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It's a battle of the footballers in several... shall we say, non-football events.

Recaps by Gordon Pepper, GSNN

Joe Theismann & Kirk Herbstreit
Harold Reynolds & Sam Ryan
Packager: ESPN Original Entertainment, Transworld International
Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, Walt Disney World; Orlando, FL
Tuesdays at 9pm ET on ESPN

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"Episode 1" - April 12

We have had the Battle of the Network Stars! We will be having Battle of the Reality Stars! In between, we will now have Battle of the Grid Iron Stars! This is Gordon Pepper, and although I do not sound like Howard Cosell, I will try to commentate in my own style.

We don't have any competing television networks here, but we do have 2 teams - the Americans and the Nationals. This, of course, represents the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference of the National Football League. These two sides will be competing against each other. The Americans will be captained by Ken Stabler, while the Nationals will be commandeered by Saints great Archie Manning. Archie Manning? This ought to be interesting...

We come to you from Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida as Joe Theissman and Kirk Herbstreit puts us through the paces as hosts. There are 2 types of scoring - the weekly awards and the cumulative awards. In the weekly awards, there are 4 events. The first 3 are each worth 1 point, while the last event in each show is worth 2 points. In the cumulative awards, the team with the most points at the end of the series will be declared the champions.

As for the teams, let's take a look-see...

Americans -

Peyton Manning - Quarterback, and going up against daddy Archie, who's coaching the Nationals.
Deion Branch - Wide Receiver
Byron Leftwich - Quarterback
Hines Ward - Wide Receiver
Takeo Spikes - Linebacker
Chad Johnson - Wide Receiver Troy Brown - Wide Receiver, Defensive Back, Punt Returner, and whatever the heck else he wants to play
Joey Porter - Outside Linebacker
Marvin Harrison - Wide Receiver
Donnie Edwards - Linebacker. Nice to see that he wasn't too injured from the season to participate in this competition.

And the Nationals -

Brian Dawkins - Freelance Safety
Laveranues Coles - Wide Receiver
Brian Westbrook - Running Back
Alge Crumpler - Tight End
Julius Jones - Running Back
Jason Witten - Tight End
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila - Defensive End. I probably spelled it wrong. No, I'm not saying that name fast 5 times.
Jeremiah Trotter - Middle Linebacker
Eli Manning - Quarterback, and apparently dad's favorite son.
Joe Horn - Wide Receiver

We start the event with the Tug-Of-War. It's the best 2 out of 3 matches. The game is based on strategy as well as muscle - the matches are 5 on 5, 3 on 3 and 1 on 1. To add to it, you can't play all 3 matches, so the captains of the team have to choose wisely.

We start with the 5 on 5. For the Americans - Porter, Johnson, P. Manning, Branch and Brown. For the Nationals - Crumpler, Westbrook, Trotter, E. Manning and Horn. This seems to favor the Nationals (indeed, as they had a 120 pound advantage), and it does, as the Americans get routed. (Nationals lead, 1-0).

For the 3 on 3, the Nationals send out E. Manning, Trotter and Crumpler Vs. The Americans P. Manning, Branch and Porter. it looks like the Nationals are going to cruise again, until Crumpler looses his grip on the rope. Still, he recovers and the Nationals win the Tug of War and win the first point. . The announcers say that the American's show a lot of heart. Blah, blah, blah, heart, blah, blah, blah, still no points. (Nationals Lead, 1-0)

We are off to event #2, which is...bowling? You have the Super Bowl, I guess, so why not? We get a montage of gutter balls as we see how this works - each of the 5 players gets 2 frames. The team with the highest score wins the event. The lineup is as follows - Nationals - 1/2 - Trotter, 3/4 - E. Manning, 5/6 - Horn, 7/8 - Westbrook, 9/10 - Crumpler. Americans - 1/2 - Porter, 3/4 -Brown, 5/6 - P. Manning, 7/8 - Branch, 9/10 - Johnson. If the line-ups look familiar,m they should - these are the same 5 people who were in the Tug-of-War. These guys are getting a good workout today.

Frame 1 - Porter gets a (3 -) for a 3. Trotter counters that with a (7 -) for a 7. Frame 2 - Porter redeems himself with a X, while Trotter gets a (5 /). Nationals lead, 17 (+ /) -13 (+ X) .

Frame 3 - Brown gutters on the first ball, but redeems himself with a spare (33 + /). Eli almost gets the double, but goes (9 -) and is now trailing, (33 + / Vs. 35). Frame 4 - A 90 from Brown gives the Americans a score of 51, while a 3,4 from Eli moves the Americans up to 42.

Frame 5 - Horn, with a 9 total, chips 2 pins off of Peyton's 7 total, but the Nationals are still trailing 58-51. Frame 6 - Peyton leaves the 4-6 split, and with a score of 67, leaves the door open for Horn. Horn capitalizes with the strike and the Americans can take the lead with good count in the 7 (61 + X).

Frame 7 - Branch gets a little 3, then another little 3 for a score of 73. Westbrook does not get good count so far with a 1 on the first ball, but he gets a second chance. He gets 6 more, which gives them a 75-73 lead. Frame 8 - Branch picks up a 7 /, which forces Westbrook to get a mark to keep the lead. Westbrook leaves the 6 pin and has to convert. He doesn't, and the Americans go back up...

Frame 9 - ...but not by much, because Johnson only gets a 1 on the spare. Crumpler needs 8 to take the lead, and...gutterball. Try #2...9, and the Nationals go up by 2, 93-91. Frame 10 - Johnson gets the first strike, only gets 1 on the first, but a 5 on the second gives them a 107. That forces Crumpler to mark...which he does with a big strike on the first ball. Crumpler now needs a combination of 5 pins in the next 2 balls to win, but the first ball goes in the gutter and here comes the trash talking by the Americans. The second ball gets...7, and the Nationals pull it out, by a score of 110-107. (Nationals lead, 2-0).

The Americans need to win the third event, which is the Climbing Wall, or the Nationals will have an insurmountable 3-0 lead for the first episode of the series. Here's how the Wall works - 3 people from each team climb up the wall to grab all 5 flags from the obstacle course. The team gets a 0.5 second penalt y for each flag missed, and the lowest cumulative time wins.

The Nationals send up Crumpler for the first round. Peyton Manning goes for the Nationals. Peyton is not exactly the quickest QB in the NFL, and although his time of 16.79 is decent, it's not going to match Crumpler's 15.70.

Meanwhile, Theissman talks to Manning, who says that he feels a window of opportunity and that they need to strengthen up on defense. He also says that it's amazing that Eli is in the NFL and he is proud of him, though he says that he can't help Eli on living in NYC. Peyton says that this is the first time that he's directly competed against Eli and that the Grid Iron stars program is special to him for that reason.

Round 2 - Eli from the Nationals goes up against Porter of the Americans. Is Eli faster than Peyton? No, because Eli slips and falls all the way down. Porter gets up in 11.71, while Eli has a ridiculously slow 34.71. The 1.7 deficit is now a 21.3 second lead, and Trotter, who goes next for the Nationals, throws his sweat pants in disgust.

Round 3 - Trotter decides to go anyways, while Johnson decides to use his cell phone and call Horn for help. Johnson tries to get up there until he gets blitzed by Trotter and Horn, who replaces Johnson as the climber, takes all of the flags from Johnson's side. Needless to say, it's a DQ for the Nationals and the Americans finally get a point. (Nationals still lead, 2-1).

It comes down to the Obstacle Course, as the winner of that will be the winner of the episode. It's a 2 heat event - the best cumulative time wins. This course has the same stuff that most courses have - a 12 foot wall, a water pit, the under/overs, culverts, blocking sled, monkey batons, slalom pool, high jump, tires, catch a short pass, over hurdles, and finally, catch a bomb touchdown pass. Catching the pass stops the clock.

Announcer Sam Ryan asks Eli and Peyton who can throw the ball further. This ends as you would think it would end - with both of them bragging that they can. I am guessing that they are throwing the bomb pass.

Crumpler is starting it for the Nationals, while Porter is starting for the Americans. Brown and Westbrook will be collecting the batons from the first relaymen. As we start, Porter gets over the wall first and has no problem with the over/unders. Crumpler makes up some time with the monkey bar but Porter is well in the lead when he passes the baton to Brown. Brown misses the pass from Peyton, though, and he gets assessed a 5 second penalty. That comes back to haunt him, because although Westbrook doesn't cross the finish line first, he doesn't make any mistakes and the Nationals bring a 3 second lead into the second and final heat.

Heat 2 - Horn (Nationals) and Johnson (Americans) start it up. Horn says that the Americans will fade to Black, while Johnson is going to put Horn in the shed. What poet rappers we got here. Branch (American) and Trotter (Nationals) are there at the half-way mark. Joe Horn decides to forgo the wall to try to build a time lead, but that backfires as Johnson manages to take the lead. He goes to Branch, who is cruising through the course and finishes it in a good 10 seconds past the Nationals. That wipes out the 3 second advantage and it didn't really matter about the penalties. Johnson calls himself the dominant force, and adds that they better get used to this position - the red team being in front of the cameras at the end of each episode.

That may be true, but the same 5 people competed in every event. Join us in 7 days to see if the Nationals can catch up - or even more importantly, if we will see any of the other 5 people on the other team even compete.

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