knew what he had to do. He hopped on a plane and headed to Denver. John Elway, Broncos exec, was waiting for him.
“Sorry about your neck, fella,” John commiserated, in his signature Fred Thompson croak. With four surgeries to his neck, Peyton had been seriously laid up for the first time in his working life. The neck stuck him on the sideline with $23 million in workers comp. Now, used goods for the old boss, he was on the street.
Peyton was disconsolate and untalkative. But not one to make excuses, he audibled some Forrest Gump. “Times change, circumstances change, and that’s the reality of playing in the NFL.”
“Listen, Peyton,” John replied. “Let’s talk business. Tebow’s flashy but he’s not my guy. I want you on my team. We’ll win together. We’ll revitalize each other’s careers together.”
“Yeah, but shouldn’t we see if Mitch enters the race, first?”
The GOP was in crisis. Romney wasn’t cutting it. Mitch Daniels had a clean record. And right before the Super Bowl, he had stuck up to big labor and made Indiana a right-to-work state.
John rasped. “Forget about Mitch. He’s out of this one. If anyone I’m waiting for Christie. But he’s not going to do it. They need him to shore up the offensive line out there.”
“What about Rubio?”
“Marco, he’s too young. And I’ve been talking with Karl and the others. Too late to try for the Hispanic vote.”
Peyton shrugged. Then he perked up. He was already iffy about pulling a Montana—a two-year Hail Mary before terminal South Beach obscurity. Now was his moment. He decided to quit football and be John’s running mate in 2012.
And why not?
Elway is just the guy for the GOP. He shows up to important events. He pays his dues—as of 2010, almost as much to Republican candidates and committees ($46,300) as his career passing yardage (51,475). Never mind that his chosen men tend to lose—Bob Shaffer and Rick O’Donnell in Colorado, and then Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.
Elway knows how to play his race cards. He appeared in a federally funded video encouraging citizens to record and report potential signs of terrorism. And one of his car dealerships, on which he keeps close tabs, is the subject of a class-action lawsuit for harassment and discrimination of employees of color.
Best of all, he’s a businessman who means business. Unlike Romney, he has a proven record of following up on a series of losses with a (two-term) win. And he’s careful about packing political baggage. When fellow Hall of Fame inductee Carl Eller stole the spotlight on the big day in 2004 by announcing that “our country has turned its back on African-American males,” John stayed cool. Denver Post columnist Jim Armstrong wrote:
Memo to John Elway: Thanks for making the speech fun and not going all political on us. For a minute there, I thought Carl Eller was going to do a Michael Moore and call for Dubya’s hide.
Peyton, paragon of perfectionism, is the perfect running mate. He would easily shore up the middle-American base without alienating independents. He’s churchy, but without Tebow’s outdated culture war smugness. His family has been in the same business for years. And he has given buckets to charity, Republican candidates, and the franchise that recently dumped him. For the Record Sports summed it up best when they ranked him #5 on a list of “10 Pro Athletes Who Could Win the Republican Presidential Nomination”:
He’s got the hairline, the southern drawl Republicans follow blindly, and what more could you ask of a Republican Presidential nominee than a traceable bloodline that fought as officers for the Confederate Army in the Civil War?
His drawl definitely beats this guy’s.
John and Peyton both know how to deal with adversity. During the 2011 NFL lockout, which got more headlines than any labor dispute since the labor movement was still a thing and the Super Bowl was just Tupperware, they stayed on the right side. Elway is a close friend of conservative Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. And while hundreds of others fought for better healthcare coverage to combat the NFL’s twenty-year life-stunting beating, Peyton complained that he wasn’t allowed to see the team therapist about his neck.
John and Peyton are the right choice in 2012. In a moment of crisis, the GOP needs solid, proven, manly men. And as figureheads of NFL Nation, these guys represent America’s already existing great society, which is much more popular than Congress.