Monday night memories
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Monday night memories
By nugent02 on Jan 07, 2014 03:44 AM
Monday night memories
By Bill Simmons Boomer Esiason Jersey Cheap
Like so many others, I found myself a little freaked out by the final installment of "Monday Night Football." The way ABC presented that Jets Patriots game, you would have thought "Seinfeld" was wrapping up or something. When the game finally finished, Al Michaels appeared ready to start bawling on live TV. He really did. I kept waiting for them to break out that Green Day song as a final touch.
Which begs a simple question: Has the phrase "Monday Night Football" meant anything beyond "Cool, there's a game on tonight!" since Boomer Esiason Womens Jersey Howard Cosell left in 1983?Howard Cosell made "Monday Night Football" must see TV.
Despite one of the most successful runs in the history of prime time (36 years), you could make a pretty good case that ABC actually underachieved with the show. Just add up the number of announcers, sideline reporters and halftime hosts from 1983 to 2001 alone this wasn't exactly the '98 Bulls breaking up here. Besides, isn't the Monday night franchise simply moving down the dial to ESPN? Maybe the Worldwide Leader is available in 20 million fewer homes than ABC, but do you know anyone in any of those 20 million homes? More importantly, will your football routine change on Monday nights next year? I didn't think so.
That didn't stop the broadcast of Monday's Jets Pats game from attempting to become the sports equivalent of Johnny Carson's final show, or the national media from pounding that "Farewell To An Icon!" angle into the ground over these past few weeks. Apparently we were supposed to care more than we did. Believe me, I'm in the exact target audience of people who should have been affected by Monday night's game. I grew up in the late '70s preaching to the altar of Cosell's halftime highlights, one of the five coolest things on television at that point. When Earl Campbell ripped off four touchdowns against Miami, I remember where I watched the game. When Cosell announced John Lennon's death, not only did it happen during a Pats game, but our kicker was lining up to kick a field goal.
So when they showed those old clips Monday, they meant something to me. But I didn't care about any of the post Cosell clips, with the possible exception of the dude who jumped into the runway to catch that field goal. And that was the biggest problem here comparing the Cosell Era to the post Cosell Era was like comparing the Beatles to Wings, or even the Smashing Pumpkins to Zwan. It's not even remotely worth it.
Two things made the Cosell Era stand out. First, you couldn't replicate the Gifford Meredith Cosell team if you tried (as ABC slowly found out). Gifford was the most popular football player of the '50s and '60s, a matinee idol in every sense, as well as one of the few athletes who successfully crossed over into broadcasting. Meredith was a force of nature, just a likable guy who appealed to everyone in every part of the country. And Cosell pretty much hijacked that show and made it his own personal pulpit he was the one who transformed that telecast from "mere football game" to "polarizing television event." Whether you hated Cosell or loved him, you had an opinion about him. He mattered.
More importantly, we had like only six channels back then. Maybe "Monday Night Football" was a huge deal, but so was "Fantasy Island," "The Incredible Hulk" and everything else. Yeah, the Meredith Gifford Cosell team meant something to me, but so did Bill Bixby and Cheryl Ladd. So did Jimmie Walker. So did Donny Most and Mindy Cohn, for God's sake. Growing up in the late '70s, there really wasn't much to do. I'm telling you.
And that's what confused me about Monday night's telecast they were saying good bye to an era that everyone had already dismissed and digested. Sure, I miss Cosell and Dandy Don, but I also miss seeing Charlene Tilton in her soaked bathing suit after falling into the dunk tank on "Battle of the Network Stars." What's the point? The fact remains, "Monday Night" started losing its cultural relevancy in the early '80s, as soon as everyone started getting cable and Cosell called Alvin Garrett "that little monkey" during a Redskins game in 1983. Once everyone realized that the man was slowly losing his mind, that was it for him and the show. It became a simple prime time sporting event after that.
(Were there some good memories over the years? Absolutely. Of course, I have just as many fond memories of CBS's NBA coverage in the '80s their outstanding opening music, Brent Musburger yelping "You're looking live at the Boston Garden," Pat O'Brien calmly interviewing Moses Malone at halftime and keeping his legs crossed the entire time, even Tommy Heinsohn trying to pretend that he wasn't rooting for the Celtics during every big Bird Magic game. But that's just me.)With both Joe Namath and Frank Gifford in the booth, things got . interesting.
The bigger issue here (and one everyone fails to mention) was how many mistakes were made since Cosell's departure. With the exception of Dennis Miller's hiring, ABC made a concerted effort in the post Cosell Era to emphasize football and steer away from the entertainment angle. They just hired the wrong guys and gave them the wrong directions, so there was a perception that they were tinkering just to get headlines. With the exception of Miller's first few games, nobody was watching for the announcers.
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But was it? Did anyone really care? Only the Miller Experiment mattered, and that was because ABC was making a conscious decision to shift away from straightforward football into sports entertainment although there was a sense of desperation to the move, like they wanted to reinvent the franchise and didn't know exactly how to pull it off. Everyone forgets this now, but back in the summer of 2000, Sports Illustrated slapped Miller's mug on the cover with the headline "Can Dennis Miller Save Monday Night Football?" Clearly, the "Monday Night" franchise was struggling more than anyone wanted to believe.
During the last few years, the ship was righted (somewhat) with the Michaels Madden Tafoya team, although Michaels and Madden had been working separately for too long and were too settled in their respective shticks to click on a substantial level they always reminded me of one of those powerhouse duets from the '80s (when celebrity duets were all the rage), like when Frank Sinatra teamed with Bono on "I've Got You Under My Skin." During the final minutes on Monday night, it seemed like Madden wanted to feel emotional, only he wasn't invested like during his final Fox game with Summerall (when both guys choked up). Michaels seemed considerably more distraught, but for what reason? Everything shifts over to ESPN next season. He still has a job. He had more partners over the years than a barista at Starbucks; he couldn't possibly have felt verklempt about any of them. So why get bent out of shape?
Without sounding like too much of a party pooper, I liked "Monday Night Football," appreciated it, enjoyed it but only four things stood out about that 36 year ABC run other than the Cosell Meredith Gifford team:
1. The theme song
Unparalleled. The fact that they eventually augmented it with the Hank Williams Jr. song proved what's wrong with television here you had the perfect theme song, something everyone loved, and the higher ups still felt the need to tinker with it. Seriously, do you know one person who watched the beginning of "Monday Night Football" and thought to themselves, "You know what? This music is great, but I can't shake this nagging feeling that it could be better "
2. The concept of football on Monday nights
Again, not a huge problem here it's coming back next year on ESPN. Boomer Esiason Jersey Kids Seemingly everyone has the Worldwide Leader. In fact, I know only one person who doesn't have cable: My stepmother's sister Becky. That's out of all the people I know. We're talking hundreds and hundreds of people. And you know what those people will do next September? Instead of watching "Monday Night Football" on ABC, they will pick up their remote control and flick over to ESPN. The whole thought process will take about 0.0003 seconds.
3. The power of Cosell
There has never been anyone like him before, or since. Greatest boxing announcer ever. Most divisive football announcer ever. Best agitator ever. One of the most entertaining interviewers ever. By all accounts, one of the biggest behind the scenes jerks ever. And his halftime highlights I just remember watching those games in the late '70s, waiting for the first half to end and hoping that he would spend even 20 seconds on a Pats game. This is one of those "You had to be there" things kinda like how you had to be there to understand the sheer magnitude of a detective show that featured Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd. But you had to be there for Cosell. You just did.
(Most underrated Cosell moment: In 1974, when Sinatra came back to Madison Square Garden for a concert called "The Main Event," they billed it like a boxing event, with Sinatra singing in a makeshift boxing ring and everything. And when it was time for Sinatra to come out, Cosell belted out a three minute introduction for him that's just incredible, an absolute masterpiece. Live, from New York, the city whose landmarks are famous all over the world, a world center for shipping, transportation, communications, finance, fashions and above all, entertainment. A city that pulsates always because of the millions of people who live here, work here, visit here You have to hear it it's that good. There was nobody like Cosell.)