By Tommy Gartrell
Sports editorial writer
A dear friend of mine is very ill and his passion and luster disappeared over the past few years. I fear his demise is eminent. This great and once loved friend took his first breath on Monday, Sept. 21, 1970 – eight days after my birth. My friend is called Monday Night Football, but I simply do not recognize him anymore.
Seemingly, MNF stands at the pentacle of success by reaching an average of 12 million viewers weekly, but the show’s success is merely a by product of the league’s overwhelming popularity because professional football displaced baseball as America’s favorite game some years ago. The show itself is only a frail and barely breathing core of the icon once revered by fans everywhere.
William Shakespeare said, “Sweets grown common lose their delight.”
MNF is not even a sweet anymore and certainly not a delight. I recall declining meals or bathroom breaks to watch every second of each Monday night broadcast. I passed on dinner dates, movies, concerts, family functions and even coed study sessions because of this once magnificent delight. Now, MNF is like a succulent delicious apple which has impossibly grown under-ripe and become hard and sour. Once upon a time, changing the channel during the Monday night football game would result is fist fight, but I gladly switch to reruns of River Monsters or a 15 year old cable movie today.
What has happened? The NFL is one problem. The league schedules all the Monday games before each season begins. I am unsure of the criteria used to pair the teams, but more than half the match ups are terrible. ESPN has gotten some true stinkers this season. This week’s Rams/Seahawks game is just awful. Two bad teams face off in a meaningless contest. NBC’s Sunday night broadcasts hold a clear advantage by selecting the most meaningful games from each week’s schedule and moving them to night time kickoffs based on playoff implications especially later in the football season. How do you follow Sunday’s New York/Dallas showdown with Seattle/St. Louis on Monday?
The broadcast itself leaves much to be desired as well. Let me interpret for you. The announcers are boring! I grew up in the Howard Cosell, Don Meridith, Frank Gifford era of MNF and matured watching Gifford, Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf. I understand that I just named some of the true giants in American sports broadcasting and that quality replacements are difficult to find. Difficult to find? Has anyone really tried? Really?
I like Jon Gruden’s work on MNF and I love Ron Jaworski on other shows. They just do not blend well; the chemistry is missing! Mike Tirico is really good at basketball broadcasting. Leave him there! Find Gruden a Micheals or Gifford and another Cosell, or start with three new announcers. The old crews made blowouts entertaining. Meridith bursting into song closed each game, and you anxiously awaited their next lip movement. Would it be a jab at each other or an interesting statistic about the game? Today’s crew could manage incredibly to make a 49-48 overtime game boring and repulsive. The only thing more repulsive would be Tony Kornheiser returning to the booth.