How Eli and Peyton Manning are changing the way fans watch Monday Night Football

Monday Night Football was must-see TV in the 1970s, thanks to Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, and “Dandy” Don Meredith. More than just football, it was a cultural phenomenon. Even John Lennon stopped by the booth one night. 

This season, the NFL is trying something new. You can still watch the regular broadcast, but on ESPN2, quarterback brothers Peyton and Eli Manning are analyzing and commenting on that week’s matchup. They’re also trading stories from their decorated careers and teasing each other. 

The Manning brothers are changing television, according to Jason Gay, a sports and humor columnist at the Wall Street Journal. 

“I don’t think it’s much more than trying to replicate the experience of what it would be like to sit on your couch and watch a football game with two guys who played in the NFL for a combined 34 years. … Eli and Peyton Manning … are quite funny and have that kind of brotherly camaraderie which is really hard to reproduce,” Gay says. 

He points out that the regular Monday Night Football game plays on ESPN, and this is just another option on the TV dial, but it’s gaining popularity every week. He thinks this trend in audience gains will continue over the course of the season. 

This speaks to how people have grown comfortable with seeing “disembodied heads talking on a screen for long periods of time,” Gay says. “Something very strange and disruptive a handful of years ago now looks somewhat comforting, and certainly something that people are used to.”

However, Gay doesn’t think this will replace the traditional Monday Night Football format. “There are many, many people, especially the people who are most invested in watching the actual action of the game, who really want to watch the traditional feed of the game. But these two guys have gotten more buzz, more attention, more positive press in the last four to six weeks — than Monday Night Football has gotten for a decade.” 



  • Jason Gay - sports and comedy columnist for the Wall Street Journal