How did this start? The first thing I remember is reading an ESPN.com item on Kobe Bryant questioning whether or not he’ll play in China this year. Which led to an article on another website, Miami NewTimes, that quoted Kobe praising misunderstood underdog LeBron James, which led to a companion piece about worst celebrity tippers. Number 1 worst tipper on that list was Tiger Woods, which led to CBSSPORTS.com and an article titled, “Poll: Tiger popularity levels still cratering.” The second paragraph says Americans name him the least-liked and least-trustworthy sports figure. Ho-hum.
But, but, but, then I read, “Popular actress Betty White topped the list of 25 most popular celebrities,” which led to ipsos-na.com (a marketing research company) and their poll of 2000 human persons that resulted in the headline, “Betty White Is America’s Favorite and Most Trusted Personality.”
Below that head is a box entitled, “25 Most Popular Personalities.” Betty White is the most popular celebrity in America, more popular than Clint Eastwood, Denzel Washington, Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, and, get this, Peyton Manning.
Betty White is more popular than Peyton Manning! What in the hell is going on? And right before football season, too. Who is this Betty White and what does she have that Peyton Manning doesn’t? And what, precisely, is her connection to professional sports?
Believe me, I have researched this, and I’ve come back to tell you Betty White is 121 years old, recently arrested for her fourth DUI, subsequently jumped bail, last seen at the A&C Truck Stop in Laramie, Wyoming, plying her trade. Which is weird...I didn’t think she lived in Wyoming.
Just a second, let me recheck that.
Well, it seems Betty White is 89 years old and lives in Carmel and L.A. But, she does have impeccable television credentials. White made her first television appearance in 1939 on an experimental Los Angeles TV station. She and a buddy sang songs from the operetta, Die Lustige Witwe. I don’t get it either, but it must have been boffo because she’s been working ever since. White was a regular on radio in the 1940s, topping out with her own series, The Betty White Show. Still, it’s television she owns; she’s been appearing on television for the past 72 years. That factoid is either a great bar bet or it could come to you as a sudden, unexpected knowing that provokes existential panic.
Ms. White won her first Emmy (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series) in 1951. Time passes...in this case, 60 years. In that time, White has won or been nominated for 48 awards. Some were legit — Emmy, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild — some were semi-legit — People’s Choice Awards, TV Land Awards — and some were flat-out wonderful — Viewers for Quality Television, New Now Next Awards, Walk of Fame, Disney Legends. Plus, she’s an honorary forest ranger.
And, yet, I have never watched one of her shows all the way through. Is there some kind of strange ultra-dimensional attraction between Betty and me? Probably, but that’s not the point; the point is, how does this tarted-up truck-stop hussy out-popular a manly NFL quarterback by the name of Peyton Four-Time-NFL-MVP Manning?
Let’s get to it. Miss Cowboy Truck Stop won Favorite Web Celeb from the People’s Choice Awards. Peyton Manning won the Byron “Whizzer” White Humanitarian award. Miss Never-Too-Old-to-Party won the Best WTF Moment award. NFL.com named Manning the eighth best player in some unremembered NFL category. White won Favorite TV Guest Star. Returning serve, Manning won the Ohio Touchdown Club Offensive Player of the Year award.
Pretty much a draw. Okay, let’s drill down to bedrock; namely, who gets the money? Betty White pitches Snickers. Peyton Manning sells Wheaties. Betty White promotes the Lifeline Program, “a leader in the life settlement industry,” and, may I add, a leader in viatical settlements as well.
Dictionary.com: vi-at-i-cal, 2. of or pertaining to a financial transaction in which a company buys life insurance polices from terminally ill at less than their face value and may sell the polices to investors.
On the other hand, Peyton Manning pitches MasterCard, a respected and vital cog in the world’s financial order.
Call it a push.
Peyton Manning had neck surgery in May, says he will not play any preseason games and may not be ready to play in the regular season opener. He’s been placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
Last January, Betty White accepted the Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series (Hot Cleveland). Her latest movie, The Lorax, is in post-production and will be released in 2012.