Peyton Manning is one of the greatest and most famous football players of all-time. He has hosted Saturday Night Live, appeared in countless commercials and, oh yeah, won a couple of Super Bowls. Now, he’s hosting his own series on ESPN+.
Peyton’s Places follows the NFL great around the country as he explores the history of the National Football League, one piece at a time. The 19th episode is titled “Two Presidents & A Girl Named Heidi” and actually steps away from the actual game of football a bit and instead focuses on how the NFL went from being an event you could only see in person to being able to see every game on television.
Over the previous 18 episodes, Peyton’s Places had been a bit formulaic in that it would open up with a tease for a finale of sorts before jumping into a series of other segments before returning for its big finish. This episode does not follow that formula. Instead, it starts from the beginning and carries on for a 20+ minute history lesson on the NFL’s path to television dominance.
The episode opens with Peyton meeting his former teammate-turned-congressman Anthony Gonzalez in the Library of Congress. Peyton tracks down a signature from President John F. Kennedy while explaining how that signature gave the NFL an antitrust exemption and allowed the league to create its own TV deal with CBS, starting the path to what would eventually become most of our Sunday routines.
This segment is mostly enjoyable. Peyton’s chemistry with Gonzalez clearly extends beyond the football field as the two of them bounce jokes off of each other. The only reason I say “mostly enjoyable,” is because it pulls away from the story a bit to share clips of the moon landing set to Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech. Which, aside from the “Why does Rice play Texas” question, has nothing to do with football.
So that covers one of the two presidents from the title. Next up, Peyton sits down with NFL great Joe Namath to discuss “Heidi.” In a game that is now referred to as the “Heidi Bowl,” the Oakland Raiders completed an amazing comeback against the New York Jets, and no one on the east coast got to see it because NBC switched over to the scheduled program, a children’s movie called Heidi.
Peyton explains that thousands of irate fans calling in led to the league and the networks understanding the importance of showing NFL games in their entirety. So next time you get to watch your favorite team in overtime instead of switching over to the beginning of 60 Minutes, thank Heidi.
So that only leaves one president from the episode title. To learn about the final step in the NFL TV deal as we know it, Peyton met with a mysterious informant in Washington: Ben Stein.
The actor of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fame was also a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon and had some information to share on the banning of NFL blackouts. At the time, the NFL would blackout home games within a 75-mile radius of a team’s stadium, in an attempt to force fans to buy tickets to the games. This led President Nixon to push for a ban on blackouts for NFL playoff games so that all fans could watch their teams.
It seems funny that the authority on this topic is Stein, and don’t worry, Peyton addresses it and gets him to say ”Bueller, Bueller.” Honestly, this episode is worth watching for that alone. Stein and Peyton have some chemistry and put together what I think is the most entertaining part of the episode.
This is a very informative episode of Peyton’s Places. It actually shows very little football, which is typically one of the things I enjoy most about each installment. Still, it sheds light on a very important piece of NFL history and still allows Peyton to be Peyton. It may not be my favorite episode of the series, but it’s certainly worth watching.
The first 19 episodes of Peyton’s Places are available now on ESPN+. Fans can subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) and can cancel at any time.