The ManningCast, ESPN2’s alternative broadcast of Monday Night Football featuring Peyton and Eli Manning, was not expected to be the social media phenomenon it turned into. And while the ratings were never meteoric, the trending moments and cultural impact certainly seemed to make sports networks take notice of what the future might look and sound like.
There is a decent chance that Peyton Manning will be part of a group that buys the Denver Broncos and, if that happens, the ManningCast is likely to be a one-and-done affair. However, even if that’s the case regardless, it left us with enough gold to remember it fondly. It even reached Nickelodeon parody status, perhaps the highest form of flattery.
When the first edition was interrupted by a fire alarm, we know that the ManningCast was going to offer a free-flowing and off-the-cuff viewing experience that many fans would appreciate compared to the buttoned-up regular MNF broadcast. Peyton’s assumption that the Patriots bugged his locker room, Eli’s Shakira-inspired dance, and Peyton’s aggressive chicken-eating were all exactly the kind of strange and meme-able moments that made the broadcast worth tuning in for, even if Peyton usually tried his best to steer things back towards discussion of the actual game.
The fact that the ManningCast Curse became a legitimate thing was just another sign that the broadcast was working with some secret sauce. No one knows why every active pro athlete who appeared would lose their next game, and yet, it happened.
As with all things, you could make the case that the ManningCast lost some of its lusters as it became more normalized, especially as advertisers got involved.
ManningCast was never funnier and more delightful than when someone did something they weren’t supposed to do during an NFL broadcast. Like when Eli gave the double birds when describing what it was like to play in Philly.
Eli Manning with the double bird on live TV. ? pic.twitter.com/LPU41kdFVO
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) September 28, 2021
Then, Marshawn Lynch dropped an F-bomb during his guest appearance.
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 26, 2021
While Peyton seemed a bit peeved at the time about Lynch’s “language,” saying that “it’s not what we’re trying to do on this show,” the truth is that it was exactly what people wanted. They wanted to hang out and drop F-bombs and give the TV the middle finger like they’re watching at home alongside Peyton and Eli. That we didn’t get much of that afterward was a bummer.
However, on Monday night, in the final ManningCast of the season, it was Peyton who ended up reminding us of the joys of a hot mic moment.
"I can't hear shit." – Peyton
"NEVERMIND." – Eli
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 18, 2022
The game itself was pretty boring but Peyton’s special moment is what we’ll take away from the evening. That’s what we tuned in hoping for, for better or worse.
So if this is farewell to the ManningCast, it went out as it should have. With a nominal FCC violation that a handful of weirdos are sure to complain about while the rest of the internet enjoyed it immensely. The broadcast’s eventual imitators have their work cut out for them, especially if they take all the wrong lessons from why ManningCast worked, which is almost certainly how it’s gonna go.