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Brady VS. Mahomes: The Impossible Time Warp

It’s preposterous to think Brady is back for a 10th Super Bowl, at 43, with the long-mocked Buccaneers in their home stadium. If he beats the Chiefs, after sinking Rodgers into career-limbo depression, Brady just might live forever.

Jay Mariotti

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If Tom Brady wants to fight COVID-19 with whatever is in his TB12 medicine bag, as he has hinted, then we might as well let him try. Because any man who can make a country temporarily forget a raging pandemic could be capable of ending it, too. As we witness the unprecedented in sports and life — the sight of a 43-year-old legend cold-cocking Father Time and reaching yet another Super Bowl — it’s safe to draw some historic conclusions.

Tom Brady, Buccaneers top Packers, reach Super Bowl

He was not the product of Bill Belichick’s system in New England. He did not need deflated footballs to throw 47 touchdown passes in a season. And if his so-called principles for sustained peak performance remain oddballish, from the goji berries to the electrolyte-infused water to the Himalayan pink salt, count me among legions of Americans heading to his website to load up.

To call him the greatest quarterback of all time seems hollow now. The new distinction: Brady is the first human being who might be correct in thinking he won’t die until he’s 130, if ever. Stretching the boundaries of age, health and sensibility in preposterous ways, he is mastering the art of leadership and winning in 2021 just as he did 10 and 20 seasons ago, when he launched the longest enduring championship run in American sports. We winced when he left the Patriots and the oppressive Belichick regime to join the often-mocked Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team with the pirate ship in the end zone. But at a stage in life when he should be making appointments to check his colon and prostate, Brady instead has a date with his 10th Super Bowl Sunday — with the first team ever to play for an NFL championship in its home stadium.

Is this happening? It is.

And even more absurd: He will duel Patrick Mahomes, his antithesis in every way — age, playing style, diet, hair, commercials — in a time warp described aptly by Tony Romo in the CBS broadcast booth. “It’s like LeBron and Jordan, playing in the Finals,” he said.

Except we expected Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to be here. Brady? The Buccaneers? By the pirate ship in a pandemic? With the Bucs practicing at home all week while the Chiefs fly in the day before kickoff? Somehow, it’s true, as 68-year-old coaching lifer Bruce Arians verified when asked what Brady has meant to what officially is known as Tompa Bay.

“This trophy! This trophy! The belief he gave everyone in this organization, that this could be done,” Arians said. “It only took one man. We’re coming home. And we’re coming home to win.”

As further confirmation this wasn’t a dream, there was Brady, pointing at the stands and grinning after the 31-26 victory over the Packers, asking a question of an usher at cold, barren Lambeau Field. “Can I say hi to my son?” he said. And coming down the stairs, with a hug, was his oldest son, 15-year-old Jack, who still was years from birth when Brady’s relationship with immortality began. When he said a few years ago that he wanted to play until age 45, it seemed ludicrous. Turned out we were the fools, not realizing how Belichick’s system had suppressed him and that he only needed weapons and a spirited defense to resume his own dynasty … while the one he left behind immediately slipped into non-playoff irrelevance.

The critics, the haters, Belichick — Brady has vanquished all of them, as usual, with three consecutive postseason road victories. This is a middle-aged man who could have been buried by the pandemic, by the hurried transition, by the uncertainty of it all. Instead, unlike other greats who switch uniforms in their twilight, he flourished under new circumstances.

“Well, this is the ultimate team sport,” Brady said of a decision that only burnishes his legacy. “I made a decision, and I love coming to work every day with this group of guys. We’ve had a lot of people work really hard over a long period of time to get to this point. To go on the road and win another road playoff game is just a great achievement.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get win in NFL home opener

“And now a home Super Bowl for the first time in NFL history, I think, puts a lot of cool things in perspective. Anytime you’re the first one doing something, that’s usually a pretty good thing. Now we’ve got to go have a great two weeks and be ready to go.”

He is not an old man. Rather, he is a vintage bottle of red who refuses to let go of the old school, a pocket passer continuing to prosper with savvy, brains, gumption and sweet deep throws when necessary. In that context, Super Bowl LV becomes an epic showdown of clashing styles — Brady the statue, clinging to his traditional paradigm, against Mahomes, the Next Gen magician with the $500 million contract. The new era of mobile playmakers already is in place, led by Mahomes, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson. And so much of the league’s quarterbacking landscape is disoriented — Watson and Matthew Stafford wanting to be traded, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers retiring, Carson Wentz in limbo, Ben Roethlisberger looking old, Trevor Lawrence and others arriving in the upcoming draft. How stirring to see Brady, in his 21st season, as the Jurassic World constant.

“I’m definitely older,” he said. “But I’m hanging in there.”

And now he has a chance to be the king of all kings, sealing his second act with a seventh championship. Does he have even one gray hair? All you need to know is that Brady vanquished the other quarterback who has defined the sport in recent times, Aaron Rodgers, who was done in Sunday by a coach who didn’t believe in him. Remember when the Packers drafted Jordan Love in the first round last spring? Remember when Rodgers used the snub as motivation for a sensational season and presumptive third league MVP award? That was forgotten when Matt LaFleur — facing 4th-and goal at the Tampa Bay 8, trailing 31-23 with 2:09 left in the fourth quarter — decided Rodgers wasn’t his best play. Meaning, LaFleur became Matt LeBlanc, as in shooting a blank. Armed with three timeouts, he chose to kick a field goal and rely on a defense that had made mistakes all afternoon, many by cornerback Kevin King, who wound up yanking the jersey of Bucs receiver Tyler Johnson for a pass-interference penalty that ended any chance of winning.

“Anytime it doesn’t work out, you always regret it, right?” LaFleur said. “It was just the circumstances of having three shots and coming away with no yards and knowing that you not only need the touchdown, but you need the 2-point (conversion). The way I was looking at it was, we essentially had four timeouts with the two-minute warning. … We’re always going to be process-driven here, and the way our defense was battling, the way our defense was playing, it felt like it was the right decision to do. It just didn’t work out.”

Said Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett: “If he could take it back, I’m sure he wouldn’t do it the next time. But I appreciate it.”

Now 1-4 in NFC championship games, Rodgers looked ashen. The other day, he referred to his latest adventure, at 37, as “a beautiful mystery.” Did his best chance to win his second Super Bowl just vanish in the Wisconsin chill?

“Just pretty gutted,” he said, devastated beneath his beanie.

And LaFleur’s call? “It wasn’t my decision,” said Rodgers, straining for diplomacy. “I understand the thinking with the two minutes and all of our timeouts. But it wasn’t my decision.”

To hear Rodgers, the “beautiful mystery” might even take an ugly turn out of Green Bay. He is signed through 2023, but he wonders if the Packers will add him to the growing list of quarterbacks on the trading block. If it seems unthinkable, maybe that’s what he wants. Imagine him with … the 49ers, in his native northern California? “(The Packers have) a lot of guys’ futures that are uncertain — myself included,” said Rodgers, who threw 48 scoring passes and only five interceptions in the regular season. “That’s what’s sad about it most — getting this far. Obviously, it’s going to be an end at some point, whether we make it past this one or not, but just the uncertainty is tough and the finality of it all.” Now hear this: Allowing Rodgers to leave, while still in his career prime, would be dumber than kicking the field goal.

With his regrettable call, LaFleur also was betting against Brady. While he and his receivers lost their touch in the second half, with three interceptions on successive plays, you never send Rodgers to the bench and put Brady back on the field. Belichick probably enjoyed it as he watched on TV, thinking Brady might fail yet. If you don’t think there’s a grudge here, consider last week’s tweets by Belichick’s girlfriend, Linda Holliday, who shouldn’t have responded to a troll — “Too bad Bill let Tom go” — but did anyway after the Bucs’ tense divisional-round victory over New Orleans.

“And you have all the answers evidently? Holliday replied. “Tom didn’t score last night … not once! Defense won that game. Were you even watching? OTOH (on the other hand) — I’m happy for Tom’s career! Why can’t you be?”

If she was so happy for him, why did she credit defense for the victory? Brady did the same Sunday, knowing Barrett and the pass-rushers pressured Rodgers into five sacks. And no doubt the Bucs will need another supreme defensive performance against Mahomes and the Chiefs, who were allowed to rest during a bye week while the Bucs have played seven straight weekends. They’ll have a smattering of local fans — including 7,500 vaccinated health-care workers — among the 22,000 allowed in their 70,000-seat home. But Brady will be the underdog as the Chiefs try to become the first NFL team to repeat as champions since, well, Brady and the Patriots in 2004 and 2005 … when Jack Brady was born.

If the birth certificate says August 1977, the gut quotient suggests he’s 25. Witness the final eight seconds of the the first half, when Arians was going to punt from the Green Bay 39 until he realized who was huddling with him a few feet away. Brady found Scotty Miller, who had beaten King, for a touchdown dagger and a 21-10 lead. “We didn’t come here not to take chances to win the game,” Arians said. “Love the play we had. Got a great matchup and a TD. That was huge.”

“Tom’s the G.O.A.T.,” Miller said. “Last year, we ended 7-9 and now we’re headed to the Super Bowl. … Just his composure — he’s been here before, he’s been in these big moments, and we know he’s going to get it done. When it’s all on the line, he’s going to make the play.”

It also spoke volumes about the Brady-Arians relationship. If the grizzled, ruddy-faced character was critical of Brady’s deep-ball failures earlier this season, he now sees all-time greatness through his forehead-to-chin virus shield. “New England didn’t allow him to coach,” said Arians, taking a dig at Belichick. “I allow him to coach. I sit back and watch.”

We’re all watching. Just as we’re watching Mahomes, who played in the AFC championship game and beat the Buffalo Bills, 38-24, when any credible doctor would have urged him to stay home. He was concussed only a week earlier, knocked silly and sent stumbling toward the turf after taking a hard shot to the neck area. Not until Wednesday did the team acknowledge a concussion, with coach Andy Reid insisting irresponsibly that Mahomes was doing just fine. And the league wasn’t about to order its meal ticket and reigning marketing face to the sideline, not with television ratings and the Super Bowl at stake. It was NFL hypocrisy at its worst, enabled by a planted report that Mahomes had merely “choked out,” whatever that meant.

Like Brady, Mahomes survived and did more than enough to win, dazzling again with an underhanded touchdown pitch to Travis Kelce. And he will have two weeks to rest his weary head and the nagging turf toe on his left foot. The Tampa Bay defense will give him more problems than the Bills, especially with his offensive line weakened by injuries. But if the Bucs have a chance, Brady will have to be in shootout mode against an arsenal featuring unstoppable playmakers in Kelce and Tyreek Hill. That seems improbable when, in the scope of life, Brady is only seven years younger than Mahomes’ father, Pat, the former major-league pitcher.

“The job’s not finished. We’re going to Tampa and trying to run it back,” said Mahomes, who lost to Brady in the 2019 AFC title game. “We’ve just got to be ourselves. I trust my guys over anybody. Our goal coming into the season was to win the Super Bowl, not to get to it.”

And the Brady-Mahomes time warp? “Going up against one of the greatest, if not the greatest quarterback, in his 150th Super Bowl, is going to be a great experience for me,” he said. Seems like 150 Super Bowls, doesn’t it?

Nothing much is certain in America these days, except Tom Brady in winter. We’re starting to say the same about Patrick Mahomes. He was six years old when Brady, cap flipped backward, held his first Lombardi Trophy. Now it’s Mahomes who wears the defiant cap, speaking respectfully about the matchup but knowing, deep in his 25-year-old soul, that he can’t let this fossil beat him.

Chiefs beat Bills to earn second straight trip to Super Bowl | The Japan  Times

“It’s been a great journey thus far,” Brady said.

Imagine if he wins again. On a nearby bay, he can go walk on water.

BSM Writers

How Are Broadcasters Supposed To Cover Alabama Basketball Right Now?

“It’s obviously not in the comfort zone of most sports broadcasters to be talking about violent acts off the court”

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As you’ve probably seen or read by now, Alabama men’s basketball player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder in connection with an early morning shooting last weekend near the Tuscaloosa campus. A 23-year-old woman was killed.  Miles, a junior forward from Washington DC, is no longer on the team. 

Last Saturday, Alabama had announced before its game against LSU that Miles would miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury. Following Miles’ arrest his bio has been removed from the athletic department website, and the university’s statement said he “has been removed from campus.”

It’s another incident that puts sports in proper perspective. There have been too many of these ‘incidents’ lately. Whether it be due to gun violence, sexual violence, bus or plane crashes, or the latest tragedy when we all watched a man brought back to life on a football field. Sports is meant to be entertainment, a way to escape the challenges of everyday life. Now it seems to be causing us to think more about outside noise than the actual games that we’re supposed to be watching. 

Let’s focus for the moment on the Alabama situation. The Crimson Tide are having a basketball season for the ages. As of the time I’m writing this, Alabama is #4 in the AP Top 25 with a record of 15-2. Many analysts and experts in college basketball circles think this team is actually the best team in the country. A good bet for the Final Four perhaps and maybe even a national title. Now what? 

Head basketball coach Nate Oats spoke to reporters Monday, but not about his team’s prep for another game and a chance at another win. He had to speak about something he probably never imagined he’d have to in his career. One of his now former players has been charged with murder. 

“I just want to start by offering condolences to the family and friends of Jamea Jonae Harris, the young woman, mother, daughter who was taken away too soon from a senseless act,” Oats said in a prepared statement. “This is an incredibly sad situation. Hearts go out to her loved ones. I’m keeping them in my thoughts and prayers as they continue to grieve.”

Oats called it a tragedy all around, especially for the victim’s family. He then addressed the message to his players. 

“Wish we weren’t having to address this situation, but we’ve got to pull together as a team at this point and … really be there for each other.” Oats said. “This is a really difficult situation, and we’ll continue to support each other as we process this and balance school and basketball,” Oats said. “To that end, we regrouped this morning to maintain our routine and some structure in the midst of this situation and we’ll practice before heading up to Nashville for the Vanderbilt game.”

Last week we talked about the handling of the Damar Hamlin situation, that unfolded on the field in Cincinnati during the Week 17 game between the Bills and Bengals. Hamlin needed to be resuscitated once on the field and once on the way to the hospital. ESPN’s broadcast crew handled the situation about as well as they could. Information was scarce and there was no room for rumor or speculation. 

Now, bringing it back to Alabama, what do you do, when you’re a broadcaster for the Crimson Tide? How much attention should be given to the shooting and the results? 

Once again there is no handbook to say, okay you do this, then this and then this. Nope. I’m sure ‘higher ups’ at the school and the stations will have some input as to how it will be handled. It’s a delicate situation to say the least. A life was lost. A player that, more than likely, the broadcast crew interacted with numerous times, has been accused of murder. All of it makes you really think. 

So, here’s how the crew on the SEC Network decided to handle talking about the Darius Miles arrest during the Alabama/Vanderbilt game. The announcers, Courtney Lyle on play-by-play and Carolyn Peck as the analyst, briefly mentioned the Miles situation at the start of the game. Saying they would talk about “what Alabama has been dealing with off the court.” 

There was no further mention through the first media timeout. Instead, they talked basketball, including talk of Vandy’s upset of Arkansas and Nate Oats’ notes about Alabama’s defense in recent games.  

Coming out of the first timeout, ESPN put up a graphic stating the charges against Miles and some of Coach Oats’ comments about the situation and his team. Peck then spoke about Oats and how he told his team about the charges. The story she told, continued saying how Oats brought the team together Sunday and let them decide whether or not to practice. They chose to skip Sunday and regroup according to her commentary. 

It’s obviously not in the comfort zone of most sports broadcasters to be talking about violent acts off the court. I’m not sure what was said to Lyle and Peck before the broadcast, so it’s hard to really critique. 

Having said that, I really wish Peck, who is a former college basketball coach, could have spoken about what Oats must be going through. He had to tell his team that one of their fellow players was accused of murder. Peck might have also delved into what the job of a coach is, off the floor. Looking out for his or her players as people as well as athletes. Again, it’s easy for me to say, and I’m not privy to what the broadcasters were allowed to say by producers or the school. I just felt like an opportunity to humanize the story went by the boards. Especially from a credible source, like a former coach. 

I’ve never been in the situation directly. I’ve had to deal with deaths during broadcasts. I  mentioned the Daryl Kile game in 2002 a couple of years ago in a column. When I was with the Padres, our bullpen coach Darrell Akerfelds fought an admiral bout with cancer, but succumbed to the disease in the middle of our 2012 season. I knew Akerfelds and actually had a hard time keeping it together when news of his passing was made public. This Alabama situation is totally different. 

To me, there are a few things broadcasters need to keep in mind when dealing with situations like these. Our natural inclination is not to want to talk about it. We just want to concentrate on the games and what’s happening on the court or field. I get that. Audiences are going to tune in and, especially in the case of a local broadcast, wanting to know what’s happening from their trusted voice – you. Fair or not, that’s the position you’ll likely find yourself in, if God forbid this happens to one of your teams. 

One thing that is absolutely critical in this particular situation, is wording. Remember in the United States, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. While the court of public opinion may have already made up its mind, you do not have the luxury to do so. Verbiage is very important. Miles has been ‘charged’ with capital murder. He is ‘alleged’ to have provided a gun to the shooter. You as the broadcaster have to play it straight, even if you have the opinion that he’s guilty, that’s not the case right now.  

The problem here is that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you read the statement from the school, the audience will say “that’s not enough”. If you go into detail and let it consume the broadcast, others will say, “enough, we already know this, get on with the game,” right?  

Case in point, NFL broadcasters took a lot of heat for coverage of the return to the field of DeShaun Watson. The Browns quarterback was accused by numerous women of sexual misconduct and was suspended for 11 games. The CBS telecast, according to a New York Times article, covered the accusations against Watson about 10 minutes before kickoff but the complaints made against Watson were not detailed during the game itself.

Late in the game, the CBS play-by-play announcer Spero Dedes mentioned the “mixed emotions” of Browns fans as they reckoned with the “weightiness of the allegations with Watson.” 

Analyst Jay Feely added, “We were conflicted, getting ready to prepare for this game, because you want to show empathy for the women impacted and affected by this.” Feely said.“You have to talk about football as well.” 

I get it, these were serious allegations and there were numerous complaints about Watson. Not to minimize the impact of his actions, but Dedes and Feely are expected to talk about the game on the field. Are football fans tuned in for social commentary?  There are many other outlets for more pointed opinions. Just by mentioning the gravity of what was going on, they probably said more than a lot of fans expected. 

To have an opinion on something other than sports as a sportscaster opens you up to the “stick to sports” tired reaction from fans. This is the problem. Incidents like this, straddle the line between sports and news. How much should be handled by each department is pretty critical. During some recent sportscasts I’ve delivered, I had to talk about the news of journalist Grant Wahl dying in Qatar. While everyone wanted to know how and why, I only talked about the facts, and the decorated journalists’ career. Our news department carried the rest. 

Judgement and true feelings are at play here. We are human beings and everyone reacts to tragedy and death differently. In our situation as broadcasters, we have to be sympathetic to the victim, empathetic for what the team is now going through and realistic as to how much you should or shouldn’t say about the situation. There is no cut and dry way to handle this, you do the best you can and that’s all that can be asked of you. 

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Nick Coffey Embracing New Afternoon Role on Rebranded Sports Talk 790AM

“I’m a fan, I’m fair, I’m objective and we’re going to talk about both teams, because that’s what our audience is.”

Tyler McComas

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The clock hits 4:45 AM inside the home of Nick Coffey and there’s nothing but complete silence. Nobody in the house is awake, no coffee is brewing, only a family sleeping in the darkness of the night Louisville sky.

But this is somewhat of a new occurrence for the Coffey household. That’s because it wasn’t long ago when dad was up and around before 5:00 AM to make it on time to host his morning radio show. In fact, only about two weeks. But with a recent rebrand of his station and a move to afternoon drive, he’s no longer the dad that’s out the door before his kids wake up. He’s the dad that gets to take his kids to school in the morning.

Cards Radio 790 WKRD in Louisville was recently rebranded to Sports Talk 790AM. The gist of the rebrand is that the station and The University of Louisville had — according to Coffey — a mutual agreement to part ways. 

“We were Cards Radio 790 WKRD for many years, long before I was here,” said Coffey. “We did not renew, and it was more of a mutual thing. We had the rights to U of L football and basketball games for quite some time and that kind of limited us from doing a whole lot, because their logo was on the station.”

What Coffey means by limiting the station is they didn’t previously put a lot of University of Kentucky coverage on the station. At the time, it didn’t make a lot of sense to do so, especially with the close relationship the station had with U of L. And as you can imagine, the university didn’t love UK coverage on the station. 

The move to Sports Talk 790AM has completely changed that philosophy. Now, along with coverage of Louisville athletics, coverage of Kentucky is more prevalent on the station than ever before. The move is a smart one, because even though there’s a large collection of Louisville fans in the state, there are more UK fans. 

“Once our deal with U of L ran out during the summer, our plan was to make 790 a sports specific station that’s going to have — I’m a Louisville fan myself — but there’s a ton of Kentucky fans in Louisville,” said Coffery. “My shift has really been focusing on, you know where my allegiances lie. I’m a fan, I’m fair, I’m objective and we’re going to talk about both teams, because that’s what our audience is. Getting away from the Cards Radio brand really opened us up to where we’re not just sticking to just one side.”

Adding content with a Kentucky twist was also a plan for the rebrand. That includes Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio and the huge following he brings. Granted, Sports Talk 790AM isn’t the only place you can hear KSR — there are several affiliates across the state — but it was a plan to bolster coverage of UK on the station.

“He has a monster of a show and there’s a ton of statewide affiliates,” said Coffey. “Because of our relationship with U of L before, we had to put him on a sister station of ours, at Talk Radio 1080 which is just an AM signal we put our paid programming on. This just freed us up to build what we hope to be, sort of a monster here in sports.”

Part of that plan was to move Coffey and Company to afternoon drive. Granted, Coffey loved morning radio despite the early morning grind, he was pitched on the overall benefit of the station. 

“What was pitched to me when I decided to make the move to afternoons,” said Coffey. “One, I thought it would just be better for the station. And if it’s better for the station, it’s better for me. Also, I have the chance to get on these other affiliates, where I’m not just on in Louisville.”

Maybe this wasn’t included in the pitch to move to afternoons, but Coffey had to think about what the move could do for his daily lifestyle. So far after just two weeks, he loves what the new adjustment has brought to his life. 

“So far it’s been awesome, because I’m still getting up early, but there’s a difference between getting up at 7:45 and 4:45,” laughed Coffey. “I’m just getting more sleep and throughout the day I’m more energized and ready to go.

“After a year of morning drive I remember thinking I didn’t want to do anything else, because I loved the thought of people starting the day with whatever we got for them. It’s also nice to have your shift end pretty early, when you wrap it up. I could stay after and get a head start on the next day, talk to clients, and be out of there by 12:30 PM. That was beneficial, but now I get to wake up, I’m in charge of the kids in the morning. That’s something I really enjoy. So far so good.”

Coffey is big on show prep, just like any other successful host is. The dynamic of prepping a morning show compared to an afternoon show is vastly different. That’s been a change for Coffey, but there’s another element of his changed lifestyle that he’s found that really helps his prep. 

“When I prepare for my show I try to be as informative as I can and I’m ready to give fresh thoughts,” said Coffey. “But I also like to talk about things that go on in my daily life. I’ve noticed in the two weeks we’ve been here, I’ve got 7-8 hours where I’m up and there’s a lot of things I can bring to the show. So far I really do enjoy it.”

It was a smart move for Sports Talk 790AM to rebrand and focus more on Kentucky. The reasoning for it is pretty simple. It’s the largest sports entity in the state and is considered a “blue blood program” in college basketball, which has the most rabid following in Kentucky. But Louisville also has a following with a lot of passion.

When you have a station that previously focused almost entirely on U of L, a change to cover more of the bitter rival probably didn’t go over too well for most of the fans. That has certainly been the case in some instances, but overall, the feedback has been strong. 

“I think if we get eight responses, six will be positive, two will be negative and you find yourself focusing more on the negative,” said Coffey. “I think that’s just human nature with some people. I think the reaction has been good overall. This state is just filled with Kentucky fans. Louisville fans, and I’m one of them, they don’t seem to like to hear this but it’s true, in Louisville it’s about 50/50.”

But as much as Kentucky might be more in the conversation, Louisville coverage is still very present on the station. Especially with Coffey and Company in afternoons.

“What I try to emphasize to people is you didn’t get any less U of L coverage, I’m just now in the afternoons. I think top to bottom, just not being Cards Radio has opened us up to new clients that want to advertise. People know now they’re going to get both UK and U of L.”

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BSM Writers

Programmers Offer Ideas To Refresh The ManningCast in Year 3

Matt Edgar, Matt Fishman, Parker Hills, Q Meyers, Jimmy Powers and Kraig Riley share their thoughts.

Demetri Ravanos

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Monday night brought the second season of The ManningCast to a close. ESPN’s alternate broadcast of Monday Night Football featuring Peyton and Eli Manning remains a trail blazer. Plenty of other networks and other sports have tried to copy the formula. It just never seems to work as well. There is something about these guys, their chemistry, and their view of football that just works.

Still, the ManningCast missed that feeling of freshness this year. It’s nobody’s fault. We had expectations. That is very different from 2021, when this was a wild, new concept.

The circumstances at ESPN have changed too. In 2021, the network was looking for a crew that could capture the big game feel of the Monday night slot, because it didn’t have it on the main broadcast. Now, it has Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, arguably the two voices most identified with big NFL games. That means the Mannings have to do more than just provide a star-powered alternative to the main broadcast.

Going into 2023, the ManningCast will be facing a problem that is pretty common in radio. How do you improve something that works? Reinvention isn’t necessary for the broadcast, but a recalibration would certainly raise the ceiling.

“Disney isn’t looking at Peyton Manning as part of ESPN,” I wrote in 2021. “They are looking at him as Mickey Mouse or Iron Man or Baby Yoda. He is another of Disney’s mega-brands that is talked about on investor calls and upfront presentations.”

With that kind of commitment from the network in mind, I asked six radio program directors to answer two questions.

1. Going into year 3, how has your view of the ManningCast changed since its debut?

Matt Edgar (680 The Fan in Atlanta) – I view the ManningCast as the standard of all alternate game broadcasts, nothing really comes close.  

Matt Fishman (850 ESPN in Cleveland) – The real challenge is how to be more interesting and entertaining each week. The first year was a great novelty. A real breath of fresh air, especially with some underwhelming games.

Now that ESPN MNF’s main broadcast is the powerhouse of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, you need to be bigger and more unique to get people to check it out. 

Parker Hillis (Sports Radio 610 in Houston) – Early on I was skeptical of the ManningCast. I wanted a “two guys hanging out at the bar talking football” vibe that was less formal and more fun. What I got in the beginning was not that. The broadcasts leaned heavily into Peyton’s football IQ, diving way too deep into X and O analysis in real-time and providing more of a distraction than a benefit. The production and pacing felt clunky and awkward, another distraction. And most frustratingly, I didn’t get anything out of Peyton and Eli’s personalities.

Somewhere along the way, as the concept has been refined and Peyton and Eli clearly have gotten more comfortable, they’ve gotten there. Two goofy football nerds with incredible insight and experience seamlessly meshing smart analysis with real football fandom. They’re inviting me in to watch the game with them, not telling me what I need to know about what’s going on, and that is something I can get into and really enjoy. 

Q Myers (ESPN Las Vegas & Raider Nation Radio in Las Vegas) – For me personally it hasn’t changed much. I find it entertaining but only in a small serving size. I might pop on for an interview with a guest that I really want to hear from but then tune out. I really enjoy the game being the bigger feature, and I realize for a lot of the games that aren’t that great this could help out a bit. 

Jimmy Powers (97.1 The Ticket in Detroit) – It hasn’t really.  I’ve enjoyed it from the beginning and thought it was genius when it debuted! I think it has given many sports fans an alternative option to the traditional broadcast, which allows them to get a better understanding of what is going on. In my opinion, the knowledge and entertainment value they bring to the viewer is excellent! 

Kraig Riley (93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh) – My view has changed in that, as much as I loved it when it debuted, I questioned the long-term sustainability given how driven it was by the guests they welcomed in. I always wanted more of the Peyton-Eli brotherly relationship part of it. Their breakdowns of the game were good and so were the guests, but what were they going to do to add to that? Since they’ve shown more of their personalities, it stands out more in a way that separates itself from just watching the standard broadcast of the game.  


2. As a programmer, what would you do to freshen up this brand next season?

Edgar – You don’t want to get gimmicky or clownish, but I’d love to see them talk with a mic’d up player, similar to what they do on Sunday Night Baseball. They obviously can’t speak with a player between the lines, but what about someone who is in the mix and actually playing, like a linebacker after the defense comes off the field?    

Fishman – To me, the biggest “miss” is not having Eli and Peyton in the same place. It creates a certain sloppiness and a decent amount of talking over each other. Some of that gives it the casualness that’s appealing and some of it is just messy. It’s sort of like Zoom calls. They were fine when you needed them during the pandemic, but if you can do it in person, it’s better. 

Hillis – It might not be “freshening it up”, but the biggest thing I would do to tweak the Manningcast is limit the interviews. Peyton and Eli can carry the broadcast with their personalities and knowledge alone.

Having big name guests from the NFL, the sports world, and pop culture makes for a great promotion piece to draw in a different audience, but at the end of the day, it’s distracting and pulls away from the game I’m watching and the brand of the broadcast itself. I want to connect with Peyton and Eli… that’s what the brand is built around, so give me more of them. 

Myers – I think keeping it a little more tight as far as breakdowns and analysis from the two make it good. A lot of times when it gets off the rails it does tend to be funny, but I don’t feel like I learn a lot from it. It feels to me like a lot of the comedic side of things is forced at times, when it happens organically it just seems better. For example, with Peyton walking off after Maher missed his 3rd kick. That felt like what we all were doing at the time.

Powers – Since they only do a number of games, I would put the two of them together in the same room to view the games. You could still split the screens and have the same look – but it would prevent (or at least limit) the talking over each other because of the delay.  That is especially a problem when they bring in 3rd person. 

Riley – I would push for more of the content that stands out aside from the game and can be pushed on social. I think the original audience will always need more in order to continue engaging with them over the standard broadcast of the game. That audience knows their broadcast is different, but what about the audience that hasn’t engaged yet or has possibly disengaged? 

Serve them up with some breakdowns of the game that only Peyton and Eli can provide. Give them the best clips of the interviews. But super-serve them on the entertainment and personality sides so that the audience knows they’re getting something more than just the game. They can consume that elsewhere.


The ManningCast is not in danger. It’s one of the most influential sports television products of the last 15 years. Even radio is trying to figure out a way to make it work. Edgar’s station, 680 The Fan, delivered a conversational alternate broadcast of the Peach Bowl this year.

Like anything else in pop culture though, the producers always have to think about what is next. How do you tempt fans to come back for more? It’s why we don’t see Spider-Man fight the same villain in every movie. When you know the parameters, the content has to be all killer and no filler just to move the needle.

But this is a product built around live sports. By nature, there is plenty of filler in a football game broadcast. That isn’t the Mannings’ fault, and most weeks, they find a way to make gold in those moments. Going into the 2023 football season though, the novelty of the ManningCast, and frankly of alternate broadcasts in general, will have worn off. Peyton and Eli don’t have to change everything, but re-evaluating where their show stands and where it could go wouldn’t be a bad idea.

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Barrett Media Writers

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