WASHINGTON -- Even when football season ends, superstar
quarterback Peyton Manning is hard to miss on TV. He has become
such a marketable pitchman that his commercials -- a sports drink
here, a credit card company there -- seem endless.
Apparently, President Bush has taken notice while flipping the
"So a lot of people here in the White House compound have been
really looking forward to seeing Peyton Manning," Bush said Monday
on the South Lawn. "They wanted to see a guy who gets more air
time than I do."
The good-natured poke came as Bush welcomed another championship
team to the White House: The Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts beat the Chicago Bears, 29-17, in a pounding rainstorm
last February to become Super Bowl champs. On Monday, players
basked in the sunshine below the South Portico, as Bush hailed them
for ignoring naysayers and playing as a well-balanced team.
As he usually does at these events, Bush played up the theme of
perseverance. He liked that the Colts fought through ups and downs.
"Isn't that what life is about, isn't it really?" Bush said.
"Through the ups -- it's easy to fight hard in the ups. It's when
the downs come that you've got to be a fighter."
The team's coach, Tony Dungy, became the first black coach to
win a Super Bowl. Long one of the most respected figures in the
National Football League, Dungy coped with the suicide of his son,
James, in late 2005. Bush alluded to that.
"He is a man who has used his -- a position of notoriety to
behave in a quiet and strong way in the face of personal tragedy
that has influenced a lot of our fellow citizens," Bush said of
Dungy, who stood next to him on stage. "And I want to thank you
for your courage."
The Colts are used to getting showered with attention. More than
93 million people watched the Super Bowl. Yet the team's players
and executives seemed awed to be at the White House, and they
didn't hide it.
Players pulled out personal cameras to get photos with Bush.
They did the same with another political star and football fan who
showed up for the ceremony -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Earlier, players visited injured troops at Walter Reed Army
Medical Center. Manning, Dungy and a handful of others also got a
20-minute tour of the Oval Office from Bush.
"Winning the Super Bowl a few months ago was probably about as
special as you could get," Manning told reporters after the White
House ceremony. "But I'm not sure you could actually beat what's
happened here today."
As for all those commercials, Manning said he's used to getting
ribbing from teammates. All Bush did, he said, was provide "more
ammo for the offensive line to have some fun with me."