Home Sports Sports media week in review: The Manning brothers’ new hit, Aaron Rodgers’ Zen demeanor and Conor McGregor’s babbling during a Chicago Cubs telecast

Sports media week in review: The Manning brothers’ new hit, Aaron Rodgers’ Zen demeanor and Conor McGregor’s babbling during a Chicago Cubs telecast

by staff

Is there a term for watching too much sports during a pandemic?

While we search for a behavioral psychologist to answer that question, here are some things we learned from the week in sports media.


1. The Peyton and Eli Manning broadcast of ‘Monday Night Football’ on ESPN2 is one of the best shows of the new season.

According to ESPN, their show Monday during the Green Bay Packers-Detroit Lions game had 1.9 million viewers, a 132% increase from its Week 1 debut. While Peyton tends to talk about himself a bit too much, the X’s and O’s are terrific, and it’s much preferable to the crew on ESPN.

Having interesting guests such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski helps, especially when he piles on Peyton, as he did Monday. Gronkowski should be the Manning brothers’ Buddy Hackett, available on a weekly basis for comic relief, as Hackett was on Johnny Carson’s talk show.


Peyton Manning, left, and brother Eli wait to hit from the first tee during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tournament on Feb. 6, 2020, in Pebble Beach, Calif. (Tony Avelar/AP)

2. Ken Burns’ ‘Muhammad Ali’ documentary won’t get as many viewers or as much media hype as ‘The Last Dance’ but it’s every bit as fascinating and is one of the best sports docs ever.

Unlike ESPN’s “The Last Dance” on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty, which was dominated by the network’s personalities as the interviewees, Burns chose a variety of sportswriters and historians, including local author Jonathan Eig, who wrote the biography “Ali: A Life.”

Burns’ Ali documentary doesn’t sugarcoat the boxer’s life, delving into Ali’s infidelities and the ugly rhetoric Ali spewed while disrespecting Joe Frazier before their first fight at Madison Square Garden.

A side note: the Late Chicago Associated Press reporter Joe Mooshil has a cameo in Part 2 while covering a news conference in town.

The four-part series aired locally on WTTW-11, so it’s sure to rerun at some point.

3. NBC Sports Chicago baseball analyst Ozzie Guillen prefers plain speak to manager-speak.

So Guillen decided to translate White Sox manager Tony La Russa’s postgame comment Tuesday on the need for better execution from his Sox players in all three phases of the game.

Guillen told host Chuck Garfien what La Russa really was was trying to say was: “We stink right now.”

4. Justin Fields has potential, but he is not Tom Brady yet.

And after listening to nonstop commentary from sports talk radio hosts and Chicago Bears fan callers the last month about the need for coach Matt Nagy to start the rookie quarterback over Andy Dalton, it was fun to hear the new narrative Monday — Fields’ poor performance in the 20-17 win against the Cincinnati Bengals provided him with a much-needed “learning experience.”

Imagine if Mitch Trubisky had posted a 4.4 QBR in any game in which he wore a Bears uniform. Nagy and Trubisky would have been pilloried.

5. The starting times of the expected White Sox-Houston Astros Division Series won’t be announced until the postseason field is set.

But if the New York Yankees get into the American League wild-card game and win it, their series with the Tampa Bay Rays no doubt will get the prime-time slots, meaning the Sox-Astros series will be on in the early- or late-afternoon slots.

If the Toronto Blue Jays win the wild-card game and play the Rays, the Sox-Astros probably would get at least one or two prime-time slots.

America cares little about the Rays or Jays, but the Yankees still rule the networks.

6. Aaron Rodgers made his own bed when he made everyone wonder whether he would return to the Green Bay Packers in 2021, and now the quarterback might be paying the price.

Bill Cowher ripped Rodgers on Sunday’s CBS pregame show, “The NFL Today,” for appearing “aloof” during the Packers‘ Week 1 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints.

“Show me you care, show me it’s important to you, that the team is more important than you are,” Cowher said. “And right now I haven’t seen that.”

Rodgers didn’t mention Cowher by name but responded to criticism during an appearance Tuesday on “The Pat McAfee Show,” calling it “absolute horse(bleep) to give a platform to people who have no idea what they’re talking about as far as my mental state … my focus, my work habits.”

Rodgers added: “What’s crazy to me is to let one storyline, by a person who has no contact with me, zero relationship, that becomes some sort of narrative that’s out there, that now I somehow don’t care about ball because of my Zen attitude during the offseason.”

Much ado about Zen? Could be a long season for the Packers star.

7. For those of us who love high school football, it’s great to see WCIU-TV (aka ‘The U’) return with its ‘Game of the Week.’

Friday night’s game features Naperville Central versus Neuqua Valley, and the U also will air the IHSA championship games on Nov. 26 and 27. After the IHSA’s pandemic-related switch to spring football last year, it’s nice to see games back in the fall, where they belong.

8. Jeff Santo, the son of former Cubs great Ron Santo, has written his first novel, ‘Ravens in the Rain: A Noir Love Story,’ co-written with his wife, Christie.

Jeff is a filmmaker in Los Angeles and produced and directed the documentary “This Old Cub” about his father’s health battles during his career as a player and broadcaster.

9. Not sure what UFC fighter Conor McGregor was babbling about Tuesday during the Marquee Sports Network broadcast of the Cubs-Twins game.

Conor McGregor throws the ceremonial first pitch before the Cubs-Twins game Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

Conor McGregor throws the ceremonial first pitch before the Cubs-Twins game Tuesday at Wrigley Field. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

And it doesn’t really matter because the end of the Cubs season is irrelevant.

But giving that much airtime to someone who publicly has uttered homophobic and racially insensitive comments is yet another black eye for the Rickettses. Will they ever learn?

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