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Jeff Simon: It's a Golden Age for jocks on TV. That could be good news for Josh Allen in 15 years or so.

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Josh Allen  Hurdle Ave.

A cutout of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen leaping a street sign at the corner of Hertel (Hurdle) Avenue and Wellington Road in Buffalo.

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Josh Allen is staring into a hand mirror. He keeps saying "The kick is good!" over and over into the headphone mic attached to his ears.

Two guys are watching him. They're also holding a bag of potato chips. We have previously seen some Tostitos scooped through a dish of rich, red salsa. The commercial is for prime Frito-Lay snacks, the sort of thing people munch on continually when watching football on TV.

"What's Josh doing?" asks one of the guys. "Practicing for what he'll be doing when his playing days are over," says the other.

The humor there is that Allen is currently in his 26-year old prime and is one of the most admired quarterbacks in the NFL. How admired? Well, for the first time in his playing life, his much-idolized opposing quarterback this Sunday night, Aaron Rodgers – a former league MVP – became a double-digit underdog in Las Vegas.

What the Frito-Lay spot proves is that Josh Allen is already an all-ages winner on Madison Avenue, and in America itself.

That's something we have never had in Buffalo, really, and only partially had once before, with Jack Kemp in the old AFL days. Jim Kelly – our tour guide through an unprecedented four consecutive Super Bowls – was much more of a grown-up taste than Josh Allen. A formidable football player and leader, to be sure, but the pride of East Brady, Pa. was your basic, classic, big, tough jock. A lot of us remember that, at first, he didn't even want to come here.

You would be hard put now to find a more Buffalo-centric resident in all of Western New York than the mature Jim Kelly. We know – and revere – how he got that way: through years of adversity and hardship, whether from the sad illness of his son, Hunter, or his own years of struggle with cancer.

Kelly was a hardscrabble tough guy from Pennsylvania coal country. Josh Allen of TV commercial apprenticeship seems to be a big, hugely likable farm kid from Firebaugh, Ca., a bustling burg of 7,549 West of Fresno. He had to fight his way into the NFL. His high school sports were apparently basketball and baseball.

An early adviser on breaking into the NFL is said to have been current Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz. (File that away for future reference.)

How could any sports-loving kid – or adult, for that matter – not love a quarterback with an accurate laser-arm good for 60-yard tosses and a habit of jumping over would-be tacklers? The last time he did it, local residents put cutouts of him doing it atop street signs and re-named Hertel Avenue "Hurdle" Avenue.

If ever there was a young jock perfect for priming Madison Avenue salivary glands, it's Josh Allen.

The Frito-Lay commercial's joke about what great professional athletes commonly do when their glory days are over is far from a joke in the year 2022.

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Former jocks seem to be everywhere on the tube. I couldn't be happier about that. I've always been happy to see ex-jocks on TV, going all the way back to when Dizzy Dean murdered the English language announcing weekly baseball games, and Phil Rizzuto's buzz-bomb tones announced Yankee doings. (As many us have long suspected, Dizzy Dean was really a fictional character invented by Mark Twain on a very good day.)

Are you among those of us who are taking the full measure of the conquering electronic invasion by the Manning family, led by older brother Peyton who, like younger brother Eli, won two Super Bowls?

You can not only catch Peyton as the sidekick to Luke Bryan as the co-host of the CMA awads on Nov. 9, you can watch him asking smarty-pants collegiate questions on NBC's newest version of its old chestnut "College Bowl." (His co-host there is his brother Cooper.)

Find the commercial for Caesar's Sports Book and you'll get the whole Manning family, including Manning Pere, former New Orleans QB Archie. Peyton's brother Eli joins him for their just-folks locker-room analysis and wisdom on ESPN2's smart-aleck co-broadcast of "Monday Night Football," one of the most creative ideas to hit sports broadcasting in years.

The fire-at-will Manning boys are so popular doing Monday commentary that in this week's game between the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots, their first guest was no less than Barack Obama, highlighting his current tour of drumming up every Democratic vote possible in the upcoming election. Before he left his tour of Manning duty, he also made sure he reminded us that of all past presidents, he's the only with with photographic proof that he had one killer jump shot. (You remember that at the end of an impromptu press conference in a school gymnasium, Obama ended it by sinking a 25-footer from the right corner.)

ESPN, in general, is in a current wave of escalating high-octane sports commentary, especially on "First Take," Stephen A. Smith's daily show in the morning. That's where you'll see former Dallas Cowboy "playmaker" Michael Irvin carrying on manically every Monday after Sunday's games, even if it winds up with the startling sight of a gifted ex-athlete speaking in tongues in praise of his beloved former team.

What's most interesting at the moment about ESPN's firecracker sports commentary is that, thus far, it is weirdly free of corporate condemnation of a kind familiar elsewhere despite the wild freedoms being taken all over the place.

Irvin, for instance, has successfully fended off a couple accusations of misconduct elsewhere, and on one of ESPN's most populous commentary shows in the afternoon, you can occasionally find a 75-year old New England sports reporter who was once suspended from his paper for rough verbal treatment of a female colleague.

ESPN is part of that mega-corporation Disney, a corporate empire which has long since sanctified the middle of the road.

Somewhat incredibly, though, they've widened the road cleverly.

That's because one of the most interesting things about ESPN has been that they have long since made women at home inside its gales of sports palaver. You'll find all sorts of female sports commentators on ESPN, as well as female emcees who are often charged with cutting off male colleagues when they are in mid-flight through the far reaches of outer space. In other words, they are regularly employed to act responsibly to contain even the most runaway male egos. It's a network that may be shot through with secret matriarchies.

Among my favorite ex-jocks in a lifetime of partisanship on their behalf, I've certainly got my favorites (besides baseball's Dizzy Dean, Joe Garagiola and Bob Uecker). "Dandy" Don Meredith, for one, who perfectly navigated the narrows that divided Frank Gifford's mechanical play-by-play and Howard Cosell's cigar-waving, ash-flicking with perfect, ex-jock aplomb and hauteur. With every moment, "Dandy" Don was taking us on a Monday night remembrance of the fact that once upon a time he was a veritable prince of America's chalked-up fields.

Terry Bradshaw's Lil' Abner country bumpkin act was good for its time but, as Peyton Manning has proved, all manner of improvements and feints in the direction of respectability have been taken since those days.

By the time Josh Allen is actually ready to give up performing miracles on grass and chalk, we may actually be ready – for the first time ever – for a genuine, 24karat All American Boy.

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Semi-Retired Columnist and Critic

Jeff Simon began working at The News as a copyboy 57 years ago. Since that time, he has been closely involved in all aspects of The News' cultural coverage – as critic, columnist and Arts and Books editor for 25 years.

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