Here in America, 2020, a renowned baseball franchise won the World Series after its star third baseman was pulled in the eighth inning because of a positive COVID-19 test. What, we’re just supposed to ignore a heinous breach of medical trust and let everyone party? Yes, this was a triumph of perseverance, not only for the bluebloods who blew decades of chances and billions but for a generational athlete, Clayton Kershaw, who finally buried his postseason bugaboos.
But six days before the most consequential election in this country’s history, the Dodgers are symbolizing more than sports glory. They are the definition of why the coronavirus continue to rage. As they celebrated in an empty ballpark in Texas and fans frolicked in Los Angeles with only a few rubber bullets fired by police, anyone with a functioning brain was mortified by it all.
Already plagued by a long history of scandal, from the Black Sox to the Steroids Era to the trashcan-banging Astros, Major League Baseball might have one-upped itself in shame Tuesday night. Justin Turner, the shaggy-haired slugger and team leader, took his regular coronavirus test Monday. It’s unconscionable that the president of MLB’s Utah-based lab, Dr. Daniel Eichner, needed a day and a half before contacting deputy commissioner Dan Halem with news that Turner’s test was inconclusive. It happened in the second inning of Game 6, if we can believe the details of commissioner Rob Manfred, which should have put the league on immediate high alert. What about Turner’s Dodgers teammates and their family members, all staying in the designated “Bubble” hotel? What about the traveling party of the Tampa Bay Rays, staying inside the same Four Seasons in the Dallas suburb of Irving? What about baseball officials and broadcasters? Were they at risk because Manfred, on the final night of a four-month odyssey, was trying to sneak his way through an infection?
In the height of irresponsibility, MLB stayed mum throughout the game, as if wanting the crisis to go away. The league had a billion reasons to do so — the dollars arriving once the postseason was complete and champions were crowned — and, as has been common procedure in American sports throughout the pandemic, the financial grab took priority over the safety of the workers in uniform. Halem asked the lab chief to inspect Turner’s pre-game Tuesday sample, hoping the previous test was a false positive. In the sixth inning, MLB was informed that Turner indeed was infected. If Manfred truly cared about protocols, Turner would have been placed in quarantine, the game would have been stopped, and every person in the Bubble would have been put on notice. Instead, Turner was allowed to play two more innings while the Dodgers were being informed. The ballgame came first — and was it coincidence that this dangerous dance continued until the Dodgers had taken command, after Rays manager Kevin Cash absurdly had removed the dominant starting pitcher, Blake Snell?
This was administrative malpractice of the most corrupt kind. At first, there was no explanation for Turner’s removal, which smacked of a cover-up attempt. Not until Fox Sports’ Kevin Burkhardt reported the positive test did reality settle in: MLB had waited until it saw daylight at the end of its COVID tunnel — riches and finality — before acknowledging that the virus hadn’t been conquered after all. Manfred has spent October in hearty self-congratulation for overcoming the early outbreaks of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals and “harnessing” the virus. As America and Planet Earth are wickedly aware, COVID is kicking all of our asses and will keep doing so as long as selfish people run institutions as important as sports.
“It’s a bittersweet night for us,” a wobbly Manfred told Fox, adding, “We learned during the game that Justin tested positive and he was immediately isolated to prevent spread.”
I’m not buying any of this. When $1 billion is on the table, after MLB lost $3 billion in cash during its truncated regular season, powerful men tend to wobble. This smells like a scam, negative news delayed intentionally so the World Series wasn’t interrupted. And the scene grew worse not long after the 3-1 clincher, when Turner appeared on the field for the traditional team photo. Flanked by his wife, he hugged Kershaw and posed beside manager Dave Roberts, who wasn’t wearing a mask. His teammates wanted him out there, COVID be damned, before preparing for an emergency round of PCR tests. This is not how championships are supposed to be celebrated.
“Thanks to everyone reaching out!” Turner tweeted after the game. “I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA #WorldSeriesChamps.”
Dodgers baseball boss Andrew Friedman, who had endured years of criticism to reach this night, was troubled by the developments. “It was extremely surreal,” he said. “Obviously, it’s incredibly unfortunate, and it speaks to what all of us are dealing with in 2020. Post-game, he wanted to come out and take a picture with the trophy. For him, being a free agent and not sure how the future will play out, I don’t think anyone was going to stop him. This is something we’re going to wrap our arms around. It was an unfortunate end point of this incredible series and definitely affected some of the joy of winning becuase of what J.T. has meant to us.”
Asked why he was seen in an animated discussion with Turner and why he allowed Turner to pose for the photo, Friedman suggested the matter was out of his hands. “If there’s people around him without a mask, that’s not good optics at all,” he said of Roberts. “I think the subsequent tests we’re going to take are really important so that any of us who test positive don’t spread it to other people. It wasn’t up to Justin. He wanted to come out and take a picture with the trophy, and he did.”
His teammates had no problem with it. “He’s part of the team,” Game 6 hero Mookie Betts said.
“Forget all that, he’s part of the team. We’re not going to exclude him from anything.”
“It’s gut-wrenching. It hurts me. I can’t imagine how he feels,” said Corey Seager, the Series MVP. “If I could switch places with him right now, I would, because that man more than anybody deserves to take a picture with that trophy.”
The takeaway here is bigger than the World Series, bigger than sports. What Turner’s positive test does is remind Trumpers that the coronavirus is not a hoax, that it can overshadow the Dodgers’ first championship in 32 years. Just the same, Trumpers can fire back and say, “Turner had no symptoms. He was fine. It was all fake news, a conspiracy,” — on the same day the White House said Trump has “ended the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Only in a pandemic, one might joke, would Kershaw handcuff October, Roberts hush his critics and the Dodgers win the Series. But this is no time for Open Mic Night, not that The Comedy Store, The Improv and other local laugh shops are open anyway. A wonderful story was clouded by COVID, and it’s important we not forget that wonderful story. You don’t have to like the Dodgers to appreciate how they mastered baseball’s most surreal year. Armed with every logistical reason to crash again, they invited loved ones to Texas, bonded like family for an entire month and handled the weirdness better than the rest.
That they did so in a bastardized season didn’t make the agony purge any less rewarding. They would have loved to celebrate at Dodger Stadium, where the home team hasn’t clinched a Series since 1963 and where 1,000 vehicles packed the parking lot each night for viewing parties on 60-foot screens, with honks replacing cheers. But Arlington will do. Like the Lakers and Tampa Bay Lightning, like Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa, like Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka, like the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and soccer’s Portland Timbers and anyone else who won a championship in the evil 2020, the Dodgers like winning this way. The memories of Game 5, the real clincher, told us that much.
There was Kershaw, now the old soul after a near-decade of using “We Are Young” as his warmup music, at peace after handing the ball to Roberts with a lead for a change. In the pivotal moment of this entertaining Series, the Dodgers needed him to be Hall of Fame Clayton or just Decent Clayton one night after the Rays, had reminded the world of their unique tenacity — and audacity — with what is known as The Brett Phillips Experience. Would Kershaw implode again in October? Would he be Hangdog Clayton? No, he would not, for this time, he realized Roberts was making the right call in removing him after 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball. His teammates lobbied furiously for him to stay in the game, including Turner, who mouthed an expletive. But Kershaw, without his best stuff, refused to plead his case as he might normally. And it all worked out, for both embattled men, as the storybook insisted it should. Who will forget the sight of Kershaw, 4-1 this month with a 2.93 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings, sitting with a satisfied smile at a Zoom conference with daughter Cali and son Charley after Game 5?
“Anytime you have success in the postseason, it just means so much. That’s what you work for. That’s what you play for this month,” he said. “I know what the other end of it feels like, too, so I’ll take it.”
He looked at Cali, 5. “Every dad just wants their kids to be proud of them,” Kershaw said. “Cali told me that, so I’ll take that.”
Then there was Roberts. He laughed when reminded that Dodgers fans, who numbered around 8,000 in a socially distanced ballpark, still managed to unload a ferocious assault of boos as he threatened to fail them again in removing Kershaw. “I understand that fans and players can get caught up in emotion, and I’m emotional,” he said. “But I still have to have clarity in making decisions because, ultimately, my job is to help the Dodgers win the World Series. So yeah, I can’t get caught up in fans’ reactions with a decision I make.”
Does he have anything to say to his critics? Too classy for that. “When you take on this job … of a particular organization that hasn’t won a championship for quite some time, that’s part of what you signed up for,” Roberts said. “So, I just take it more as passion and care from the fans.”
They had flipped the script, as they say in Hollywood, at last bringing joy to their legacies and fun to grocery-store visits to Ralph’s. Two nights later, the Dodgers were in heaven. “This is our year!” shouted Roberts, greeted by cheers now. It was a refreshing and necessary scene for the battered American psyche. We still were able to witness a World Series celebration, even if it involved a franchise with endless resources and an ability to trade for Betts, then hand him $365 million for the next dozen years.
I live 17 miles west of Dodger Stadium, so I guess this is my local team, at least according to my MLB app. You should know some things about Los Angeles during a pandemic. These days, there is little to resent about L.A. The coronavirus has dimmed the neon and dulled the thrill of living here, with masks dutifully worn after 300,000 cases and 7,000 deaths in the county. The sun comes out only if the wildfire haze lets it. As I write this, the air quality index is an unhealthy 171. Freeway traffic is light because there’s nowhere to go. “Here come those Santa Ana winds again,” goes the Steely Dan refrain, as dust coats your eyes on the tennis court.
Another political disturbance could bust out at any time, even on Rodeo Drive, which will close on Election Day. In Inglewood, the new $6-billion football stadium sits undisturbed like an alien spaceship, deemed unsafe by Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Guns N’ Roses and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who lets two NFL teams play there on TV in what must be the loneliest experience in sports. Celebrities? I saw Ben Affleck and his girlfriend strolling on a Santa Monica avenue, but most are in seclusion, venturing out only after paparazzi are alerted for relevance preservation purposes. I also spotted Arnold Schwarzenegger on his bike. Wow.
All that said, I’m still hearing anti-L.A. groans nationally after the Game 6 clincher, especially given the Turner episode. Coupled with the NBA title of the Lakers 16 nights earlier, this has become the sports epicenter of the pandemic. The concern is that L.A. has so many built-in advantages — weather to enjoy, movies and docs to produce, mansions to purchase, Kardashians and Jenners to date, new championships to win — that every prominent American athlete will try to funnel his way here and flourish amid the overflowing resources of southern California’s franchises.
LeBron James did, using his influence to lure prized sidekick Anthony Davis. Betts couldn’t wait to sign the extension after his trade to the Dodgers, who added him to an embarrassment of homegrown riches including Walker Buehler, Cody Bellinger and Seager. Mike Trout might own Eagles season tickets and love his native Jersey, but he never paused in his Newport Beach digs before re-signing with the Angels for $430 million. And if Kawhi Leonard and Paul George tip-toe around here these days, having failed to take over the town as promised, they’re still with the Clippers and eyeing a title they frittering one away in the NBA Bubble. When a superstar wants a scenery change, SoCal always is on the short list and often is the choice. If Hollywood once was about movie stars, now it’s also about music icons, influencers and athletes.
But here’s something the groaners don’t know about L.A. that might soothe their trophy envy. Unlike the people of New England — a region that won a nauseating six Super Bowls, four World Series, one NBA title and one Stanley Cup between 2002 and 2019 — Angelenos don’t walk around with puffed chests, open alcohol containers and bro-dude bravado, fueled by an obnoxious delusion that sports titles make them superior to the rest of us. Oh, some idiots will riot in the streets, but this is not a place where sports feeds native self-esteem and identity. They do like hanging banners and adoring their icons, favoring those who play entire career spans here, such as Kobe Bryant, over a rented mercenary such as James. Yet if the Lakers had lost to the Heat or the Dodgers had blown another to the Rays, people wouldn’t sulk and mope for the entire winter, as they do in Chicago or Philadelphia.
They’d just head to the beach.
That’s why athletes love L.A. The fan and media pressures, which can be suffocating in psycho cities in the East and Midwest, are downsized. Local sports radio has some of the worst ratings in the industry. There isn’t a ravenous appetite for written sports content as there is in, say, Chicago, where I needed a watchdog friend and a bartender’s security skills just to stop for a post-game beer. (An aside: When a Bears fan said he didn’t like my columns, and I expressed shock that he knew how to read, he tried to slug me … until the bartender leaped over the counter and removed him). The media stars here are either friends of the athlete (Jim Hill), comedians (Fred Roggin and Petros Papadakis) or a columnist such as Bill Plaschke, the closest thing to a hardass after the forced retirement of churlish L.A. Times colleague T.J. Simers. That’s why I was so surprised to see Jerry Hairston Jr., the Spectrum SportsNet LA analyst and indirect Dodgers employee, stand in a somber studio after the Game 4 crusher and knock Roberts for more mismanagement and closer Kenley Jansen for serving a meaty fastball for Phillips to bloop into history. There aren’t many Jim Romes left around here.
It’s as chill as advertised. And those old stories about athletes gathering at the Playboy Mansion or getting down with the ladies at the Forum Club? Well, the party scene obviously is subdued now. You might see (fill in the young NBA star) with Kendall Jenner at Nobu in Malibu, but LeBron is a middle-aged homebody with three houses to choose from, Kershaw is a devout Christian and family man who spends offseasons in Dallas, Trout is a new daddy, Betts is helping the homeless, Bellinger is Instagramming with his model girlfriend, Kawhi’s main crib is in San Diego, and hockey players literally have a commune by the beach. The Rams and Chargers? They still don’t matter much in a region where loads of transplants stay true to hometown NFL teams in replica sports bars, such as New England haunt Sonny McLean’s, which is partially open with outdoor TVs if anyone wants to cry about Tommy and watch friggin’ Cam throw another pick.
The Dodgers and Lakers are what the natives care about. I was outside at a pizza joint when Cash removed Snell after 5 1/3 scoreless innings, an impulse regretted by the manager as Snell seethed. “I am definitely disappointed and upset,” he said. “I just want the ball. I felt good. I did everything I could to prove my case to stay out there, and then for us to lose, it sucks. I want to win, and I want to win the World Series, and for us to lose, it just sucks.”
For the Dodgers, it was a gifted opening. For Major League Baseball, it was an undeserved reprieve. Imagine, as Game 7 awaited, if everyone in the Four Seasons had to be quarantined for days. Imagine if the Series was postponed until November, if played at all. Imagine if Manfred didn’t get his billion dollars.
Usually, the end of a baseball season smells like champagne. This one smells like a skunk.
Covid Is A Convenient Excuse For Lowering Our Standards
“I am sick of hearing lag and noticeably different levels of soundproofing between two hosts on the same show.”
I was probably four hours deep into my all-day football binge on Saturday when I started to think about the overall quality of what I was seeing. This isn’t a column about whether college football is secretly better than the NFL. This is about our industry.
While you may not notice a difference in the presentation on CBS’s top line SEC broadcast or on FOX’s Big Noon Saturday game, it is clear how few resources are being allocated to some of the games further down the networks’ priority list. ESPN doesn’t even send live broadcasters to its Thursday night college football game for instance.
Covid-19 was the beginning of this. It forced every business in the broadcast industry to re-evaluate budgets and figure out how to do games when travel and the traditional set up of broadcast booths simply were not on the table.
This isn’t a problem limited to game coverage either. Plenty of hosts still are not back in their radio studio. Plenty of guests on ESPN’s and FS1’s mid day debate shows are still appearing via Skype and Zoom connections. It is as if we have started counting on our audience not expecting quality any more.
I want to be perfectly clear. I get that this pandemic isn’t over. I get that in many cases, networks and stations are trying to avoid overcrowding studios and in some cases, make accommodations for top-level talent that refuse to get vaccinated. “It’s survival mode,” is the answer from corporate.
Do we still need to be in survival mode though? We are 18 months into this pandemic. The majority of Americans are vaccinated. The ones who aren’t are actively making a choice not to do what they need to in order to put on the best possible show they can.
I am sick of hearing lag and noticeably different levels of soundproofing between two hosts on the same show. I am sick of seeing hosts on crystal clear HD cameras in a high tech studio talk to someone on a dirty webcam that can’t be bothered to even put in headphones so they don’t sound like they are shouting down a hallway.
A good example is the late Highly Questionable. I really liked that show when it was done in studio. I liked a lot of the ESPN talent that popped up on the show even after Dan Le Batard left. I couldn’t watch any more of the show than the two minute clips that would show up on Twitter. I didn’t want to see Bomani Jones behind a giant podcast mic. The low res camera that turned Mina Kimes’s house plant into a green blob gave me a headache. The complete disregard for quality made a decent show hard to watch.
There was a time when the accommodations we made for Covid-19 were totally necessary. Bosses and broadcasters did whatever they had to to get a show or a game on the air. At this point, I am starting to wonder how much of the concessions are necessary and how much are the result of executives that “good enough” is the new standard.
It is totally reasonable to argue that in an age where microphones and editing software are cheap, slick production doesn’t carry the weight it once did. That is true for the podcasters and TikTokers that are creating content in spare bedrooms and home offices. If you’re ESPN or FOX or SirusXM, that slick production is what sells the idea that your content is better than what people can make at home on their own.
It’s soundproof studios, 4K cameras and futuristic graphics packages that make the standard setters in the industry special. Maybe your average Joe Six-Pack can’t put it into words. He just knows that a lot of home-produced content sounds and looks like play time compared to what he sees or hears on a network.
Sure, the anchors are the signature of SportsCenter’s heyday, but it was the stage managers, producers, and other behind-the-scenes staff doing their jobs that really made the show thrive. Those people cost money. The details they took care of may be something 90% of viewers will never notice. They will just know that they are watching a really good show. Those difference makers cannot do their jobs to the best of their abilities if everyone is being piped in from a different FaceTime feed.
In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic we did whatever we had to. As broadcasters, we made compromises. As an audience, we accepted compromises. We were desperate for familiar entertainment and if Zoom is what it took to get it, that was just fine. There was no cure, no vaccine, things were scary and we were all anxious not knowing how long it would all last.
More than 18 months later, things may not be back to normal, but we are considerably less desperate. There are signs of normalcy in the world. Make the commitment to bring back the standard that won you so many fans in the first place.
If Netflix Wants Live Sports, F1 May Be Just The Beginning
“Netflix will shrewdly need to continue to rethink its strategy because its first-mover advantage and long-time industry leading dominance is no longer guaranteed.”
In the past, Hollywood dealmakers and stockbrokers wondered whether another studio or streamer would catch Netflix. Its dominance stemmed from being a first-mover and not having a serious competitor until Amazon and Disney ten or more years after their launch. However, Netflix would eventually have to compete for content, original and licensed, other platforms that offered less expansive ad-based options, and additional content like live sports or a very popular series or movie premiere.
Arguably, the pandemic accelerated the move to digital and it allowed competitors to gain subscribers because people were spending more time at home. More subscribers and additional streaming options for consumers has not caused Netflix to faulter, but it has caused Netflix to rethink its sports strategy. For years, Netflix was dead set again streaming live sports because of their cost and commercials—Netflix does not have advertisements on its platform currently.
Netflix’s popular Drive to Survive docuseries about the Formula 1 (or “F1”) racing circuit, which was renewed for a fourth season, and the Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls The Last Dance represents a golden era and renaissance of sports documentaries. As much as fans of feature films and television series enjoy learning about actors during and off camera they similarly want to know about sports stars, their coaches, and franchises. In other words, the business of sports is booming in valuation and behind-the-scenes content.
Recently, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings stated that the popularity of Drive to Survive has caused the company to rethink its stance on purchasing live sports content. The broadcast and streaming rights to Formula 1 will become available via ESPN and Sky Sports in 2022 and 2024. Netflix, will have some competition to secure F1 rights, which will drive up the cost. It was also reported by Front Office Sports that the Netflix CEO would require a level of exclusivity for sports rights that other platforms do not normally require. The exclusivity is likely required because Netflix will want to justify the purchase price and to keep-in-line with what Netflix customers expect—exclusive content on the platform.
With Premier League club Manchester United looking to secure a broadcast deal for selling its rights outside of the traditional league format, it might be the perfect acquisition for Netflix. An exclusive team vs. an entire league would also be less expensive and more targeted. One aspect of uncertainty for all streamers is their subscribers overseas, particularly in untapped China. The international market is far from settled or established. Netflix also has a large operation in India so possibly cricket via the Indian Premier League (“IPL”) could be a rights purchase to consider.
In 2018, the original content on Netflix only accounted for 8%. This means that 92% of the content on the platform just a few years ago was all owned (at least partially) by someone else. That statistic has changed because Disney+, Paramount+, Peacock, HBO Max, Apple+, and many others have since been created and stocked or restocked with content. Controlling interest in Hulu was even purchased from FOX by Disney. Disney and Amazon now both rival Netflix in terms of subscribers. Netflix will shrewdly need to continue to rethink its strategy because its first-mover advantage and long-time industry leading dominance is no longer guaranteed.
As Comcast-owned NBCUniversal CEO Brian Roberts recently said, purchasing sports rights can be difficult. Sports rights are expensive. Exclusive sports rights are even more expensive. Sports rights only become available every five to ten years. Networks and streamers are highly competitive to secure those rights with the hope of landing viewers, subscribers, and advertising dollars.
Will Netflix get into sports rights bidding? In the past, the digital entertainment giant has been steadfast is its non-sports approach. However, the market has changed and is flooded with more competitors now. Netflix has to change to meet its customer and the market needs.
Formula 1 presents an interesting scenario for Netflix as a buyer and partner. F1 is a popular league internationally and growing in the United States. Two new F1 races in Miami, Florida, and Austin, Texas, in addition to season four of the Drive to Survive Netflix series are sure to drive traffic, pun intended, and interest in the racing sport.
Formula 1 is a sports league that will cost less to purchase streaming rights than a traditional American “Big 4” like the NBA, NFL, or MLB. Formula 1’s structure is also centered at the top so it would be easier to make an exclusive deal that Netflix seeks. The remaining questions being, will Netflix pursue Formula 1 sports rights to increase its streaming platform subscribers and compete with others? Second, will Netflix be the first to offer commercial free live sports programming—for a premium price—or offer in-screen ads and additional during-break inside looks, content, and analysis? Or will Netflix act more like a traditional broadcaster and offer advertisements to pay down its purchase price? One will know more after a few laps around the sun.
Manningcast Is Best Experienced As A Fan, Not As A Broadcaster
“I still would’ve watched the game had the alternate not been available, but with the Manning breakdown of each play, I was watching an otherwise meaningless game on the edge of my seat.”
Much has been written on this site already about the ESPN alternative to a traditional Monday Night Football broadcast, the Manningcast. Andy Masur asked if it worked and questioned the network pulling its audience in two different directions. Mark Madden said the concept undoubtedly works, but the content is poor.
Both articles are good reads. Both provide another level of insight from those in the industry and how they view this unique/high-profile concept. Industry views provide solid insight to the success and quality of the show itself, what works – what doesn’t. But if we can’t sit back and take our industry glasses off, and just look at this broadcast as sports fans, I feel we’ll never see it in clear view.
I’ll admit, for me, it took me no more than 5 minutes of watching week 1’s Ravens vs Raiders game to say “yeah, this isn’t meant for me”. I didn’t like the non-traditional approach of the broadcast, it felt like it lacked the energy of a traditional sportscast. The stadium volume was turned way down, the excitement was more in the conversation they were having with each other, rather than the game itself. It took me out of the moment of the game, rather than allowing me to get sucked in.
Now, in fairness, I kind of went into it with a narrow mind, thinking that would be the case. I am not someone who has the desire to flip around during the College Football Playoff broadcasts and catch the coaches corner or studio chatter, I want the game.
Bottom line is, I hated the Manningcast when I watched it in Week 1. I even went on the air the next day and trolled members of my audience that were effusive in their praise of it. In the limited sample I provided for myself, I had come to the conclusion that this broadcast wasn’t made for REAL football fans (insert caveman sound effect here) and that only the most casual viewer would want to watch this SNL wanna be of a football broadcast.
However, week 2, I decided I was going to be more open minded to it. I made it a point to break away from the traditional Packers vs Lions broadcast and watch the Manningcast, no matter how painful. I was completely wrong in my initial opinion.
Was Peyton Manning wearing a helmet and acting a little too zany for my taste in week 1? Yes. Is the guest connection quality well below what we should find acceptable in broadcasting? Yes. But that’s where I made the mistake. I was looking at this broadcast through the eyes of a broadcaster and not as a sports fan.
Peyton Manning’s charisma jumps off the screen, he is elite at describing what he sees on the field in a way that no one else can. Eli can be a little dry, but he’s low key funny. And they have real chemistry together, as they should. They are family after all.
The thing that hooked me the most was just how invested Peyton was in the plays on the field, he really gets into the game, truly invested in the success and failure of the quarterbacks. There was a moment in week 2 when Jared Goff threw the ball to an empty patch of grass 15 yards down the field and was subsequently called for intentional grounding. You could see Goff yelling at the referee, pleading his case. Peyton surmised, probably accurately, that Goff was telling the ref that the ball was thrown to the right place and that its not his fault the receiver didn’t run the correct route. Peyton then carried on and told stories of when this type of thing would happen to him when he played for Indianapolis and Denver. I was hooked.
I realized that I was far more invested in week 1 as a stand alone football game, I’m from Baltimore, I have a lot of love for the Ravens. Being invested in the game itself doesn’t lend as much flexibility. As a fan, you to want to hear about anything else but the action on the field. However, when watching two teams that I have no personal interest in, the Manning broadcast took on this new life. It created a level of interest for me as a REAL football fan that I otherwise would not have had. I still would’ve watched the game had the alternate not been available, but with the Manning breakdown of each play, I was watching an otherwise meaningless game on the edge of my seat. I felt like I had a front row view to a football clinic, held by two of the most accomplished players in league history.
Personally, I could live without the guests. I am not as entertained by the back and forth with Rob Gronksowski or Pat McAfee as it seems the majority of social media is, but the Manningcast does a brilliant job of bridging the gap between the hardcore football fan and the casual observer. It’s an absolute hit and I’ll be locked in for the next one.
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