So last night, a Monday night that happened to be Halloween, I went out with my 3-year-old, her in a fairy costume and her Mommy and I clutching our cold drink mugs, and proceeded to acquire likely every piece of candy on Earth. We got home, put the little one to bed, watched some TV and headed to sleep.
This morning I realized, "I picked the Chargers to win last night!" I had totally forgotten to switch over at some point to Monday Night Football. Turns out the Chargers lost because Philip Rivers couldn't handle a center-QB exchange late in the game with the score tied and San Diego in Kanas City's red zone. The Chiefs went on to win it OT.
And I missed it all. It wasn't the first time this season, either.
I'm old enough to remember the NFL pre-Sunday Ticket, when your choices of football games added up to three games at 1 and 4 p.m., a Sunday nighter on ESPN, and the Monday Night extravanganza on ABC, which was such a big to-do that the rival networks didn't put up much of a fight and yielded the nightly ratings to it. If you were a football fan, you tuned in for at least some of MNF, as if to keep a weekly appointment.
In the '80s and '90s, ABC didn't balance the coverage. If you were good, you played for Howard Cosell and Don Meredith and later Al Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf. If you weren't, you didn't. They'd show you Cowboys-49ers or Raiders-Broncos every week, they didn't care. I remember it was a big deal during my freshman year of high school that the Eagles, who'd been gawdawful for about a decade, were playing the Giants on Monday night, their first ABC game in who-knows-how-long. The game had that play you see replayed every so often: Randall Cunningham rolled out to pass, got hit low by Carl Banks, almost went to his knees but put his hand down, got up and found Jimmie Giles in the back of the end zone.
It seemed like must-see TV at the time. It's different now. Maybe because you can go down to your local watering hole now and chances are every game will be on a different TV. Maybe because you can at least find the radio feed of your favorite team somewhere on the Internet no matter where you live. Maybe it's because Monday Night Football is now on cable (ESPN). I know everyone doesn't have cable, but if you don't you probably aren't watching much TV anyway. I always catch at least part of the Sunday nighter on NBC, then again I'd listen to Al Michaels read me the phone book. Plus, NBC has the power to "flex" a good game on a Sunday night and exchange it for a clunker; MNF doesn't have this, then again why did it seem like they never needed it back in the day?
(In my case, maybe it's because the CBS Monday night shows are a hoot, and I won't make time to watch them on DVR later in the week. I still watch Two & A Half Men even though Charlie Sheen's no longer "Wwwwwwinning!" Hawaii Five-O is pretty good, too.)
While pro football is as good as ever, and I'm convinced that the NFL controls the universe, watching it when it's the only live sporting event on at that moment just doesn't seem as important as it used to be. According to the ratings, Hank Williams, Jr. isn't the only hombre to tell ESPN, "Adios, amigo."
One thing's for sure: I'll be watching Monday. No excuses. Chicago at Philadelphia. Say it with me folks: E-A-G-L-E-S EEEGULLLLZZZZ!!! That and the leftover Halloweeen candy will have me pretty wound up I imagine.