Tuesday, April 19, 2005

No more MNF on free TV

Monday Night Football is about to be no more... at least, on over-the-air channels.
The 2005 season will be the swan song for MNF on ABC. In 2006, you better have cable or satellite, because MNF is going to ESPN. (There is one exception. When a local team is involved, ABC stations in the market will be allowed to carry the game, such as they do now on other ESPN nights.)
It's probably long overdue.
Monday Night Football was born at a time when cable TV was in areas only where you couldn't get a decent signal off an antenna. No ESPN, no MTV, no CNN. My kids marvel at stories about their parents' childhood, when the only choices you had were ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS.
The producers and folks who worked with the NFL to set the schedule always seemed to have better-than-average games on the Monday night card. And there was always the interesting interplay between the bombastic Howard Cosell and the exaggerated folksiness of Dandy Don Meredith.
Times changed. So did the cast of characters, now Al Michaels and John "Wham! Bam!" (but no 'thank you, ma'am') Madden. 'Tis a pity, but Michaels has become somewhat of a caricature of himself, a pity considering the utter brilliance of his call in the Miracle on Ice game.
"Do you believe in miracles? (pause) Yes!" Then silence. He knew he didn't have to say a word. The sound from Lake Placid and the images of the U.S.A. celebration said it all. Michaels doesn't have that appreciation of silence any more, from what I've heard lately.
Madden, too, has become somewhat of a parody of himself. He's still pretty informative, but we've heard 98.6 percent of it before.
As it is, when ESPN takes over Monday nights, it appears that Michaels and Madden won't get the call. It will go to the ESPN Sunday night crew of play-by-play voice Mike Patrick with class clown Paul Maguire and class know-it-all Joe Theismann. Patrick's pretty good, but I'd rather hear him teamed with anybody but those two. Maguire has his moments when he's pretty good; Theismann has his moments, but none of them are good. I keep thinking of a riff from an old Stealers Wheel song. "Clown to the left of me, joker to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle."
Anyway, prepare to say farewell to Monday Night Football on over-the-air TV.
"Turn out the lights, the party's over, they say that all good things must end..." Any regular MNF viewer from the early days probably has that lyric embedded in his/her brain.
How appropriate.