To his credit, Manning handled retirement – and the had-to-be-asked question – with grace.
The farewell was a fitting one for a king.
Peyton Manning’s final appearance at a Denver Bronco was eloquent and graceful, emotional and humorous. He thanked just about every one under the sun for his successful NFL career and paid tribute to the game he loved.
Judging by the Internet, reporters on hand treated the moment with the same reverence.
With one exception.
USA Today’s Lindsay Jones had the audacity to ask the future Hall of Fame quarterback about allegations of a 20-year-old sexual assault incident from his collegiate career at the University of Tennessee.
Imagine the nerve: Throwing real-life, serious journalism in the middle of a love fest.
Jones didn’t hit Manning with a hammer. In a most graceful way, she gently asked Manning to respond to the story, which had resurfaced and dominated national airwaves and newspapers for the past weeks.
In return, she was vilified, especially on Twitter with horrific accusations and verbal graffiti not fit for anyone’s worst enemy.
She merely did her job, did it professionally, and in return was treated to an embarrassing display of venom.
Welcome to America, 2016. Where anyone, anywhere can say anything atrocious and anonymous.
Give Manning credit. He knew the moment was coming and handled it with aplomb.
“It is sad that some people don’t understand the truth and the facts,” Manning responded. “I did not do what has been alleged. And I am not interested in re-litigating something that happened when I was 19 years old.”
OK, not 100 percent aplomb. The Forrest Gump quote at the end (“that’s all I have to say about that”) was the exception.
Otherwise, he delivered a diplomatic, measured answer to a difficult question.
Yet the question had to be asked. On national TV, Jones had the courage to ask – not for shock value, but because the subject has been news for weeks.
She gave Peyton Manning, the revered king stepping down from the throne, a chance to answer.
That’s journalism. Sometimes it’s not easy. Sometimes, as Jones discovered, it’s not popular.
But it was the right question, at the right time, even on a day dedicated to a last ride into the sunset.
Editor’s note: Morning Ticker welcomes Doug Segrest as a new Featured Author. Segrest is a veteran sports writer who primarily covered college sports and professional baseball at The Nashville Banner and The Birmingham News, where he was named Tennessee and Alabama Sports Writer of the Year. He’s also the co-host of the highly rated “The Zone” talk show.