Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday Night Football. The rise and ridiculous

Without a doubt, the NFL remains the gorilla in the room when it comes to the four major American team sports. Hockey continues to rule in Canada, and NASCAR certainly has millions of hard-core fans. Internationally, soccer (futbol) by and large reigns supreme. Americans aren't much into soccer, at least at the higher levels, and a few billion other folks around the globe couldn't care less about American style football. It is what it is, and to each their own. Fair enough.

There was a time when all NFL games were played on Sunday. And pretty much started at the same time. One o'clock. Nobody cared about central or mountain time zones (and they still don't), games were either played at one o'clock eastern or one o'clock pacific time. Then Commissioner Pete Rozelle had experimented with Saturday night games, but it proved to be a ratings loser. People were out and about on Saturday nights doing other things. He also tried Friday nights, but that ran him and his league smack-dab into competition with high school football. Players, moms, dads, prep coaches and school principles cried foul. How dare the NFL infringe on their age-old tradition of Friday night lights? Wisely, Rozelle backed off. Though the NFL was, and continues to be a big deal, there's a whole lot more prep fans out there across the country, then and now, than follow the pros. This is hardly a surprise when one considers that even since the NFL has "expanded" to 32 teams, they only have a presence in 20 states. So 30 states don't have an NFL team at all, but they sure have high school football. Though they would watch on TV, or maybe not, an NFL game on Sunday between two teams from other states -- who were they supposed to root for?

Undaunted, Rozelle pressed on to expand the exposure of his product. Maybe Monday night would work. In it's formative days (google "when did Monday night football start") all the major networks were hesitant to set aside three hours of prime time to air a football game. CBS gave it a once a year shot in 1966-67, then NBC followed up with once a year in 1968-69. ABC was reluctant, but Rozelle strong-armed them into a contract. In 1970, with the triumvirate of Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell, and Dandy Don Meredith manning the mikes and calling the action --  Monday night football took off like Xerox stock had a few years earlier. MNF was here to stay. Though the party has been over and the lights have long since been turned out on the original annnouncers, over the years, there have been many memorable Monday night games featuring compelling contests. Though it's gone from ABC to ESPN, which are both now owned by Disney -- go figure -- MNF is hardly the Mickey Mouse show it had it's beginnings in.

After 45 years, one would think the Mouseketeer execs would have fine-tuned their product to present only the best on Monday nights. Surely the imagineers would have foreseen a potential gang me with a spoon game, and insisted on a more interesting alternative.

Enter the Jets/Dolphins game last night. Miami has risen above expectations and is actually mediocre this year. But the Jets were expected to be terrible -- and are.

If it's true that big-time TV money calls the shots -- then how in the hell did the public get stuck watching a Dolphins/Jets game on MNF?

Even when the schedules came out many months ago, is was easily forseen that games such as New Orleans/Pittsburgh, Denver/KC, and especially New England/Green Bay would be infinitely more interesting to watch. So why did they all get tucked into the usual Sunday schedule while a yawner like the Miami/NYJ game was front and center in prime time a day later?

And THIS was the game beamed world-wide to folks on other continents.

Hmmm. No wonder they continue to prefer soccer.......

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