Peyton Manning, Zeus of QBs in a football-mad nation
Peyton Manning is reportedly set to become the Denver Broncos' new quarterback.
And if you don't think that’s big news, you're probably not an American, and you're certainly not a football fan.
In the sports pantheon of the United States, football is king, pro football is Mt. Olympus and Manning is the Zeus of quarterbacks.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Here's what the Manning news meant in the cold logic of Las Vegas:
According to R.J. Bell of Pregame.com, Denver's odds to win the next Super Bowl were as high as 70 to 1 in February but have now dropped to 10 to 1.
Only four teams have better odds: the Packers (6 to 1), Patriots (7 to 1), 49ers (7 to 1) and Saints (8 to 1).
But it's just football, you say. It's a Sunday afternoon diversion.
Think again. The National Football League is the economic engine that can. Last year, Forbes reported that the average NFL franchise is valued at $1.04 billion, exactly what it pegged as the worth of the Broncos. ( In comparison, the Dodgers will sell for $1-billion-plus, and that will be the highest price ever for a Major League Baseball franchise.)
And it's not just the U.S. we're talking about. All 32 NFL teams rank in the top 50 of the most valuable sports teams in the world.
So Manning's move has major financial as well as competitive implications.
But of course, the other intriguing part of this sports soap opera is that Denver’s incumbent quarterback is Tim Tebow.
Tebow is interesting because although his quarterbacking skills are not in the same universe as Manning's, he has a large and avid fan base, due at least in part to his strong Christian faith.
Which means that he may not stick in Denver but that teams such as Jacksonville and Miami may be interested because Tebow puts fans in the seats and drives television ratings.
And all of this, of course, has another economic angle: Television, talk radio and the blogosphere feed off the news the NFL generates, even in the sport's off-season. The pursuit of Manning has been a major topic for weeks, and the fate of Tebow will be a big story as well.
It may be March Madness time in college basketball, but the madness that is professional football knows no season.
— Paul Whitefield
Photo: Peyton Manning, left, takes a tour with executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos John Elway, right, and Broncos Coach John Fox at the Broncos' training facility in Englewood, Colo. Credit: John Leyba / Associated Press