How do we get more people to understand and care about the world around them? The answer may lie in sports. As a lifelong athlete, writer and coach I know that one of the most difficult obstacles is getting people outside their comfort zone:

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Highlights of the article:

  • Collinsworth, Cris, an NBC Sports commentator, says he and John Madden came close to doing a ‘ManningCast’-style broadcast in 2006.
  • On a conversational broadcast, Collinsworth would have been the play-by-play announcer.
  • We can only speculate as to what would have happened, particularly given the popularity of Eli and Peyton Manning’s simulcast. 

The network’s first major move after acquiring the Sunday Night Football rights in 2005 was to hire Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and veteran color commentator John Madden.

NBC had nearly a year to find a play-by-play announcer, and as we all know, it famously sold the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (we’re serious) to Disney in exchange for Al Michaels, who’d worked with Madden on Monday Night Football games since 2002. According to current SNF color commentator Cris Collinsworth, NBC had a whole different vision for how games would be presented.

NBC Sports analysts Chris Collinsworth (L) and John Madden.

NBC Sports analysts Chris Collinsworth (L) and John Madden. What might a broadcast like ‘ManningCast’ with Cris Collinsworth and John Madden look like? Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images; Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Although the Sunday night package didn’t premiere until the 2006 preseason, NBC began planning a year in advance. Collinsworth joined Fox’s No. 1 broadcast team in July 2005, a month after Madden was signed. At the time, he worked with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on Fox’s No. 1 broadcast crew.

Collinsworth was largely a studio commentator on Football Night in America from 2006 through 2008. You may not recall that. After Madden’s retirement in 2009, the former Pro Bowl receiver joined Michaels in the broadcast booth.

Collinsworth revealed on the Nov. 10 broadcast of Just Getting Started with Rich Eisen how NBC came close to making him a play-by-play announcer… kind of. NBC’s initial design, according to the four-time Pro Bowl pick, was two commentators conversing rather than going down each play. Doesn’t this sound a little like Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli?

Collinsworth remembered, “They fly a 747 across the nation.” “They bring the whole NBC Sports crew to John Madden’s studios.” We enter the room to play this game. I’m in charge of the play-by-play. “How difficult can it be?” I think to myself.

Collinsworth didn’t have to think long to understand he wasn’t cut out to be a play-by-play broadcaster.

“I couldn’t reverse what I’d learnt throughout my life.” I don’t watch football while I’m broadcasting the game. I often lose track of where it is. Al’s role, I believe, is to tell you what’s going on with the football, whereas mine is to tell you something you didn’t see. I now have to watch the football while I’m attempting to perform play-by-play. I didn’t realize how difficult it is to get on the radio; it’s a lot tougher than you think.”

Cris Collinsworth

Collinsworth was informed by NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol that he could have the position if he wanted it. NBC, on the other hand, had a chance to grab Michaels from ESPN.

Do you want to predict what NBC’s next move was?

ESPN tried out a few other alternative broadcasts before deciding on the Megacast.

Despite becoming the gold standard for alternative broadcasting, the ManningCast was far from the first of its sort. The Megacast has been utilized by ESPN for major events, such as the College Football Playoff and a Wild-Card Round playoff game.

ESPN conducted an infrequent simulcast dubbed Full Circle many years before the Megacast became a regular fixture. From 2006 to 2007, the network aired six Full Circle broadcasts, including four college basketball games, one NASCAR race, and an Eastern Conference semifinal matchup between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls.

While ESPN broadcasted the usual broadcast, ESPN2 supplied additional camera perspectives, while ESPN.com presented a live chat. Although recordings of Florida State’s 13-10 win against the University of Miami on Sept. 4, 2006 aren’t publicly accessible, a YouTube user released screen shots of ESPN2’s broadcast of the game.

Until the Megacast began in 2014, ESPN stopped airing alternative broadcasts. We started seeing more conversational and non-traditional simulcasts around that time, whether it was coaches talking down the game on ESPNews or a “homer” broadcast on ESPNU.

Now we have the ManningCast, which will almost certainly have more f-bombs and middle fingers than NBC anticipated from Collinsworth and Madden.

Collinsworth and Madden’s lives might not have gone as smoothly if the ‘ManningCast had been successful.

On September 10, 2006, Peyton and Eli Manning faced battle in the first regular-season Sunday Night Football game on a Sunday. If viewers had heard Collinsworth and Madden discussing what food is stored on the Madden Cruiser when New York Giants running back Tiki Barber attempted to rush through the Indianapolis Colts’ powerful defensive line, they could have been in for an unusual sight.

The Manning brothers are now conversing about food, throwing insults, and joking about the numerous teams they tortured throughout their NFL careers. If you’re still doubtful, remember that the brothers attracted 1.96 million viewers when the Giants faced the Chiefs on Monday, Nov. 1. The ManningCast had a 14 percent share of the viewership.

We can only speculate about what would have happened if NBC had continued with the MaddenCast. Would Madden’s charisma and proclivity for creative commentary have been enough to get him a job on the main broadcast? It should be noted that this was not a simulcast that would have broadcast on a partner network or on the NFL’s official website. This would have been the weekly experience for fans.

We’re all ears if NBC decides to attempt a BreesCast with Drew Brees and someone else on Peacock in the future. Make sure Marshawn Lynch hasn’t had too much to drink before dialing in.

On Facebook, follow Sportscasting. @sportscasting19 is our Twitter handle.

RELATED: Al Michaels Has Almost Confirmed That His ‘Sunday Night Football’ Days Are Over: ‘We’ll see what happens down the road.’

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