Monday Night Football (MNF) is a live television broadcast of the National Football League. Originally airing on the ABC network from 1970 to 2005, Monday Night Football was the second longest running prime time show on American broadcast network television (after CBS' 60 Minutes) and one of the highest-rated, particularly among male viewers. ABC aired a total of 555 Monday night games.
Monday Night Football moved to the ESPN cable network in 2006, ending a 36-year run on ABC. ABC and ESPN are both owned by The Walt Disney Company.
Monday Night Football can also be seen in Canada on TSN and RIS, in most of Europe on ESPN America, in most of Australia on One HD and in some regions of the world outside the U.S. on ESPN International. A Spanish language version airs on ESPN Deportes in the U.S. and on ESPN International in Latin America.
Monday Night Football has enjoyed success throughout its 38-year run. The weekly game is popular not only with fans, but with players, as it guarantees a full national telecast of the game and puts both teams in the spotlight. Teams are selected for MNF games based partially on their success during the previous season, rewarding the best teams and biggest stars. Teams with large national fan bases such as the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, and San Francisco 49ers among others, usually appear on MNF as well regardless of their previous season's record. Teams can make a maximum of three Monday night appearances per season.
Since 2003, to avoid any scheduling unfairness where a team may have five days between games and others six (or seven) before the first playoff game, there is no Monday night game during the final week of the regular season. From 2003 until 2005, one game was played on Thursday and another Monday under the Monday Night Football banner. Starting in 2006 when the series moved to cable, two games are played on the opening Monday night to capitalize on fan interest during "Kickoff Weekend". The necessity of advance scheduling sometimes results in late-season contests between lesser teams, and teams which do better than expected may not get to play on MNF until the next year.
(Cable games are protected from the NFL's flexible scheduling rule adopted for the 2006–07 season. The new rule applies only to CBS, FOX, and NBC Sunday games.)
Franchises with the most Monday night appearances include the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, and San Francisco 49ers. The most common Monday Night Football pairings are Denver vs. Oakland (matched up 15 times as of the start of the 2009-10 season), and Dallas vs. Washington (matched up 14 times as of the start of the 2009-10 season); both are division games between bitter rivals and draw substantial interest from fans of other teams as well. Atlanta vs. New Orleans, also a division game, has been on the Monday night schedule for three years in a row.
Main article: History of Monday Night Football
The show as entertainment
Monday Night Football has continued to provide as much entertainment as sports throughout its run. In addition to the extra cameras, the show has also pioneered technological broadcast innovations, such as the use of enhanced slow motion replays and computerized graphics.
Celebrity guests, such as former Vice President Spiro Agnew, singers Plácido Domingo and John Lennon, President Bill Clinton, and even Kermit the Frog, were often featured during the game to "liven up" the broadcast. The November 26, 1973 contest featured a rare instance of two celebrities entering the booth, with Lennon being interviewed by Cosell and California governor Ronald Reagan speaking with Gifford, with Reagan explaining the rules of American football (off-camera) to Lennon as the game went along. However, the late 1990s and early 2000s saw an even more increased reliance on the entertainment factor. Some halftime shows, featuring popular music stars, were broadcast in full rather than being ignored in favor of analysis of the game by the commentators, as in previous seasons.
Hank Williams, Jr. reworked his country music hit "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" to be included in the telecast's introduction. In addition, Edd Kalehoff modernized the classic "Heavy Action" theme in 1989. It was Williams, Jr. who literally had the last word on ABC's last broadcast, with his rendition of Don Meredith's famous song, "Turn Out the Lights, The Party's Over," shown as the broadcast ended. On October 23, 2006, Hank Williams Jr. shouted the catchphrase, live, on top of the "Cowboy star" at the 50-yard line of Texas Stadium before kickoff of the Dallas Cowboys game that evening.
The program's affiliation with ABC/ESPN also resulted in numerous promotional crossovers between MNF and other ABC/ESPN programs.
For its 2006 debut on ESPN, Williams, Jr. re-recorded the MNF opening theme with an all-star jam band that included Brian Setzer, Little Richard, Questlove, Joe Perry, Clarence Clemons, Rick Nielsen, Bootsy Collins, Charlie Daniels, Steven Van Zandt and others. The 2006 telecast generally began with a cinematic tease produced by Rico Labbe, Michael Sciallis and Jason Jobes. It was during one of these teases that Barack Obama spoofed his announcement for the 2008 Presidential candidacy.
The tease is followed by the show open produced by Los Angeles-based The Syndicate called Transformation. It features computer-generated imagery showing a city being transformed into a football stadium and passers-by on the street turning into players, coaches, fans, and officials set to an updated orchestral treatment of the "Heavy Action" theme song. The sequence begins every week with a different celebrity walking down the street, picking up a glowing football helmet with the ESPN logo on the side and saying, "I'm ready for some football! Are you?", thus beginning the transformation process. Celebrities for 2006 included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matthew Fox, Hugh Hefner, Paris Hilton, Spike Lee, Ashton Kutcher, Samuel L. Jackson, Ludacris, Jack Black, Kiefer Sutherland, Jim Belushi, Ben Stiller, Tyra Banks, Carmen Electra and Eva Longoria.
Also, the stars returned in full force to the booth, though this proved to be the major criticism of the ESPN's first MNF season. On the opening weekend, Arnold Schwarzenegger, another celebrity turned California governor, was in the booth at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California; before that, Jamie Foxx appeared at FedExField in suburban Washington, D.C. Following them have included NBA basketball superstar Dwyane Wade, Basketball Hall of Fame player Charles Barkley, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon, comedian Jimmy Kimmel (whose opening words to Joe Theismann were "how's the leg?"), actor Sylvester Stallone, director Spike Lee, hip hop artist Jay-Z, and MNF theme singer Hank Williams, Jr.
Digital on-screen graphics
ESPN's score banner used since acquiring Monday Night Football from sister-channel ABC is placed in the middle of the screen on the bottom. It looks all black, and with the road team on the left side, and the home team on the right side. Also, the team colors are on the sides of the scoreboard. When a touchdown happens, a side of the team who scores the touchdown opens with a team logo, and next to it is "TOUCHDOWN" and the score changes number-by-number. ESPN Monday Night Football is the only time this score banner is used. In other sports, a red parallelogram shaped score banner was used. The other on screen graphics are intact. Monday Night Football began using a more traditional score banner, the "MNF Dashboard", at the bottom of the screen in 2008, with player stats and information being displayed the score and time. ESPN's NFL broadcasts, even before acquiring MNF, have been traditionally somewhat of a testing ground for new graphics for the network's other play-by-play properties.
ESPN cut back to only one opening tease for the 2007 season. Williams Jr. and the all-star band returned, only this time they played in a "juke joint" set on a country road. The lead singer arrives in a GMC Yukon truck (GMC paid for product placement) with the license plate "BOCEPHUS", which is Williams' nickname. The Syndicate's computer-generated tease was removed and replaced by short pre-taped films focusing on a team or player in the game. Some of them have featured actor Jamie Foxx.
The guest visits continued: Barkley returned to the booth on September 17 in Philadelphia. Other guests throughout the season have included Kimmel (another returnee), Drew Carey, Miley Cyrus, Russell Crowe, and Terry Bradshaw. In addition, Gordon was a halftime guest on the game just before the season-ending Ford 400 and was joined by teammate Jimmie Johnson.
When the game ends, Williams returns to say, "See you in (city that is the site of the next week's game)." Both the open and close contain helmets of the participating teams, organized in the style of a concert poster.
Despite the de-emphasis on entertainment on the overall telecast, ESPN did bring back Hank Williams, Jr. for his 20th season as part of the opening. This time, the open was set in a private residence. At the end of the song, Williams Jr. touched a foot pump which supposedly contained the helmets of that night's participating teams. The helmets were launched from the home toward the stadium at which the game was held. Through computer-generated imagery, the helmets "land" at midfield during a live shot, and then explode. The "exploding helmets" gimmick was also used at various times in the 1980s and 1990s during the pre-game tease. Williams Jr. then appeared again at the end of the game to promote the next week's matchup.
ESPN also continued to promote upcoming albums through its use in bumper music. On September 29 (Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers), ESPN used "Another Way to Die", a duet between Alicia Keys and Jack White of the White Stripes. The song was part of the soundtrack for the 2008 movie Quantum of Solace, the latest in the James Bond series.
Monday Night Football celebrated their 600th game on Monday, October 20, 2008 in a game where the New England Patriots defeated the Denver Broncos 41–7.
The 39th season of MNF ended December 22, 2008 in Chicago, where the Bears beat the Green Bay Packers, 20–17, in overtime.
Monday Night Football scoring records
* Most points
o 55 - Indianapolis Colts, October 31, 1988
o 52 - San Francisco 49ers, December 23, 1991
o 51 - New Orleans Saints, November 24, 2008
o 50 - San Diego Chargers, December 20, 1982
o 49 - Philadelphia Eagles , November 15, 2004
o 49 - Kansas City Chiefs, December 13, 2004
o 48 - Detroit Lions, October 19, 1981
o 48 - Green Bay Packers, October 17, 1983
o 48 - Baltimore Ravens, December 19, 2005
o 48 - Tennessee Titans, October 11, 2004
* Most one-sided games
o 45 points - Baltimore 48, Green Bay 3 - December 19, 2005
o 42 points - Miami 45, N.Y. Jets 3 - November 24, 1986
o 42 points - Seattle 42, Philadelphia 0 - December 5, 2005
o 38 points - San Francisco 52, Chicago 14 - December 23, 1991
o 38 points - San Francisco 41, Atlanta 3 - November 9, 1992
* Highest scoring games
o 95 points - Green Bay 48, Washington 47 - October 17, 1983
o 87 points - Kansas City 49, Tennessee 38 - December 13, 2004
o 84 points - San Diego 50, Cincinnati 34 - December 20, 1982
o 82 points - Dallas 43, Seattle 39 - December 6, 2004
o 80 points - New Orleans 51, Green Bay 29 - November 24, 2008
o 79 points - Oakland 45, Pittsburgh 34 - October 20, 1980
o 78 points - Dallas 41, Philadelphia 37 - September 15, 2008
* Lowest scoring games
o 3 points - Pittsburgh 3, Miami 0 - November 26, 2007
o 9 points - Jacksonville 9, Pittsburgh 0 - September 18, 2006
o 10 points - San Francisco 7, N.Y. Giants 3 - December 3, 1990
* From 1970 to 1997, ABC's Monday Night Football coverage began at 9 p.m. EST\EDT, with game kickoff typically coming seven minutes after the hour. In 1998, coverage was moved back to 8 p.m. ET, with a pre-game show titled Monday Night Blast and hosted by Chris Berman from the ESPN Zone restaurant in Baltimore preceding the start of the game at 8:20 p.m. Poor ratings caused this experiment to be dropped after one season, with MNF once again moving to 9 p.m. in 1999.
* From 1970 to 1995, ABC affiliates in Seattle (KOMO) and Portland (KATU) aired MNF games on a one-hour tape delay starting at 7 p.m. PST\PDT (games normally started 9 p.m. EST\EDT-6 p.m. PST\PDT) in order to accommodate local newscasts (unless the Seattle Seahawks were playing, in which case the game would be shown live). The practice, long opposed by viewers and ABC, was ended in 1996. The Seattle ABC affiliate then tried to accommodate having to show their news later than the other TV stations in the city by marketing it as "KOMO 4 News Primetime," touting it as a way to watch the news at a more convenient time than evening rush hour.
* Additionally, this practice was done in Hawaii, where ABC affiliate KITV/Honolulu delayed the game until 6 p.m. HST, meaning either 11 p.m. or midnight eastern depending on which side of the daylight saving time date the game was played. Thus, the game, which was broadcast live on local radio starting at 3 or 4 p.m., was almost over before it aired on television.
* In the case of Guam, KTGM, the ABC affiliate in that U.S. territory, aired MNF live on Tuesdays at 11 a.m., which is due to Guam's being a day ahead of the United States.
* On ABC, the demand to broadcast Monday Night Football games live across the United States was difficult to reconcile with other prime time programming, which is usually set to begin at a certain local time regardless of time zone. On the East Coast, with MNF beginning at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, there were two hours of primetime in which to schedule regular programming. However, on the West Coast, the games lasted from 6:00–9:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (or in the case of Seattle and Portland 1970 to 1995, 7:00–10:30 p.m.), leaving little or no time for additional network programming on Monday. Thus, network shows scheduled for primetime on the East Coast were broadcast at unusual hours on the West Coast. For instance, Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO broadcast new episodes of the series Coach on Saturday afternoons.
* When ESPN airs a MNF doubleheader in the first week of the season, the games start at 7 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. ET, respectively. The rest of the season, games start at 8:30 p.m. ET.
* The New York Jets played in the first network broadcast of MNF (1970), a defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns 31–21. In the last network broadcast on December 26, 2005, the Jets lost to the New England Patriots; the final score was also 31–21.
* The first sponsor of MNF was Marlboro Cigarettes; this was before the FCC banned cigarette commercials from television.
* Frank Gifford's spotter from 1973–1985 was Canton, Ohio native Steve Bozeka, who got the job from spotting a Hall of Fame Game there. Gifford liked him so much he talked to ABC and his first MNF game was in 1974 (Green Bay vs. Buffalo). Although Bozeka rarely got air time, he was mentioned at the end of each telecast when Howard Cosell would read the production credits. He was captured on-camera once and Howard Cosell said, "You see this white-haired man, this is my spotter, Steve Bozeka".
* Monday Night Football was rarely defeated in the ratings during the 1970s. One such occasion was on October 28, 1974, when the Steelers–Falcons game was outdone by a heavily-promoted episode of the CBS comedy Rhoda, in which Rhoda Morgenstern married Joe Gerard.
* The Seattle Seahawks have the most Monday night shutouts with five. Also, they have shut out their opponents in three straight Monday Night appearances (Philadelphia Eagles in 2005: 42–0, the Oakland Raiders in 2006: 16–0, and the San Francisco 49ers in 2007: 24–0).
* From 1986 to 1989, Al Michaels would take one Monday night off each October to work on ABC's postseason Major League Baseball coverage. MNF would revert to a two-man booth on these occasions, with Gifford once again calling play-by-play.
* There have been a few occasions when two Monday night games were played simultaneously. In 1987, a scheduling conflict arose when Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins went to Game 7 of the World Series (which also aired on ABC), making the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome unavailable for the Minnesota Vikings' scheduled game that Sunday. The Vikings game was subsequently moved to Monday night, and ABC aired it in a split telecast with the regularly-scheduled MNF game. A similar scenario unfolded in 1997, when the Florida Marlins went to Game 7 of the World Series and the Miami Dolphins' Sunday game at Pro Player Stadium was shifted to Monday night (which marked a rare instance of the Dolphins wearing their road jerseys in a night home game, since the game was originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon - the Dolphins usually wear their home jerseys in night home games).
* For several occasions in the 1980s and early 1990s, the MNF broadcasting crew was used to cover one of the many college football bowl games on ABC. For example, the MNF crew of Michaels, Gifford, and Dierdorf called the 1992 Sugar Bowl.
* The MNF crew of Michaels, Gifford and Dierdorf made a cameo appearance in the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, during the fictional Monday Night Football game in the film. Pieces of the sequence were shot around an actual Monday night game between the Cardinals and the Cowboys in 1995.
* In 2002 the TNT cable network produced Monday Night Mayhem, a telefilm that dramatized the creation and early years of Monday Night Football.
* On October 27, 2003, the MNF game between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins was moved to a neutral site. The Cedar Fire in the San Diego area forced the teams to vacate Qualcomm Stadium, which was being used as an evacuation site. The game was moved to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe and shown as scheduled. The tickets for the game were free and the capacity crowd enjoyed the Dolphins 26-10 thrashing of the Chargers.
* In September 2005, the New Orleans Saints vacated from the Louisiana Superdome in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and were forced to move a scheduled Sunday afternoon home game against the New York Giants from New Orleans to Monday night at Giants Stadium. In a unique television doubleheader, the Saints–Giants game started at 7:30 p.m. Eastern and the first half aired on ABC; at 9 p.m. the game shifted to ESPN while ABC began its regularly-scheduled MNF game of the Washington Redskins visiting the Dallas Cowboys (the Saints-Giants game was seen in its entirety in New York, Louisiana and other hurricane-affected areas on ABC, with the regularly-scheduled MNF game shown on ESPN until the end of the first game). ABC and ESPN interspersed both games with an on-air telethon to raise money for aid to the hurricane's victims. The last two minutes of the second quarter and the entirety of the second half were not seen in Canada, as TSN, the cable network that holds the rights to ESPN NFL games but not to MNF, chose instead to air WWE's Monday Night Raw (the highest rated show on basic USA cable), and ABC had switched to the start of the Dallas-Washington game. (TSN no longer has the rights to show Monday Night Raw and now shows all MNF games without interruption.)
* A change in the television contracts in 2006 prompted a significant change in the opening week. On September 11, 2006, the NFL staged its first scheduled Monday night doubleheader on the opening weekend of the season, with both games shown on ESPN. The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Washington Redskins, 19–16, in a game that started at 7 p.m. ET, and the San Diego Chargers topped the Oakland Raiders, 27–0, in a game that started at 10:15. ESPN broadcast a second doubleheader on September 10, 2007. The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 27–20, followed by the San Francisco 49ers defeating the Arizona Cardinals, 20–17. The Cardinals–49ers game was delayed until 10:25 p.m. because the Ravens–Bengals game went beyond the allotted time. When the first game had still not ended by 10:25, the opening kickoff was moved to ESPN2. ESPN and ESPN2 simulcast roughly one minute of playing time of the second game immediately after the first game ended.
* As a coach, John Madden has the highest winning percentage (.740) in Monday Night Football history.
Foreign language versions
Since 2006, a Spanish-language telecast is also broadcasted on ESPN Deportes, the Spanish version of ESPN and on ESPN Latin América featuring NBA and NFL play-by-play announcer Alvaro Martin, Super Bowl winner Raul Allegre as color commentator and John Sutcliffe as the field reporter. This is the same crew of La NFL Dominical, the Spanish version of ESPN Sunday Night Football, until 2005. The announcers of the second game of the 2006 doubleheader were Eduardo Varela (play-by-play), Robert Abramowitz (color) and Georgina Ruiz Sandoval (field reporter). Preceding the game NFL Esta Noche (NFL Tonight), the 30-minute pre-game show, can be seen on both networks.
The four booth announcers called the 2007 season opening games from ESPN's Bristol, Connecticut headquarters while watching games on monitors. None of them traveled to the game sites and there were no sideline reporters in the early weeks. Sutcliffe would later report from the game sites. Allegre did not work the season finale between the Broncos and Chargers; he was replaced by Abramovitz.
In 2008, Martin and Allegre only travelled to the Cowboys-Eagles game, during the NFL's celebrations of the Hispanic Heritage Month.
Since the 1990s, ESPN Latin America has a feed in portuguese language targeted to their viewers in Brazil. Ivan Zimmermann (play-by-play), André José Adler (play-by-play), Roberto Figueroa (color), Marco Alfaro (color) among others, were the announcers broadcasting from ESPN's headquarters. Since 2006, the structure of the Brazilian feed was merged with ESPN Brasil and the broadcasting is made from São Paulo. The current announcers are Everaldo Marques (play-by-play), Ari Aguiar (play-by-play), Paulo Antunes (color), Silvio Lancelot (color) and André Kfouri (color).
MNF on radio
Main articles: NFL on Westwood One and NFL on NBC Radio
Since its inception Monday Night Football has also been carried on national radio networks. The Mutual Broadcasting System aired the games initially, with Van Patrick (1970-1973) and Lindsey Nelson (1974-1977) announcing. CBS Radio took over in 1978 with Jack Buck and Hank Stram commentating. After a two-year stint (1985-1986) with Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy calling the games on NBC Radio, Buck and Stram resumed with CBS Radio in 1987. In 1995, Howard David and Matt Millen replaced Buck and Stram. Marv Albert and Boomer Esiason have been the MNF radio voices since 2002.
In the 1990s, CBS Radio purchased a controlling stake in Westwood One, which in turn had bought out both the NBC and Mutual networks. As of 2008, Westwood One was no longer controlled by CBS, but the network retained its NFL broadcast rights.
The highest-rated Monday Night Football telecast on ABC was the Miami Dolphins' victory over the previously-undefeated Chicago Bears on December 2, 1985, which drew a Nielsen rating of 29.6 and a share of 46. ABC's lowest-rated MNF game was the St. Louis Rams' defeat of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 18, 2004, which drew a 7.7 rating.
The highest-rated MNF game on ESPN, and the highest-rated program in U.S. cable television history to date, was the Dallas Cowboys' defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles on September 15, 2008, with a rating of 13.3. ESPN's lowest-rated MNF game to date was the New York Giants' defeat of the Atlanta Falcons on October 15, 2007, which drew a 5.7 rating.
ESPN's third season of Monday Night Football was the most-watched series on cable television in 2008. It set an all-time cable viewership record for the third straight year and drew the year's three biggest cable household audiences and 13 of the top 15. In three seasons on ESPN, Monday Night Football has registered seven of the top 10 all-time biggest household audiences in cable history, led by the Eagles-Cowboys telecast on 9/15/08, which attracted cable's largest household audience ever (an average of 12,953,000 million homes).
ESPN's 17 MNF telecasts in 2008 averaged a 8.9 rating, representing an average of 8,679,000 households (11,962,000 viewers),