This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 23 Interview Issue. Subscribe today!
Recently, The Mag matched legend on legend, with Peyton Manning attempting to dodge the white-hot edge rushes of Ron Burgundy.
Burgundy: Hello, America, Mexico and remote parts of Canada. This is Ron Burgundy reporting for ESPN, or "Es-pin," as it's known in the biz. My guest today is none other than future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Peyton, can you hear me?
Manning: I sure can, Ron, and it's an honor to be talking to you.
Burgundy: Peyton, can you hear me?
Manning: Yes, Ron, I can. Very clearly. Can you hear me, Ron?
Burgundy: Yes, loud and clear. Can you hear me?
Manning: Uh, what do you think?
Burgundy: I think yes, you can hear me. I just want to make sure it's you, Peyton. I remember once, before the 1978 Holiday Bowl, I thought I was interviewing the great Phil McConkey, and instead I was talking to the backup kicker. I felt like a fool. The boys at the station had quite a laugh at my expense, so I'm just making sure.
Manning: I remember that game like it was yesterday, Ron. Navy sneaked one out at the old Murph. I was 2 years old.
Burgundy: Peyton, here's something I gotta ask you right out of the gate. You are one of the great quarterbacks playing the game today. You've had a lot of success, and yet you've done it all without a mustache. You're running around out there, and I'm gonna be honest with you: You look like a succulent baby lamb. Let's face it, all the great NFL quarterbacks had mustaches. Joe Namath, Jeff Hostetler, Jeff George, Randall Cunningham, Mark Malone, Colt McCoy, Burt Reynolds, the guy from Barney Miller, Mike Farrell from MASH. The list goes on and on.
Manning: Barney Miller? Well, first off, Ron, some of the guys you named were never quarterbacks. And I guess, to tell you the truth, I've never had much of a desire to grow facial hair. I think I've managed to play quarterback just fine without a mustache. Actually, Eli tried to grow one a while back without much success, I'd have to say.
Burgundy: Oh, I saw that. It did not look good. It looked like his upper lip was caked in a mixture of liquid dog crap and cocaine.
Manning: Easy, Ron, that is my brother. I do agree, though. It wasn't very well groomed.
Burgundy: Sorry, yes, I didn't mean to get that graphic. Anyway, um, according to Es-pin's NFL analyst, Ron Waworski ...
Manning: That's, uh, Jaworski, I think you mean. Ron Jaworski. He actually played quarterback in the NFL with a mustache. His nickname is Jaws.
Burgundy: Oh boy, what an absolutely spectacular movie, Jaws. It is about a very, very scary shark. I've never seen anything like it. Have you ever seen the movie Jaws?
Manning: Yes, I really enjoyed it.
Burgundy: And did you cry and scream like an 11-year-old girl when you watched it?
Manning: I found it scary and suspenseful. I can't say I had that reaction, because I knew ...
Burgundy: You knew what? What did you know?
Manning: Well, I knew it was a movie.
Manning: And I knew it wasn't real.
Burgundy: Oh, okay. So you didn't cry and yell out "Mommy, Mommy, where are you? Ronny's wet his pants! Ronny's wet his pants a lot!"
Manning: No, Ronny, I did not.
Burgundy: Right, right. Neither did I. Have you seen the movie Cujo? It's about a Saint Bernard that gets bitten by a rabid bat, and boy, does that dog get cranky.
Manning: I've heard of the movie Cujo. I don't think I've ever seen it, though.
Burgundy: Guess what the name of the dog is.
Manning: Is it Cujo?
Burgundy: I thought you said you've never seen the movie.
Manning: Well, I haven't. But I just guessed that's what the dog would be named since it's the title of the movie.
Burgundy: Saint Don Cornelius, that's remarkable. You must have ESP. Let me ask you this, Peyton: Who do you think would win in a fight between Jaws and Cujo?
Manning: Ron, are we gonna talk any football at all today?
Burgundy: Yes, we are. But after you answer the simple question: Who wins in a fight between Jaws and Cujo?
Manning: You're serious?
Burgundy: I'm deadly serious.
Manning: I guess I'd say Jaws.
Burgundy: Right, because he has a mustache like Ron Jaworski?
Manning: What? No, because he's an 800-pound shark.
Burgundy: Oh yes, of course, of course. By the way, if you go to rent Cujo, make sure you don't say "Culo," which means ... Peyton, any guesses?
Manning: I have no clue, Ron.
Burgundy: Right, it means butthole in Spanish. All right, you've played against some tremendous defensive players over the years, and I have to ask you: What's it like to get sacked by Merlin Olsen?
Manning: Merlin Olsen? Ron, I'm pretty sure I was 4 years old when Merlin Olsen retired.
Burgundy: Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, I was actually thinking about the time Merlin tackled me at his bungalow in Burbank. What a night. You know, Merlin and I were very close.
Manning: I think I did read that somewhere.
Burgundy: Yes, I miss him. So you play in Denver for the Broncos at Mile High Stadium. Tell me about your relationship with Thunder.
Manning: Our mascot Thunder? You're talking about the horse that runs up and down the field every time the Broncos score?
Burgundy: Oh yes, I've had my eye on that wonderful beast for decades.
Manning: Is that right? Ron, I didn't really picture you as a guy who played the ponies.
Burgundy: Indeed I do. Ha!
Manning: Wow, uh, I gotta tell ya, Ron, I wasn't prepared for this interview to go in this direction.
Burgundy: Speaking of preparation, I understand that is one of your calling cards. Recognizing coverages, making calls at the line of scrimmage.
Manning: You're actually right, Ron. I firmly believe that preparation is a huge part of my game. I certainly think it gives me an advantage on Sundays.
Burgundy: Oh sure. I know; I played a little in my day. San Diego State. Scout-team quarterback. I used to yell "Check off!" all the time. "Check off!" No clue what it meant, but when I saw anyone on the defense move, I just yelled "Check off! Check off!" Is that pretty much what you do?
Manning: It's not exactly what I do, but you're somewhere on the right track, Ron. You're close to being on the right track.
Burgundy: Peyton, let me ask you this: Do you ever just yell things to throw the defense off, things that make no sense?
Manning: Absolutely. All the time.
Burgundy: Can you give me an example?
Manning: Well, Ron, sometimes I'll just yell "Underpants!" over and over again. Or maybe I'll change it up with "Oven mitt." Maybe "Oven mitt."
Burgundy: Okay. Have you ever yelled "Biscuits and gravy"?
Manning: Biscuits and gravy is one of our best plays. I've also yelled "Magic man!" or "Baby got back!"
Burgundy: Have you ever yelled "I'm gonna pop some tags"?
Manning: Of course.
Burgundy: What about "Ain't no party like a West Coast party cuz a West Coast party don't stop"?
Burgundy: And I'm sure you've made the line call: "Dingo got my baby. Dingo got my baby!"
Manning: At least a hundred times, Ron.
Burgundy: And the defense is just terribly confused at this point?
Manning: Absolutely. They're horribly confused. My offense is as well. I like to keep them on their toes too.
Burgundy: Bingo. And that's why Peyton Manning is the best in the biz. Peyton, before I let you go, a lot of attention has been given to you and your brother Ellie. Or is it Eh-lie?
Burgundy: Oh, Eli, sorry. So a lot of attention has been paid to you and your brothers, Eli and Cooper. But few people know about the fourth Manning brother, Danieal Manning, who currently plays strong safety for the Texans and is African-American. Tell me a little bit about Danieal Manning.
Manning: Well, Ron, I hate to break it to you, there is not a fourth Manning brother named Danieal Manning. He is a heck of a football player. I've played against him a lot, but we're not related.
Burgundy: Okay, well, good to know. Someone here at Es-pin in the research department is gonna be fired. So there isn't any truth to the rumor of a Manning sister, Gloria Manning, who weighed 285 pounds as a freshman in high school and ran a 4.3 40 and was frankly a better football player than all of you?
Manning: Ron, how did you find out about my sister Gloria?
Burgundy: It's what I do. It's why I'm a topflight journalist. Well, that's all the time we have. I want to thank my guest Peyton Manning. Peyton, you are a dear, dear friend.
Manning: Thanks a lot. As are you, Don.
Burgundy: Ha-ha, very funny. That will do it for all of us here at Es-pin. Good night and good day.