Fifteen years ago, ESPN traded away famed announcer Al Michaels to NBC for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a long-since forgotten precursor to Mickey Mouse.

Last night, Michaels returned to Monday Night Football, albeit on ESPN2 as a guest of Peyton and Eli Manning on their popular alternate telecast. And one of the first things he did was mock Peyton using the iconic voice of famed sportscaster Howard Cosell.

“Peyton Williams Manning, a man whose career was totally eclipsed by the exploits of his younger sibling, one Elisha Nelson Manning. We’ll be back after these messages,” Michaels said.

Shortly after, Peyton got his revenge by showing clips of a frustrated, foul-mouthed Michaels struggling on the golf course.

“Me playing golf? That’s porn. You can’t show that,” Michaels said. “That’s X-rated. C’mon guys, no can do.”

Michaels’ appearance revealed a bit of what might have been if ESPN had its way last year, when it wanted to pair Peyton Manning and Michaels in the booth to replace Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland. NBC declined ESPN’s initial request to begin talks to allow Michaels out of his contract, according to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, leading the network to its current three-man booth of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick.

The 77-year-old broadcasting legend is in the final year of his contract with NBC, which will end with him calling the Super Bowl alongside longtime analyst Cris Collinsworth. After that, Michaels reportedly could end up heading to Amazon to call Thursday night games next year for the streaming giant, with Mike Tirico replacing him in the Sunday Night Football booth.

Michaels’ future didn’t come up during his appearance on the Manningcast, though he’s repeatedly said he’s made no decision. But viewers did get to hear Michaels call his first touchdown on Monday Night Football in 15 years.

The other Manningcast guests were former NFL quarterback Philip Rivers, professional golfer Phil Mickelson, and Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, who was asked about his repaired relationship with Sixers legend Charles Barkley.

“Charles was on TV saying he was going to punch me in the face, ‘I don’t like this guy,’ all of these things. And then I showed up on the set at he totally disarmed me,” Green said about an appearance on Barkley’s TNT show. “I walk on the set and Charles immediately gets out of his seat like, ‘What’s up, Draymond? How you doing, man? It’s great to see you. We’re so happy to have you here.’”

The Manning brothers will be back on Monday Night Football next week for Giants-Buccaneers, the seventh of 10 games they plan to broadcast this season. Here’s the full Monday Night Football schedule on ESPN through the end of the season (there is no Monday game in Week 18):

  • Week 11, Nov. 22: Giants (3-6) at Buccaneers (6-3)

  • Week 12, Nov. 29: Seahawks (3-6) at Washington (3-6)

  • Week 13, Dec. 6: Patriots (6-4) at Bills (6-3)

  • Week 14, Dec. 13: Rams (7-3) at Cardinals (8-2)

  • Week 15, Dec. 20: Vikings (4-5) at Bears (3-6)

  • Week 16, Dec. 27: Dolphins (3-7) at Saints (5-4)

  • Week 17, Jan. 3: Browns (5-5) at Steelers (5-3-1)

» READ MORE: TNT’s Rick Tocchet on entering Flyers Hall of Fame and trading jabs with Wayne Gretzkyan hour ago

What does Sinclair deal with Dish mean for NBC Sports Philadelphia?

The future of regional sports networks — including NBC Sports Philadelphia — remains uncertain as viewers cut their cable subscriptions and move toward streaming services.

Another nail to the coffin of the business comes via Dish Network, which completed a deal with Sinclair that doesn’t include its Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks.

Dish Network dropped the sports networks back in 2019, and according to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, “sports leagues held out some hope that Sinclair would have used leverage around the local broadcast stations it owns to force Dish Network into a deal to carry the regional sports networks.”

It’s unclear what the lack of a deal means for other regional sports networks, other than to support the notion that it’s a difficult time to be in the business of broadcasting regional sports. NBC is reportedly either looking for a buyer for its eight regional sports networks, which includes NBC Sports Philadelphia, or streaming them on Peacock. Neither NBC nor parent company Comcast have been willing to talk much about any potential sale.

In the meantime, NBC Sports Philadelphia is saving money where it can, including broadcasting road Sixers and Flyers games from their studios at the Wells Fargo Center. The network has said the decision is largely due to lingering COVID-19 restrictions, and plans to have announcers and crew to traveling again for away games at some point in the future.

Quick hits

  • For the first time this season, no active NFL players appeared on ESPN’s Manningcast Monday. Could it be because each of the previous six went on to immediately lose their next game as part of a developing Manning curse? “I believe that it is a thing, and that’s why I’m not playing next week,” golfer Phil Mickelson told the Manning brothers.

  • Man in the Arena: Tom Brady premieres Tuesday on ESPN+ at 9 p.m., a 10-part documentary series covering the quarterback’s ten Super Bowl appearances. Birds fans will want to circle Nov. 30 and Jan. 4 on the calendar, since those episodes will focus on the two Eagles-Patriots Super Bowls (and no, you won’t see Donovan McNabb’s nonexistent vomit).

  • Following their clutch victory over archrival Mexico on Friday, the U.S. men’s national soccer team will take on Jamaica Tuesday at 5 p.m. Eastern in an attempt to boost their chances of earning a World Cup spot. But good luck finding it on TV, since the game will air exclusively on Paramount+ (though the Spanish-language broadcast will air on Universo).

  • ESPN is finally working to address the poor quality of some its Pac-12 football broadcasts, telling Oregon Live it is providing its “E crew” production truck with new equipment that should alleviate the issues. Columnist John Canzano wrote that Pac-12 fans “deserve a high-quality broadcast. The players and coaches deserve enough camera angles to ensure a competent instant-replay process. And the ESPN spokesperson deserves to never have to deal with this columnist again.”

  • On TV Tuesday, we have a Philadelphia sports doubleheader on NBC Sports Philadelphia: Flames-Flyers at 7 p.m., followed by Sixers-Jazz at 10 p.m.