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How NFL RedZone predicted the ManningCast and our Internet overstimulation

  • "There was a time when I found RedZone off-putting," Elizabeth Nelson says of the show that -- like NFL Sunday Ticket Red Zone -- goes from game to game on Sundays, showing all the major action. "It made me feel lost and overstimulated and seasick, and I soon went back to experiencing games the boring way. Now, though, revisiting it after several years, RedZone made more sense. Something had happened to me. I did not not like it. I did not feel woozy in the same way. In retrospect, the broadcast’s advent feels like a foundational monument in the modern ethos of avoiding boredom at any cost. What once seemed extreme has become commonplace. The internet now offers a kind of RedZone for practically anything, from elections to celebrity gossip to natural disasters, a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of sensation, with snippets of video commenting on action that has only just taken place or is about to happen. Perhaps RedZone saw the future, and the future was everything at once. Or maybe that was only part of the playing field, because this fall has featured the rise of a very different mode of N.F.L. viewership. Much is said about the supposedly short attention spans of today’s young people, but it’s also true that plenty of them happily spend time in hourslong livestreams of popular online figures doing nothing more consequential than playing video games or gabbing about entertainment — quality moments spent with Twitch streamers, YouTube celebrities, podcasters or whoever else invites the world into a loosely structured hang. And it turns out that football coverage offers this sort of future, too, via ESPN2’s recent simulcasts of Monday-night games, featuring the siblings and former star quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning...If N.F.L. RedZone is the equivalent of a thrill-a-minute cinematic blockbuster, then the Mannings’ simulcast is more like the shaggy-dog hangouts Richard Linklater specializes in. The Mannings watch the way we watch, perking up when something exciting happens and otherwise filling long stretches of matriculation by shooting the breeze, cracking wise or pantomiming gameplay in overwrought ways. It’s like Springsteen’s 'Glory Days' meets <i>Mystery Science Theater 3000 at a particularly antic sports bar. Between its first and second weeks on air, ratings improved by 138 percent."

    TOPICS: NFL RedZone, Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli, NFL