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October 11, 2000
Monday Night Football Just Another Game
by Dave Sabo

Originally, I was going to take advantage of the Rams’ bye week and dedicate this week’s column to the unbelievable year that they’ve had thus far. I’d planned on projecting some of the Rams’ stats as well as those of quarterback Kurt Warner. See, the Rams and Warner are on pace to rewrite the record book this season and I figured that would make for an interesting and informative piece.  Judging from the cover stories of the most recent issues of seemingly EVERY major sports periodical (not to mention the sports page of every major daily), I was right on the money. Yep, they ALL did a piece on the Rams this week.  Thank you, Sports Illustrated.

So, there I was with a finely crafted piece of sports writing, which I can’t publish lest I brand myself a plagiarist. What to do?

The Sunday slate of games proved less than inspiring. All that was left was Monday Night Football.  And, honestly, I held out little hope that Tampa Bay at Minnesota would provide a captivating angle. For whatever reason, over the past few years, marquee matchups like the Bucs and Vikes always seem to end up yawners or poorly played turnover fests on Monday night.

As I sat there watching Dennis Miller inexplicably strip down to a Wayne Chrebet jersey while rambling on about journalistic something-or-other, I lamented to myself that Monday Night Football really HAS ceased to be the weekly “event” I remember anticipating every Mondat of my youth and early adulthood.

When I was in elementary school, Monday Night Football was the ONLY reason my folks would let me stay up late on a school night. My friends and I would spend all day Monday talking about the game. My homework was done as soon as I got home. Dinner was inhaled in record time. And Monday night was the only night that I was in and out of the shower before 8 o’clock.

So, there I’d be in front of the TV, hair still sopping wet because I didn’t want to miss the opening theme. I’d flip over to channel 13 and sit through a couple of commercials. Eventually, the screen would go blank and there was, for the briefest of moments, silence. And that was the best part; a whole day of anticipation climaxing in the single moment of silence before the four descending musical notes came blaring out of the television, signifying the start of another Monday night of football. And then, the moment was over.


Man! Did it get any better than that?!

The production crew would roll the highlight film in slow-mo, the music would build and Frank Gifford would bust in with the voice over, setting up that night’s action.  Once the opening theme was done, Giff would introduce “Dandy” Don Meredith and Howard Cosell (who I hated at the time for no other reason than my dad hated him). They’d insult each other for a couple of minutes, Howard would make like a pompous ass for a bit and then the game was on.

It seemed like every game was epic back then. Ah, the memories!  Earl sticking the dagger in the heart of the Dolphins, Tony Dorsett galloping 99 ¾ yards for a touchdown, the coming out party of a 300 + pound lineman turned running back named “The Refrigerator” or Bo sprinting through the end zone and up the Kingdome tunnel.

At halftime, Howard would narrate the highlights from the day before (and no modern day SportsCenter anchor can touch him), Giff would recap the first half and “Dandy” Don would crack jokes which, other than breaking into “Turn Out the Lights, the Party’s Over” when the game was iced, was his only job.

By the time I got to college, Monday Night Football was a weekly “event.” A bunch of friends and I would end up at somebody’s grungy off-campus apartment drinking Pearl or Black Label and eating crummy Pizza Inn (an 18″ plain cheese pizza was $5). My roommate and I would bet a dollar every week on the game and believe me when I say that you’ve never seen anybody gloat over a dollar bill like we did. 

From 1990 to 1992, I missed out on Monday Night Football while I was overseas.  But, as soon as I moved back to the States, I found a bar with a projection TV, free eats at halftime and $1 longnecks. Everybody I knew went every Monday night.  Everybody looked forward to it all week every week. It was, for want of a better word, an event.

And suddenly, around ’95 or ’96, it ended.

Monday Night Football, for some reason, ceased to be the weekly event it once was. Maybe it really IS as bad as people say it is. I’ve certainly bought into that train of thought. Sure Al Michaels is the equal of Frank Gifford; but Dan Fouts, while solid, can’t compare to either Don Meredith or Howard Cosell. Dennis Miller, at best, doesn’t completely suck. So, am I right? Has Monday Night Football lost a step?

The more I think about it, the more I hope that I’m NOT right. I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s ME that’s lost something. I’m older and busier and, while I’m not married, I’m certainly not as single as I used to be. So, maybe it IS me.

I’d like to think that there’s some elementary school kid sitting in damp PJ’s with a wet head just waiting to hear that theme song.

I’d like to think that there’s a bunch of college kids gathered in a cheap college apartment somewhere drinking bad beer and eating crummy pizza and taunting each other with dollar bills.

I’d like to think that there are places that folks still go every Monday night to eat free food, drink $1 beers and watch the game on a huge TV with all their friends.

I’d like to think all that because Monday Night Football has been a simple pleasure that has provided me with some good times and great memories and it would be nice to know that a little pleasure can still be had by simply getting together with some friends and watching a football game. After all, when you get right down to it, that’s all Monday Night Football really is: a football game. It’s up to us, as viewers, to make it an event.

By the way, the Vikings withstood a furious final drive and last second “Hail Mary” to beat Tampa Bay in what turned out to be a helluva game. Think I might see what some of the guys are up to next Monday night.

Dave Sabo is an Archives Specialist with the National Archives and Records Administration. A native of Spring, TX and a life-long Oiler fan now languishing in the heart of Redskins country (Laurel, MD), Dave is utterly convinced that new ‘Skins owner, Daniel Snyder, is, indeed, the anti-Christ.

Al Michaels Al Michaels Return to Houston Pro Football If you have a question, comment or suggestion, contact Dave Catch up on past installments of The Armchair Quarterback