Tom Brady has the rings, but his archrival has the popularity.
A recent ESPN sports poll grilled American sports fans on their favorite professional sports leagues, players and teams, and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning received the second-most votes for favorite player, while Brady ranked fifth.
Manning also beat out Brady in the team category, as his Broncos came in fifth as America’s most favorite team, while the New England Patriots placed eighth.
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While these results might add fuel to the flames of the Brady-Manning debate, there are several interesting takeaways from this poll that go beyond the two quarterbacks. One is the enduring legacy of Michael Jordan, who remains America’s most popular athlete despite playing his last NBA game more than a decade ago.
Another is the overwhelming popularity of the NFL, which not surprisingly ranked as America’s most popular sport. Seven of America’s top 10 professional sports teams are NFL teams, including the top three — the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers — while four of America’s top 10 athletes are NFL players.
Finally, while the NHL seems to be growing in popularity thanks to a thrilling 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, it still ranks seventh as the nation’s favorite sport, trailing college football, college basketball and even international soccer.