A phenomenon in television viewing has emerged this season with the Manning-cast on Monday Night Football.
What in heaven’s name is the Manning-cast you would say if you aren’t aware?
The Manning-cast as it’s come to be known, is the pairing of the great two quarterback brothers, Peyton and Eli Manning.
They appear separate from the usual broadcast on ESPN’s presentation of the NFL’s Monday night game.
So, you can either watch the traditional telecast of the game with the commentators, Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick, view the two Mannings, appearing in separate boxes on screen with the action on the field, or switch around and see both.
I’m going to say they’re revolutionizing sports viewing, because the audience has increased solidly every week they’ve been on.
Peyton and Eli appeared the first three weeks of the season, have been off the last three, and will resume this coming Monday night.
The Manning Cast
They were originally scheduled to work ten of the games, but it’s already been revealed that the network will do a Monday night wild-card game and the Mannings are set for that one as well.
Now, we all know the world of television is a copy-cat business.
If there’s something that works, it’s repeated by other networks ad nauseum.
Or in other words, till viewers tire of it, and an idea, once attention-gabbing, falls off the cliff.
The Manning boys are perfect for this kind of thing.
They have the credentials, four Super Bowl titles combined, exhibit obvious intelligence, have different personalities, and a sense of humor that keeps it light and likable.
So, here’s how it works.
Peyton and Eli are never together. They are like we are, sitting on their couches, either at their homes or a studio close by, (I’m not sure which), and talk to each other about the game, a play that just occurred, something about football in general, or something that may not have anything to do with the game or football.
For instance, we’ve seen Peyton struggling to get his massive head fit into a football helmet, Eli doing a little dance in his socks, Eli sharply reacting to Twitter,
Eli referencing Eagles fans flipping a double-bird, then apologizing. Sort of.
Peyton, getting into the head of a quarterback leading a charge downfield, sharply criticizing a coach’s time management, Eli pointing out to his brother that his armpits show perspiration, and on and on it goes.
Then, there are the guests who pop-up during the game.
Charles Barkley, the one-of-a-kind basketball entertainer, who brightens the scene anytime he appears.
Charles and Peyton
Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who’s trying to recruit the next great Manning quarterback, Arch, named after the first outstanding Manning quarterback, Archie who starred a generation ago with the New Orleans Saints.
Young Arch, by the way, is the son of Cooper Manning, the third brother in the clan, who had his career cut short by injury, but is clearly the funniest of them all.
Sometimes, the guests are brilliant in analyzing the game going on, as Seahawks QB Russell Wilson proved breaking down the Raiders-Ravens duel along with Chiefs TE Travis Kelce giving his take on Darren Waller and Mark Andrews, the two top-level tight ends playing in that game.
Russell Wilson and the Mannings
Television sports producers are always attempting to advance the coverage, to make the games more entertaining. Part of this is bringing the viewers “inside” the play on the field. In baseball, we’ve seen it with the strike zone box as a batter awaits a pitch.
In football, we’ve seen it with lines, superimposed on the field to indicate where the first-down would be, the point where a field goal kicker needs the ball to get for a three-pointer in his range. And countless other things.
But the fight goes on, as well, in the approach of the commentators.
Fox has a second-year analyst, Aquib Talib, the former cornerback who often says whatever comes into his head. Commentary that is unorthodox, based on instinct, but founded on his great experience as one of the best at this position.
Talib has received largely positive reaction to his style.
It appears he will be seen more.
The key to innovation in sports TV coverage is finding the right man to carry it out, or in the case of Monday night football, the right combination.
Charles Barkley has proven to be a natural, who can sustain for decades.
Peyton and Eli Manning are special, because they are not identical in their performance. Peyton is a wizard who has an edge. Eli has a lighter touch, but at the same time, shows his smarts in many ways.
I believe Eli really makes this team go.
The question, then becomes, why are we watching?
If you’re a dyed-in-the wool fan of any team, you’re likely satisfied, even determined, to sit for three hours, and live and die with every play in the game.
Why wouldn’t you?
You’ve waited a week to see your team play, and are not about to miss a thing.
But if you’re a casual fan, maybe three hours of runs, and passes, and sacks, and punts, and field goal attempts, and penalties, and times out, can become tedious.
Maybe you want something different.
Maybe you want an entertainment element beyond the game of football.
Maybe the Manning-cast is perfect for you.
I don’t believe we’ll ever see the day when a sporting event can’t be seen in its entirety.
But I do think the advent of alternate viewing, done in a big-way, by big-time stars to attract a big audience is upon us.
That’s why the Manning-cast on Monday Night Football may represent the true revolution in televised sports coverage.