Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ode To Monday Night Football

During the first 75 years of the 20th century, the United States of America was only concerned with baseball. All the other sports were fun, but baseball was our passion. If you doubt this, watch “Sandlot” with a group of people in their late 40’s or older and see how much they relate to it.

I believe that the main catalyst for the growth of the NFL is the impact that one night a week made in how people view sports. ABC devised a plan where they would broadcast one game a week during their primetime slot on Monday nights. They added more cameras and they had big personalities in the announcing booth. They devised a plan to make the game more than a game, they wanted to make it an event.

What Monday Night Football did for the sports television is history. Now sports television was in Prime Time television. A game that only men were predicted to watch was supposed to carry a network’s night of television, a totally unthinkable thing. But 36 years later it has proven to be the longest running prime time still running.

Monday night was the last Monday Night Football game played on ABC. Over the 36 years there have been 555 games in Primetime. There have been amazing feats set and I have had the privilege of observing the last 15 years or so. Here are some of the memories that helped shape my childhood:

1.) When I was like 6 or 7 my brother and I received for Christmas NFL sweat suits. I got a 49ers outfit and Brent got a
Chicago Bears pair. The Monday night game in-between the holidays that year featured the Bears and the 49ers. (This
established my future allegiance for the rest of the 90’s as the 49ers were feuding with the Cowboys. I still cannot stand
the Cowboys for that reason)

2.) In 3rd and 4th grade my brother would run down the hallway into our living room and slide on his knees when Hank
Williams Jr. would sing the line of the opening “are you ready for some football?!?”

3.) Jerry Rice was the best receiver of all time, hands down no close runners up. He played in 45 Monday night games and it
was simply amazing to watch him work. When I would play video games I always wanted to throw it to Jerry.

4.) My childhood hero growing up was Barry Sanders. Every play it was possible for Barry to score. During the 90’s Emmitt Smith was said to be the best back in the league, which I disagreed with. Twice in the mid-90’s Barry and the Lions played the Cowboys. Both games Barry out played Emmitt and made me smile.

5.) When I was a sophomore in college, the Tampa Bay Bucs were playing the Colts and they gave up like 25 points (or something ridicules) in the last 4 minutes or so to lose on a last second field goal. I was in my room doing homework and I had the game on, but many of my Colts fan friends stopped watching the game cause it was a blow out. I called one and she didn’t believe that her team was coming back. So she called her parents to see if I was lying.

6.) Of course as a 10 year old I was not allowed to stay up and watch the entire game, so I was made to go to bed after the 1st quarter. Fortunately my dad would tape the game so I could watch it the next day after school. Unfortunately this was how I watched most of the games were Barry made Mr. Smith look bad.

7.) Probably the game that showed me just how great a NFL game can be was when the Patriots were playing the Broncos. The Pats were down by like 4 points and in order to get better field position the Pats purposely took a safety in order to gain 20 yards or so on the punt. The Patriots ended up getting the ball back and won the game. The Pats (which are now the bane of the Colts) are the most prepared and most professional team in the NFL, and that was just an example.

8.) Frank, Al, and Dan were my favorite broadcast combo ever. They were the three broadcasters of MNF during my formidable years of football knowledge. These three guys are the guys whom I base all my critique of announcers upon.

As I sit and watch the last Monday Night game, I realize just how much of a part of my life that it has been. I will miss Monday Night football with my dad and brother in the living room on Monday nights. It is a tradition that I will miss, so I say goodbye to one of my childhood memories.