Passing for humble

On `SNL' tonight, Peyton's place is to self-efface

The Lighter Side

March 24, 2007|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN REPORTER

Whether you adore him or would just as soon never see him again, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has shown a knack for self-mockery.

Admit it, you've chuckled at the Sprint commercial in which a badly disguised Manning extols the virtues of cell phone video by saying, "Like Peyton Manning! That guy's pretty good, if you like 6-foot-5, 230-pound quarterbacks [with a] laser rocket arm."

Does Manning need a script and many takes to pull off such moments? We'll find out tonight when he becomes the 22nd athlete and 25th sports figure (not counting professional wrestlers or actors from the Rocky films) to host Saturday Night Live.

Athletes have hardly shined in the role over the years. Not a single one has returned to host a second time. And some, such as Wayne Gretzky and Deion Sanders, have been so wooden that viewing became uncomfortable. But Manning seems a decent bet to overcome, what with his zeal for humiliation.

Whether he's truly self-effacing or simply understands that being a lovable doof earns him millions in endorsements, Manning has the shtick down. He's already said he's wide-open to "anything that makes as big a fool out of myself as I possibly can."

That puts him ahead of Jeff Gordon, who lived up to his reputation as the diva of NASCAR by nixing several ideas and griping about the skits he was asked to do in 2003.

We can only hope for a moment as great as Joe Montana visiting Dana Carvey's Church Lady and having impure thoughts.

The sports stars who've hosted amount to an odd mix. Would you have ever guessed that Fran Tarkenton, a diminutive quarterback from the hinterlands of Minnesota, was the first? Some - glamour boys, such as Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter, and garrulous personalties, such as Charles Barkley and George Foreman - seem obvious choices. Others - we're looking at you, Nancy Kerrigan - remind us of the fleeting nature of super-celebrity. Still others - um, O.J. Simpson - have taken on vastly different meaning since hosting.

Active wrestlers - Hulk Hogan and The Rock - have outnumbered active baseball players - Jeter. Rocky fighters - Sly Stallone, Mr. T and Carl Weathers - have outnumbered real ones - Marvin Hagler and Foreman.

Manning joins Tarkenton, Montana and Tom Brady to show that quarterbacking really is the glitziest pursuit in sports. Let's hope it's also the funniest, at least for a night.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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