Originally written on Rumors and Rants  |  Last updated 4/25/12

Move over, Tebowmania. Pound sand, Linsanity. The thing that’s really taking America by storm is Johnson Madness. At least according to Forbes Magazine.

On Tuesday Forbes released its list of the Top 10 Most Influential American Athletes, which was topped by NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson. No, seriously. This is fairly impressive considering that this is the first time I can ever recall even talking about Jimmie Johnson, who I assume most people would confuse with the former Cowboys coach/Extenze pitchman of the same name.

Forbes compiled the list from a Nielsen survey of 1,100 adults, the majority of which apparently live below the Mason-Dixon Line.

The rest of the Top 10:

2. Tim Tebow (A person who the majority of Americans can actually name)

3. Peyton Manning (His influence was pretty apparent on the Colts alone last season)

4. Manny Pacquaio (Uhh… Didn’t you guys say “American” athlete? Otherwise I can’t argue with the inclusion of an actual Congressman on the list)

5. Tom Brady (See Item No. 2)

6. Aaron Rodgers (A discount double check apparently moves you up the list quickly)

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (I wish I could suck at my job as much as he does and maintain that kind of popularity. At least I have the first part down. But seriously, weren’t they driving Model T’s the last time he won a race?)

8. Drew Brees (If he’s so influential, why doesn’t he have a contract? Oh yeah, because the Saints are idiots)

9. Eli Manning (No. 9 in America… No. 2 in his own family)

10. Jeremy Lin (Even people who hate the Knicks love Lin, but only time will tell if he’s the next Mark “The Bird” Fidrych)

Six of the 10 are quarterbacks. As noted by Nielsen sports survey whiz Stephen Master in the Forbes article, “The NFL is just killing it, the league is now part of the American landscape.”

Wow. That quote would have been really insightful in ***********.

An even better way to become one of Forbes’ most influential athletes?

Don’t be black. Or a baseball player. (Given the demographic of Forbes’ readership, I also find it a bit surprising that a golfer like Phil Mickleson is not on the list).

Despite the fact that the majority of NBA and NFL players are black, and that baseball has traditionally produced many of the most recognizable athletes in this country, apparently you won’t show up on Forbes/Nielsen’s radar if either description applies to you.

Frankly, I find both to be a bit shocking, which brings me back to my half-joking thesis that the majority of those surveyed live below the Mason-Dixon Line. While I hate the Yankees as much as anyone, it blows my mind that Derek Jeter is not on this list. The guy plays in New York, he appears in a ton of commercials, and to quote the movie The Other Guys, “He’s a biracial angel!”

Apparently he just isn’t an influential one.

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