Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, December 26, 2020

the party's over
Yes, tonight’s the night: Monday Night Football, the NFL’s signature show, is leaving broadcast TV after 36 years. Appropriately enough, the final game, between New England and the New York Jets, is as meaningless as MNF has become.

I didn’t particularly make time for tonight’s game. I caught the beginning and the first quarter at The Hub — luckily (or not), the place was empty enough that I could actually hear the game while sipping my booze. But once I saw the archival footage of Howard Cosell, I was set.

I’m too young to have seen MNF in its glory days, when the Cosell-Meredith-Gifford troika made the show an event regardless of what happened on the field. The proliferation of satellite packages, ESPN’s Sunday Night Football, league expansion, and general oversaturation of the NFL led to the Monday night showcase becoming beside the point. As much of an NFL fan as I am, I’ve found myself passing on the week’s final game more often than not over the past few years; it’s simply been overkill, in my mind.

I will note, though, that it’s still a ratings powerhouse, even as it bows out. As is often the case, so much has been made of the decline in ratings over the past half-decade that people forget that the numbers are still better than most of what’s on the air. Sports programming is still as close to a sure-thing prospect as television has.

I’d also point out that part of what made MNF such a success was the way ABC branded it as its own little football universe, almost apart from the rest of the NFL. Chief way this was branded: Note how often the booth announcers referred to various Monday Night player performance records: Who had the most rushing yards in Monday night games, who appeared in more MNF games than anyone else, etc. Every time I heard one of these milestones announced, it struck me as sort of phony; and yet, I saw how effective it was to highlight these. You couldn’t really do that in any other sport. It punctuated how much MNF was an entity unto itself, that it could claim proprietary historical landmarks. Really, part of what sustained it for so long.

The game goes to ESPN next year, whilc the broadcast TV sheen shifts (somewhat) to NBC’s Sunday Night Football venture. In realistic terms, not much changes: ESPN and ABC are practically indistinguishable corporate sisters, so the money and infrastructure aren’t shifting much. And it’s not like the cable/broadcast divide is particularly significant anymore. Still, it represents something of a change. The uniqueness is gone, and I’m interested in seeing what will supplant it in the future.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/26/2005 11:47:48 PM
Category: TV, Football | Permalink |

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  1. The importance of MNF was lost as soon as ESPN and round the clock highlights permeated our lives. Before ESPN the only highlights we saw of teams not in our region was the halftime Cosell rundown. Good memories but the time had come.

    Comment by Chuck — 12/27/2005 @ 07:47:14 AM


    I guess Al Michaels is more attached to John Madden than to weekday football. The longtime ABC sports announcer is set to join his broadcast partner at NBC for Sunday Night Football next season, while ESPN announced a new Joe Theismann-led trio for it…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 02/08/2021 @ 07:41:08 PM

  3. Corporate sisters? More like step-sisters. Since when is the takeover of one company by another considered to be all in the family?

    Comment by Dig a little deeper — 02/08/2021 @ 08:36:40 PM

  4. I’m not going to debate about how business bloodlines work, but ABC acquired ESPN over twenty years ago — more than enough time for the two corporate cultures to merge.

    What’s more, Disney bought the combined ABC ten years after that, in 1995. That further blurred any distinctions that might have been left over. So yes, I think “corporate sisters” is more than appropriate to describe the current ABC-ESPN relationship.

    The wheeling and dealing took place ages ago. I suspect you thought it just now happened? If so, I’d suggest you “dig a little deeper” yourself.

    Comment by CT — 02/08/2021 @ 08:55:27 PM


    Not that there was much left to munch on, especially after Monday Night Football flew the broadcast-network coop. From here on out, broadcasts by ABC Sports will be ESPN-branded, effectively erasing any distinction left between the two Disney-owned en…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 08/12/2021 @ 07:29:56 PM

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