Some of the quotes coming out of last week’s ESPN media event in Bristol — and so sorry I couldn’t attend, but my travel visa to leave Maryland has expired — spoke to how Monday Night Football should continue to be viewed as a big deal. Sure, some of that is a push-back against NBC’s Sunday night NFL extravaganza, but one can also take the view that, if you have to talk about the subject, MNF‘s prominence must be very much in question.
That’s not to say ESPN hasn’t had ratings success on Monday nights and with the plethora of NFL programming attached to the weekly telecast across it various platforms. But MNF long ago had become simply the last NFL game of the week — albeit one with high production values and frequently featuring the league’s brightest lights.
The last gasp of presenting MNF as something bigger ended with the departure of non-football personage Tony Kornheiser (and was I the only one in America who enjoyed him on the telecasts?) with the soon-to-be rumored next coach for several teams, Jon Gruden. Already, ESPN had retreated from the celebs in the booth to put the focus more on just football.
And that’s perfectly fine. ESPN presents the games about as well as they can be shown, though I prefer NBC’s version of the NFL at Night (maybe it’s Faith Hill over Hank Jr.). We can’t expect to return to the days when MNF was a pop cultural touchstone. Back when sports and news were the only kinds of reality TV and you were lucky to receive more than six channels, Frank and Howard and Dandy Don presided over a weekly show where Ronald Reagan and John Lennon might drop by for a visit.
But maybe we’ll see the Giffer and the Gipper as MNF marks its 40th season during this year’s telecasts.