On Second Thought, Maybe Rob Lowe Is on to Something

by | January 19, 2012 at 3:47 PM | NFL, Sports

(Lowe and Manning, Carlo Allegri/AJ Mast, AP)

When actor Rob Lowe turned the Twitterverse on its head Wednesday with his Peyton Manning is retiring tweet, I halfway ignored it. ‘It’s Rob Lowe,’ I thought, the guy who unsuccessfully attempted to sabotage Callahan Auto Parts; the same guy who tried to spoil all the fun for Wayne and Garth and Cassandra.

Then it happened: the explosion of curiosity, followed by a viral mockery of Lowe.

Lowe’s “insider information” was ridiculed by everyone from Manning’s father, Archie, who shot down the report, to Colts owner Jim Irsay, who responded with a cryptic tweet about a “Deep Throat” remake … to Adam Schefter, who suggested this morning that his “Hollywood sources” informed him “Parks and Recreation” had been canceled. It was the best non-sports story on a Wednesday otherwise owned by repeated playbacks of Marcos Baghdatis’ racquet-breaking tantrum at the Aussie Open. So the media ran with it. Peyton Manning isn’t retiring? There are $28 million reasons why he won’t. Let’s all have our fun with the dude from “The West Wing” and feel better about ourselves on Thursday.

That’s when I remembered “St. Elmo’s Fire,” and the pieces started falling into place. Maybe Rob Lowe is on to something. There’s more to this, even if it feels wildly impossible. Maybe Rob Lowe is the new Jay Glazer. Maybe Billy Hicks sees something the rest of us don’t.

On Wednesday NFL Network’s Rich Eisen reached out to the actor and asked him to set the record straight on his report. Lowe told Eisen that his source was “absolutely not” Irsay, but a “pretty darn good” one. Lowe then complicated things, telling Eisen that he tweeted as a fan and saw fit to “let the professionals see what’s true or not.”

The head-swirling continued. Since I don’t know Jay Glazer, or Adam Schefter, or Chris Mortensen, or Rob Lowe, or Peyton Manning personally, I thought, why not ask the next best thing: my colleague Lee Russakoff. He’s the NFL guy around here. He must have seen “Wayne’s World.”

Me: What do you make of this Rob Lowe stuff?

Lee: Ha, ha. I think it’s possible Lowe found out from someone who knew Peyton is planning to retire and he didn’t realize he wasn’t supposed to say anything.

Of course! That’s surely a possibility, even it feels a little safe. So what do we make of Lowe’s conflicting response to Eisen? The whole “let the professionals” sort it out bit? If that’s damage control on Lowe’s part, I seriously doubt he’ll have a seat waiting for him in Irsay’s luxury suite next season.

That’s when I realized we’re missing the point.

There is a “darn good” chance Peyton Manning is not the same Peyton Manning he once was. Not anymore possibly, not after a bulging disk in his neck required three separate operations and a cervical neck fusion that sidelined him for all of 2011. Doctors expect a full recovery, though none have set a timeline. But even if Peyton’s recovery is successful and he clears rehab without incident, then what? What of real-game action and the dangers there should he return to running the Colts offense? We’re not talking about a torn ACL or MCL; we’re talking about a man’s neck, weakened by multiple surgeries, and all the possibilities of one of the game’s best quarterbacks seriously re-injuring himself on an awkward throw or blindside hit in one of America’s most violent sports.

The picture is getting crisper now. The point is too. This isn’t about Rob Lowe or Twitter or unnamed sources or even football. This is about a man’s health, who, at nearly 36, could be risking more than another run at a second Super Bowl title if he returns to the field. Manning is one of the greatest ever, right there alongside Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and his peer, Tom Brady. He’s a future first-ballot Hall of Famer; he’s done more than most quarterbacks could in three lifetimes. He certainly doesn’t need the money, and despite Indy’s 2-14 record this past season, he looked the part roaming the sidelines.

Billy Hicks saw that. Lowe’s tweet is starting to make more sense.

Then there’s Alex Marvez’s insightful article that absolutely crushed every other link on our site Wednesday. Read it if you like. The gist is basically that Peyton’s time is up in Ind, the Colts are looking to the future, and that future almost undoubtedly includes Andrew Luck.

Back to Jay Glazer Rob Lowe.

Let’s forget for a moment that an actor who’s a huge Colts fan used Twitter to proclaim one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks was retiring Wednesday, and on Thursday that quarterback is still employed.

Let’s forget for a moment the numerous reports suggesting that same NFL quarterback is heading to New York to help Rex Ryan finally deliver on three years’ worth of empty promises.

Let’s forget for a moment that people have opinions and that sometimes those opinions are made public in a space where public opinion can became a virtual laugher.

According to sources, the idea of Peyton Manning retiring is far-fetched and presumptuous. According to sources, the timing is all wrong. But despite what Jim Irsay and Ryan Grigson and Archie Manning keep telling us, Peyton Manning retiring is still a very real idea, and apparently one worth talking about.

So maybe it’s time to start talking about it—it being the “when” instead of “if.” Perhaps Rob Lowe really is a fortune teller. Perhaps.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.