Will Peyton Manning land in Miami—thanks to Iraq? Believe it or not, that’s entirely possible.
Across the country, fans have put cash behind efforts to attract the free-agent legend to their respective cities. (Manning has visited with the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals, and has a condo in Miami.) Billboards have been especially popular. The owner of a Phoenix-area mattress company bought such outdoor advertising on a spot off a highway. “Peyton Manning Please Sleep Here! R&S Mattress,” it said. Even before the Colts cut Manning, Tennessee Titans fans tried to claim him. On 1-65 north, just south of Indianapolis, fans paid for a billboard that read, “Hey Peyton, You’re Going The Wrong Way. Comehomepeyton.com.” (Manning starred at the University of Tennessee in college,) Quarterback-starved fans have launched websites and Twitter feeds to try to impress Manning with their zeal.
In Miami, a place with a legitimate shot of landing Manning, the Peyton pitch is louder than a South Beach Saturday night. For example, three South Florida residents — Robert Hoffman, William Casino, and Blake Casino — launched manningtomiami.com over a month ago, when it was becoming apparent that Colts owner Jim Irsay was likely going to cut ties with Manning. The site’s “title sponsor” is Dinar Inc., “Worldwide Wholesaler of Iraqi Dinars.” Hoffman and his manningtomiami.com partners own and run Dinar Inc., which they launched in 2007. (They also sell four other “exotic” currencies — the South Korean won, the Vietnamese dong, the Chinese yuan and the Hong Kong dollar.) “When the U.S. pours money into a place, like it did in Iraq, it’s rare that it’s unsuccessful,” Hoffman says. “The Iraqi dinar is held by may banks. We get banks the money they are looking for, quickly. Not many people can do that.” Hoffman knows his job raises eyebrows. “The dinar is definitely controversial, as is Iraq,” says Hoffman. “But I stay out of that. I have a widget, and fill demand for it.”
Hoffman says his dinar-sponsored site, splashed with the clear-blue ocean that makes Miami so attractive (don’t you want to dive in, Peyton?) is drawing 5,000 to 10,000 visitors a day. Hoffman admits he’s received from hate mail from Colts fans, especially when the site first launched. Hoffman paid for a manningtomiami.com billboard near the I-95/I-595 exchange in Fort Lauderdale. It shows Manning in a Dolphins uniform. He says he got a $10,000-$15,000 space for “pennies on the dollar,” since the billboard owner is also a Dolphins fan.
The goal, Hoffman says, is to somehow show Manning the more than 10,o00 names that have registered on his site. Hoffman says he reached out to Manning’s agent, though he hasn’t heard back. For $12.99, plus a $5.00 shipping charge, you can buy a manningtomiami.com T-shirt. The site promises that 100% of the proceeds will benefit both The Miami Dolphins Foundation and Manning’s Peyback Foundation. (Hoffman declined to share shirt sales figures.) Four companies in which Hoffman says he has an ownership interest, including a mortgage company and a beauty salon, are also listed as sponsors. While Hoffman insists he isn’t pushing Peyton for the money, he’s not naïve to the business benefits of bringing eyeballs to his site. “Why would we fund something with our own dollars, and not put our brands on there?” Hoffman says. “We’d be crazy not to.”
In the end, all these grassroots campaigns likely won’t have much impact on Manning’s decision. Manning will join the team that, in his mind, gives him the best chance to win a Super Bowl, feels like a comfortable fit, and offers him a nice contract. But a passionate fan base can only help.
What would Manning mean to Miami? “Down here, there’s hasn’t been much to be proud of,” Hoffman says about life in recession-wracked South Florida. “If you haven’t lost a job, you know somebody who has. If your house hasn’t been foreclosed, you know someone whose has.”
Despite the success of the Miami Heat, and new splashy free-agent signings of the former Florida, now Miami, Marlins, South Florida bleeds Dolphin aqua and white. But the Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since 2000. Since Hall of Famer Dan Marino retired a dozen years ago, fans have been longing for a franchise quarterback. “He will elevate South Florida,” says Hoffman. “He will do something profound.” Are you listening, Peyton?