What does Peyton Manning’s neck have in common with no tattoos or piercings in Cam Newton’s future? More than you’d want to know

We’re talking sports today. Why? Because I said so.

Sometimes, I just get sucked into some sports stories. I don’t particularly care for celebrity gossip — who Jennifer Anniston is dating or what kind of knuckle-headed pronouncement was made by Charlie Sheen is not for me — so I guess politics and an interesting sports story are my kind of mini-fanaticism.

Two stories in particular have interested me within the last 24-to-48 hours. One is a controversy created by Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson concerning star draftee Cam Newton and whether the quarterback should have tattoos or piercings. The other story brings to surface the repercussions from the May neck surgery of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. In this story, Kerry Collins, coincidentally the first ever draft pick of the Carolina Panthers, comes out of retirement to fill in as the Indianapolis quarterback while one of the NFL’s best players recovers.

Let’s start with Newton. He is black. He won the 2010 Heisman Trophy and led Auburn to the 2011 National Championship. Newton likewise won the Manning Award which honors the quarterback judged by the Sugar Bowl Committee to be the nation’s best in that position. Talk about your kismet, a word which I have been forced by this post to grab from the thesaurus. It is named after former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints QB Archie Manning as well as his sons Peyton and Eli, the latter if you are unaware is the New York Giants quarterback.

All of the acclaim heaped on Newton in 2010 also came amid allegations that his father engaged in a “pay to play” scheme while the future Auburn star played at Blinn College, a junior college in Brenham, Texas. (Where one of my brothers and his wife lives. More coincidence? I think so!). Newton (where have I heard that name before?) was taken as this year’s first NFL draft pick by Carolina.

With all that out of the way, I now can elaborate what the latest controversy involving Newton is all about which is, as I said earlier, tattoos and piercings. Or, if you wish, the lack of those cultural “art” adornments.

Panthers owner Richardson, was a 13th round draft pick in 1958 by the Baltimore Colts (the team was moved to Indianapolis.) Happenstance by chance? Hey, all these coincidences keep surfacing as I write. Richardson was the founder and is majority owner of the Charlotte, N.C.-based pro team. In the context of how this story develops he could perhaps be seen as a “cracker” or a “rich old white dude.”

In an interview with Charlie Rose — like I am supposed to know him — Richardson said that when Newton and Richardson discussed the job of quarterback he told the young, black star to stay free of tattoos and piercings. The story really should be told in context so hopefully the one to which I linked above will suffice.

Somehow tattoos and piercings are culturally relevant to black people. I’m not sure how that works. I’m serious. So now keeping the, hopefully promising at an estimated $5.5 million per year, quarterback without tattoos and piercings makes Richardson look like a “cracker” or a “rich old white dude.”

Fade out. Fade into super-duper quarterback Peyton Manning — who ranks 3rd in all-time NFL passing yardage at more than 54,000 yards and behind Dan Marino and (maybe coincidence alert) Brett Favre — getting back into fighting shape after surgery on a bulging disc in the neck.

Collins, who battled alcoholism as well as having been in the past a publicly serial racial slurist or slurer, retired last month after having played for Carolina, the Saints, the Giants, the Raiders and last but not least, the Tennessee Titans. Bear in mind Archie Manning’s tenure with the Saints and that Peyton was born in New Orleans, plus the fact that Peyton and Indianapolis were waxed 31-17 by the Saints in 2009’s Super Bowl XLIV. Plus, Eli Manning is still the Giants QB.

Now Collins has once again risen like the Phoenix, or at least Brett Favre, as the Colts signed Collins to keep Petyon’s spot in the huddle warm because Manning still needs time to recover from his surgery. Signing Collins instead of putting backup quarterback Curtis Painter in the lineup has surprised a lot of folks including some who share the huddle with Manning. Star receiver Reggie Wayne is downright indignant at the thought of his teammate Painter being pushed aside.

Just a few words about these stories. A few, and if you believe that …

I have never been really big about folks telling others how they should dress or wear their hair or whether they should be pierced or tattooed or tossed like a salad. However, I joined the Navy with hair covering my shoulder blades. That hair went faster than an F/A-18 Hornet off a carrier catapult. Since that time, I have had all manners of dress codes. Some of them have been formal and precise, such as the Navy’s and that of the fire department where I worked for five years, others have been informal or just common sense.

Tattoos and piercings are not “my thing.” I have very close friends who have tattoos and piercings, some have both, some even have one or the other in what many would consider “intimate” locations. I’m not going to drop them as friends because they decided to get something drawn on their bodies with a needle or have some body part pierced.

I do care if something would happen, health-wise, to one of my friends from their bodies being multipricked and pierced. Health risks from these practices are probably not as statistically substantial as in the past. But they do carry some risk, however slight. In one specific instance I winced as an infection seemed to hang around a bit too long after a friend had her belly button pierced.

It stands to reason that if there is a chance something might harm someone from a piercing or tattoo, and if an employer invested $22 million over a four-year contract, the boss might have a legitimate reason for concern about what an employee might do to jeopardize that investment. Some jobs and sports forbid workers or players from high-risk activities such as NASCAR or motor cross racing. Or skydiving. Or trying to steal another player’s wife.

Whether Richardson’s concern about body adornments on Newton is paternal, economic or racist, I have no idea. I do believe that an employee, especially a new one who has yet to win a game or a playoff much less a Super Bowl, should exercise some amount of common sense. Throughout it all though, it seems the whole issue of race could be a figment (not pigment) of someone’s imagination. Who? Who who? Who who indeed. We certainly could use a wise old owl right now. Call Rice University. You know, Houston, the Rice Owls. Oh boy.

As for the Colts’ situation, I have genuine concern for Peyton Manning. I like him as a quarterback and as a media figure. He certainly comes off as a nice guy though hyper-competitive. But the latter is why he is one of the two best players in the league. I also have empathy for him because he has been plagued with cervical disc problems. His coaches have termed his latest surgery as “minimally invasive.” But no matter how invasive, a surgery with general anesthesia produces some chance of being “minimally lethal.” People sometimes are “put under” six feet of earth after a surgery during which they are “put under.”

One of the biggest issues surrounding the Colts signing Collins is that Indy did not seem to plan for the absence of their star QB. Why should they? I mean he never missed a game.

Well, the reason is football is a very violent sport. Enough said?

But the whole shebang, football, pro football, is about money. So in the end, it seems the people who run a team can do pretty well what they want until it affects the morale and efficiency of the team as well as it ultimately suits the greatest number of folks who shell out the bucks.

That, my friends, is how the cow ate the cabbage. And the cow was owned by Archie Manning and the cabbage was raised in a field by sharecroppers who may or may not have been Cam Newton’s ancestors and was located just outside of Baltimore where the Colts were once based and, of course, Jerry Richardson was drafted in the 13th round. I’m just saying …