The USA Today published an article today quoting Michael Irvin, who said that the Colts need to retain Peyton Manning on the active roster as “hope” and “motivation” for the team. While I think Irvin is underestimating the professionalism of the players who are healthy enough to play, he inadvertently raises a point that I discussed in last night’s Check it to Pancakes radio broadcast.
For a team as intensely secretive as the Colts, and for a person as intensely private as Peyton Manning, why are they allowing him to be filmed so openly walking around the field at practice? Why is he engaging the media in such a jovial, light-hearted manner? This is clearly a choice the team and Manning are making – there is no requirement for Manning to be anywhere near the practice field, let alone interacting (albeit informally) with the press.
My theory is that the team has to do this to try to stem the economic impact of Manning’s not playing. I’m talking about more than just the estimated $1.4 million the team is not seeing its investment returned for each game he doesn’t play. I’m not even talking about the drop in ticket prices, which mostly reflect resale of tickets already purchased from the team.
What I am talking about are lost stadium revenue (beer sales!) as ticket-holders don’t sell their tickets but still decide to not go to the games; lost merchandise sales as the Colts continue to struggle; and the potential for lower season ticket prices next year if fans decide to not lock in their tickets until they are sure Manning is coming back. The team needs to thrust Manning in to the spotlight to give fans a reason to believe there is a chance he can return this year.
So while Irvin is right that Manning’s presence on the active roster is a motivator, it’s not the players who need hope, it’s the fans.