I believe that Monday Night Football, an American staple, is going down the tubes. As a kid in the fall I always looked forward to Monday night. Hated Mondays, still do, but Monday Night Football brought out the best of the greatest American sport. Living on the West Coast I knew that I would be able to watch the entire game before going to bed. Now most of the time I watch MNF til the primetime programming comes on when I change the channel. What changed? I still love football both college and professional. I have football fantasy leagues to inspire me to learn the names of other players on teams I don't follow. I'm still a die hard 49er fan. I still yell at the screen when a play goes bad or a call is wrong, much to the dismay of my wife and children. No personally the passion is still there for me but Monday Night Football is not what it used to be.
When I first started watching Monday Night Football was broadcast on the ABC network. It starred Frank Gifford, Don Meridith and the amazing Howard Cosell. Great voices, different, but each person brought something to the game. Cosell with his monotone diatribe speeches and Don and Frank with their personal insight into the interworkings was a great match. Over time numerous announcers came and went. Some good, some not so good. I enjoyed most of them, especially John Madden and Al Michaels who seemed to be the perfect announcing team. The games came alive and they were usualy well matched contests with playoff implications. I remember the Dolphins beating the Bears on Monday night spoiling their perfect season. It was the best football of the week.
In 2006 ESPN took over the rights to MNF and even though it usually has the best sports coverage on the planet things have gone downhill. Instead of Al Michael's great play by play we have Mike Tirico. Not sure what he's been announcing before, probably Sportscenter at midnight. He seems to lack the depth of understanding of the game becasue he continually asks questions from his booth mates about various inane aspects of the game. Instead of describing the action you feel that you are in a quiz for people who've never seen football before. For color commentary instead of John Madden or Dandy Don Meridith we have Tony Kornheiser and Ron Jaworski. Both of which serve in other areas of the ESPN television production. As far as I'm aware Tony Kornheiser's only claim to fame is as a radio personality which is what he's best suited to if you've ever seen him. He's very loud abrasive and in your face style does well on the radio but here it irritates, annoys, and angers the audience. He makes calls on game outcomes like he was setting the line in Vegas, and when wrong, which is often, he makes excuses for his ineptitude. Ron Jaworski does well on the weekly breakdowns of the NFL when he can disect the strategies of the various offenses. He tries to do the same things on each play of the game usually running over the next 2 plays.
What we get then is the whole crew talks over one another like children in a station waggon on a long trip trying to get someone's attention. Often times their conversations are not about whats happening on the field but what they are eating before or after the game. How their flight was, what new gadget they are using now. All of which distracts and takes away from the football game. Its very frustrating and I've aften watched the game with the sound off and used the radio announcers for my audio.
I'm not sure on how the games are drawn as to which network gets which game but the Monday night games have not been as memorable as they have been. Last year, 2007, there were several games that teams were playing that were not in playoff contention or the game meant nothing. This is the only game of the day and should get all of the viewing audience and you can't get a better matchup of teams? ESPN really should be more proactive with the NFL in picking what games they can show. I understand that sometimes teams don't do as well as expected but having the Brown's on 3 times and the Eagles twice.
My hope is that some of the readers will realize that its we the viewers that created MNF. Our diligence to following the game of football made us partners with the networks. We buy what the commercials advertise. If we don't like a particular show we stop watching. I don't want to see MNF fall by the wayside but it will if ESPN continues to throw 2nd rate talant at the game and treat it like just another broadcast. Its more then that it is an American icon and just like our flag people have the right to desecrate it but that doesn't make it right.