Monday, December 26, 2005

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS, THE PARTY'S OVER

Well, this is the night: the end of Monday Night Football on ABC. Next year the package heads to ESPN.

And I say this isn't right, folks. Monday Night Football should not be on cable TV, you should not have to pay to see it. It ought to be free to the masses. Then again, I live in Canada and for most of these past 36 years the only way you could watch Monday Night Football most of this country was to subscribe to cable TV to get ABC. Question now is whether TSN is going to pick MNF up. They carry the WWE on Monday nights and it's a big winner for them. Heck they ought to pick it up, they're part-owned by ESPN. Besides, wrestling's not a sport.

Which leads me into my next rant: there is no doubt who is to blame for MNF leaving ABC: Vince McMahon. If Monday Night wasn't such a big night for the WWE on TV, ABC would never have let go of Monday Night Football. The WWE was just stealing young audiences away, and I guess it wasn't worth it for ABC anymore, because it was cutting into their ratings and revenues. Football was just becoming too expensive for them to do.

I suspect the affiliates were also complaining about their late local news being pre-empted all the time by football, as if people at home care that coverage of crime, car crashes and fires is being delayed. Plus, ABC had that controversy with that Desperate Housewives promo last year, with Nicollette Sheridan towel-dropping in front of Terrell Owens. That got ABC inundated with complaints from the religious nuts and other boring people. I guess they said who needs it, we can't even cross-promote our shows without getting into trouble. Besides, Monday Night Football has sucked for years, ever since Cosell left. They've made some bad decisions with some of the talent(?) they hired in the past few years. It got to the point where it cost too much for Disney to run football on both ESPN and ABC, so they decided to drop the ABC portion of it and moved MNF to ESPN, and overall they figure to save millions of dollars.

But they can kiss their ratings goodbye. This is the best thing to happen to NBC, as it takes over ESPN's Sunday games. Ironically, the NFL on NBC will go head-to-head with Nicollette Sheridan and all those other silly Desperate Housewives on Sunday nights now, and they will kill ABC. That is my prediction. Losing NFL football in the first place is one of the big reasons why NBC is the number-four network right now, and football will be one of the reasons it comes back. CBS got killed when it lost the NFL rights to FOX and only came back to full strength when the NFL returned. Think of all the Survivor seasons that got launched after the Super Bowl. You need the NFL and these Super Bowls on these networks so you can promote your big shows.

Interestingly, NBC is going to name it "Football Night in America." Gee I wonder if they had "Hockey Night in Canada" in mind when they got the name for it. What else is this broadcast going to have, "Coach's Corner"? (John Madden is going to be part of the broadcast, incidentally.)

Anyway, tonight will bring back a flood of memories for football fans. Of Frank Gifford. Dandy Don. Cosell. They'll remember the great moments for the show: Bo Jackson. Earl Campbell. All those Raiders wins. There was the night this year when they raised the money for Katrina survivors. And so on.

They'll also remember the sad moments. Like the night Howard Cosell broke into Monday Night Football to announce that John Lennon had been killed. There was also the night when Joe Theismann got scrunched, sustaining a career-ending injury on Monday Night.

Then there were the just plain bad moments. Who can forget Dennis Miller. Or Lisa Guerrero (serious female sports reporters still can't get over her). Or Don Meredith singing "turn out the lights, the party's over?" Let the record show that one of the people who worked on Monday Night Football was O.J. Simpson. You know, even the embarrassing moments for this show are going to be looked back on with fondness. Monday Night Football was and always will be a part of American life. Heck, in its last season on ABC it still managed to beat baseball playoff games on FOX.

NEW YORK JETS: FITTING END

I suppose it's fitting that tonight's game involves the crummy, last place, embarrassing New York Jets, because that about sums up this series for you. Not all the games have been good and tonight's game promises to be a complete clunker. The useless Jets host the New England Patriots in what truly is a nothing game for these teams, and I doubt the fans at home would watch this matchup otherwise. The only reason to watch it is because this is the last Monday Night game for all time on ABC. I guess the other reason is because longtime Jet Vinny Testaverde is going to retire, probably, but otherwise this is a mismatch.

The Jets, with future announcer Joe Namath at QB, were the first losers on Monday Night Football (31-21 to Cleveland in 1970), and they were also involved in the biggest comeback ever, their 40-37 victory over Miami in 2000. I remember that night well: I had finished my shift at Headline Sports thinking the Jets were done, they were so far in the hole, then when I got home I turned on the TV and found out they were going to win the game! The Jets, also, have gone the whole entire length of the MNF series without winning a Super Bowl, or even playing in one. They truly are suffering the curse of Monday Night Football. Maybe the move to ESPN will do the Jets the world of good, because they've stunk for the entire run of this show.

It's also interesting that the Patriots, of all teams, are on the final Monday Night Football broadcast because for a lot of years Monday Night Football wouldn't show them. The Patriots' fans were so rowdy and got so drunk on Monday nights that the Patriots decided these fans were too big of a headache, so they refused to play any night games in their stadium for a lot of years. The other reason ABC didn't want to show them was because the Patriots used to stink for years. ABC wanted to show the Cowboys, the Raiders, the Steelers and the Dolphins... any team but the lousy Pats.

Anyway, the Patriots are probably going to crush the Jets tonight, and that will be it for Monday Night Football on ABC.

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