Peyton and Eli have each met up with Obama during White House visits to celebrate the former quarterbacks’ Super Bowl victories, and Peyton joined Obama at least once on the golf course.
“Peyton’s game is pretty tight,” Obama said, describing “a great match” at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.
“I’m not going to talk about anybody’s game because I’m pretty sure I hit into the woods and trees a couple of times,” he added, noting that woods and trees aren’t exactly plentiful at Riviera.
Peyton confessed that his tee shot on the first hole was, well, a disaster that Obama “pardoned” with a mulligan. “It was the least I could do,” Obama joked. “I felt bad for you. I thought you were a high-stakes performer.”
To that, Peyton replied: “I would rather throw four interceptions on national TV than do what I did in front of you.”
Obama famously helped coach his daughter Sasha’s youth basketball team for a while, volunteering along with aide Reggie Love “after observing an adorable but chaotic first couple of games,” he wrote in his book “A Promised Land.” That’s another thing he has in common with Peyton, although Eli cracked that Peyton has designed “197 plays” for his son Marshall’s 11-and-under flag football team.
“The problem is, it’s believable that he might actually have 197 plays,” Obama said. “You might not be making this up. My suggestion is similar to my suggestion for the Bears: simplify that offense.”
The former president remains an ardent Bears fan and admitted it was a little difficult to welcome the team’s rival Green Bay Packers to the White House after they won the Super Bowl in 2011, but he also welcomed the Bears 25 years after their lone Super Bowl title. The 1985 Bears had never visited because their trip was preempted by the Challenger shuttle disaster on Jan. 28, 1986, two days after Super Bowl XX. At the time of the 2011 ceremony, Obama admitted, “this is as much fun as I will have as president of the United States.”
He told the Mannings “it was hard having the Packers in and having to be nice to them. I moved to Chicago in ’85. You show up in this city, and you’ve got this team that captures everybody’s imagination. The fact that they never got their White House due, I figured, what’s the point of being president if you can’t make up for that?”
As for which Manning brother was the better White House guest, Obama went the diplomatic route, with a zinger aimed at Peyton’s trip with the Denver Broncos in 2016. “I have to say that both of you guys were gentlemen,” he said. “There was some silverware missing after that visit, but we couldn’t directly trace it to you, but we had a great time. One of the fun things about being president — and there are a lot of things that aren’t so fun — is having a chance to greet world-class athletes and giving them a chance to shine. It’s a lot of fun, although I will tell you when you get football teams in — I’m a skinny guy as it is, and when I’m standing next to some of these linemen or I’m shaking their hands and they’ve got paws, it does make you feel a little bit small.”
Obama’s appearance gave Eli the opportunity to show the former president’s impression of Peyton’s famous “Omaha!” audible at the line of scrimmage, but Obama turned the wisecrack on the former New York Giants quarterback who often protected himself when his protection collapsed. “You dropped quick when that rush was coming,” Obama cracked.
Obama used the appearance to urge people to vote, no matter their preference.
Comedian Bill Burr, a Patriots fan, followed Obama and said of appearing alongside the Manning brothers, “This is like the quarterback anti-Christ for me.” Vince Vaughn was the night’s final guest, and the actor drew some criticism from fellow Bears fans on social media for referring to Chicago’s stadium as “Soldiers Field.”
The Bears beat the Patriots, 33-14, and passed up the chance to score again on Coach Bill Belichick’s team at the end, which did not please Peyton.
“Do not take a knee,” he said with disgust. “I think if you have a chance to score 40 in Foxborough, you score 40 in Foxborough.”