Brian Bosworth and Peyton Manning with an "Elies" t-shirt. Brian Bosworth and Peyton Manning with an “Elies” t-shirt. (ESPN+.)

A thread running through many of Omaha Productions’ efforts is the ability to strike a balance between seriousness and humor. Company founder Peyton Manning certainly does that with brother Eli and their various guests on the ManningCast. And both the brothers have done that on their “Places” shows as well.

That’s been seen with the other sports figures Omaha has tabbed for spinoffs of those shows as well, including Vince Carter, P.K. Subban, John McEnroe, Abby Wambach, and more. And it’s been seen with the people they work with on podcasts, including Mina Kimes, Dave Dameshek, Kevin Clark and more. And the latest illustration of this balance comes with the newest episode of the original Peyton’s Places. That would be “The Land of Boz,” released this week on ESPN+.

That episode, the ninth in Peyton’s Places‘ fourth season, sees Manning talking with famed college and NFL linebacker, movie star, and entrepreneur Brian Bosworth. Their conversation has a lot of serious discussion about injuries, college athletes’ compensation, and athletes’ off-the-field branding. But it also has some hilarious moments, including Manning getting the “The Boz” haircut and teaming with Bosworth for an “Omaha Productions image makeover,” complete with plenty of t-shirts roasting Manning (and Eli, as seen in the top image).

And that closing segment is one of the funnier things involving ex-NFLers in a while. It sees Manning attired like Bosworth was in 1991’s Stone Cold (which, as Bosworth notes in the episode, came out four years before Steve Austin adopted that wrestling moniker, although Austin claims that came from a cold cup of tea). And it has both of these guys having a great time razzing each other and trying to sell these shirts to fans outside of the Denver Broncos’ Empower Field at Mile High.

That’s the perfect place for this, too, with plenty of discussion of Bosworth’s hits on John Elway and infamous claim that Denver fans were “oxygen-deprived” (he tells Manning here “I don’t think they’re oxygen-deprived enough to forget). And the interactions with fans are entertaining, including one fan asking why Manning’s infamous rookie season isn’t shown on a shirt with his year-by-year stats. There’s even a debate over who gets the “Sheriff” nickname: Manning. who saw Jon Gruden call him that in 2009 and has had it regularly referenced since, or Bosworth, who plays the sheriff in Dr. Pepper’s Fansville commercials.

But beyond the humor, this episode has a detailed look at a lot of serious moments and topics around Bosworth. The entrepreneurship and self-branding focus is well worth discussion, with a lot of focus on how Bosworth tried to do that in college at Oklahoma and drew NCAA ire, how he battled with the NFL over what number he could wear, and more. There’s a good line of “Every time you see a one-man brand, they’re walking a yellow brick road paved by The Boz.”

And the shirts Manning and Bosworth come up with tie in nicely with the discussion of how Bosworth capitalized on selling not just shirts promoting himself, but also ones criticizing him that he could market to rival fans, like the “Boz Busters” shirts in Denver. This is an interesting topic for Manning to explore, too, considering the branding he’s now doing and media empire he’s building with Omaha Productions. There’s definitely some influence there from previous players like Bosworth who were known for their branding moves.

Maybe the most notable and most serious part of this episode is the discussion of the shoulder injury that prematurely ended Bosworth’s NFL career after just 26 professional games. Bosworth gets very candid about how hard it was for him to move beyond football, saying “Once the career was over, I went into a dark space.” But he got some support to move to acting, including a call from Michael Douglas, and has wound up appearing in quite a few movies and TV shows. And he seems to have found some comfort with where he’s at now.

Bosworth’s story isn’t exactly unexplored territory, of course. The 2014 30 for 30 installment Brian and the Boz (directed by Thaddeus D. Matula) covered it in-depth, and is well worth a watch for those curious for more detail on his life on and off the field. But he’s an interesting figure for Manning to feature here, and this half-hour episode finds an excellent balance of covering the silly and the serious around Bosworth. And it illustrates how entertaining Peyton’s Places can be at its best, and also shows how Manning is following in Bosworth’s brand-building footsteps.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.