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How Does Steve Levy of ‘Monday Night Football’ Feel About the Peyton and Eli Show?: TRAINA THOUGHTS

1. One of the biggest sports media stories of 2021 has been the success of the Peyton and Eli Manning alternate Monday Night Football telecast on ESPN2.

The brothers have been a hit with viewers, critics and even social media. Peyton and Eli worked the first three 'MNF' games of the season before taking a break. They’ll return this Monday for the Saints-Seahawks game.

The buzz caused by Peyton and Eli has led to speculation from some people about the future of the “traditional” sports telecast.

The thing is, though, despite the hullabaloo surrounding Peyton and Eli, you can’t compare their viewership numbers to ESPN’s regular Monday Night Football telecast with Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick. Here’s how the two telecasts fared over the first three weeks of the regular season.

PEYTON and ELI on ESPN2
Week 1: 800,000
Week 2: 1.9 million
Week 3: 1.89 million

LEVY, GRIESE and RIDDICK on ESPN
Week 1: 14 million (ESPN and ABC)
Week 2: 13.8 million
Week 3: 12.9 million

Levy is a guest on this week’s SI Media Podcast, and I asked him what he thinks of the Peyton and Eli alternate broadcast and what it’s been like to go head-to-head with brothers.

“Week 1 or Week 2, I DVR’d it. I did want to see what the fuss was all about. And I get it. You can’t fake chemistry. That’s something that Brian, Louis and I have worked on in our second year in the booth together and we’re still getting there. Peyton and Eli have been together their entire lives. Like every second of it. You can’t fake that stuff. You can’t substitute it. They obviously have that. They were obviously all-time great players. And, oh, by the way, they’re funny and entertaining, too. I get it.

People want to pit us against each other and I don’t see that. I’m looking at the health of the franchise that is Monday Night Football. The ratings are up. I don’t get into the numbers game, but more people are watching and if that’s because of Peyton and Eli, I’m all for that. Let’s get Monday Night Football back to where it was regardless of how many channels it’s being seen on.”

Levy added, “We all fall under the ESPN umbrella and my understanding is the network doesn’t care which channel you’re watching as long as it’s one of our channels. I don’t know how many broadcasts we’re going to have for the wild card on Monday night, but I think for college we had six different ways to watch.”

I asked Levy what his reaction was when he first heard ESPN2 would be airing an alternate telecast with Peyton and Eli.

“There’s the natural curiosity factor,” said Levy. “I was curious. But they don’t have a play-by-play guy. So I wasn’t really impacted. I certainly could understand if Brian and Louis felt differently. But I think it’s really cool to hear the different opinions in the moment, not the next day, but in the moment. Hey, what did Griese say on this play? What did Peyton say on the same play? The decision to go for it, don’t go for it, pass or run. I think that’s cool and fun, and we’re all playing for the same team. I think it’s a win and I’d be surprised if it changed. I know it’s a three-year deal for those guys, but if they’re having a good time, the audience is clearly having fun watching them; why not keep it going?

The podcast with Levy touched on other topics including how he thinks his booth is doing in their second year together, the impact that fans in the stands have on a broadcast, the effectiveness of a two-person booth versus a three-person booth, ESPN getting back into business with the NHL and Levy preparing to calls games for the first time since 2004 as well as work for the network’s studio show, his famous SportsCenter “slipped disc” moment, his time working at WFAN and the pain of being a Jets fans.

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You can listen to the podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify and Stitcher.

You can also watch the SI Media Podcast on YouTube.

2. Steve Levy is not the only guest on this week's SI Media Podcast. With Curb Your Enthusiasm returning to HBO this Sunday, Jeff Garlin joined the podcast for a chat about the show. Garlin talked about how the show handled COVID-19 for the upcoming season, which actor breaks character the most, his favorite season, whether the show could've worked anywhere but HBO, working with an outline as opposed to a script, fallout from the episode where he's mistaken for Harvey Weinstein and much more.

We also talked about Garlin's love of all things Chicago sports.

3. Speaking of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David was on The Rich Eisen Show yesterday and explained in detail why he thinks goalposts, kickers and punters should be eliminated from the NFL.

4. Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale got the loss after giving up four runs, two earned, three hits and two walks while striking out seven in 5 1/3 innings in Boston's 9–1 defeat to the Astros. However, Sale got the win when it came to postgame quotes.

5. A reporter was on baby duty with his son yesterday while also attending a Nick Saban Zoom press conference, and the Alabama coach had some fun with the situation.

6. Longtime New York radio host Steve Somers announced last night that he'll soon be leaving WFAN. Somers, who has been with WFAN since 1987, went viral in 2018 when he "interviewed" the lone baseball writer who did not vote for Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom on his Cy Young ballot. If you missed this exchange when it happened. check it out now.

7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: In yesterday's Traina Thoughts, I said that a scene between Larry and Jason Alexander was the epitome of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Twitter follower @EddieCarstone reached out yesterday to say there isn't anything more Curb than the scene below. He has a point.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on AppleSpotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.