With the Rams flying to New York City early Sunday morning in preparation for the Giants on Monday night, a small percentage of the 53-man roster have not had the honor to participate on the Monday night stage. The world is watching. The other 30 NFL teams are watching; it is lights, camera, action! Celebrities crash the host cities, too. As a former NFL executive I had the pleasure of being a part of six Monday Night Football games, and now as the Rams’ sideline reporter, this makes seven. It will be a much different experience. For me, the excitement and the electricity is only eclipsed by the Super Bowl.
The only negative is that you have all day to sit around and ponder the “what if” scenarios. I work to stay busy watching college tape, typing reports and get a good workout in to release the stress. On the other hand, coaches work hard to keep their players grounded during the day. They schedule several meetings and group sessions, but also allow them to have several hours of down time, too.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo talked about the late start and his process for the players.
“It’s a long day. It’s a long day and you do two things,” he said. “You try to get them up and off their feet a little bit, but doesn’t wear them out. You need to relax, don’t play the game before the game, because that can happen. Guys get all geeked up and they’re playing a game at 4 o’clock. But that’s probably the biggest thing. One thing that helps is it’s early in the season. We’ve had four night preseason games so that’s probably a blessing in disguise.”
As the game, statistics, rules and regulations all remain the same, the buzz and excitement in the city in which Monday Night Football is played is exhilarating. The fans leave work early to tailgate and are juiced up as they stumble into the stadium to cheer on their team.
For me, Monday Night Football meant a lot as a kid and until this day I look forward to the NFL marquee event. I remember sitting around with my father and other family members (uncles and brother) when MNF aired on ABC back in the 70s, which changed in 2005 when it switched to ESPN. Today MNF is viewed in several countries: United Kingdom, Portugal, Australia, Denmark as well as ESPN Deportes along with ESPN International in Latin America.
Monday Night Football has had several outstanding play-by-play announcers that made it extremely memorable: Frank Gifford, Al Michaels along with some key color commentators such as Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, Alex Karras, Dan Dierdorf and Joe Theismann.
My two favorites were Cosell and coach John Madden, while comedian Dennis Miller was a giant bust. He brought some funny moments, but he is better on stage. When Dandy Don Meredith would sing “Turn out the lights the party’s over,” it was truly a classic moment on MNF, and it let us know that the game was over. That is something today’s new wave NFL fans truly missed.
When Hank Williams Jr.’s band plays “Are you ready for some football, a Monday night party,” fans at home run for the couch with popcorn and their favorite beverages in hand while folks tailgating stop eating the brisket, burgers and brats and move quickly to their assigned seats to take part in the biggest party, which just happens to be on a Monday night. The players involved snap on their chin straps, put the last pieces of tape on their wrist and get ready for battle, because on the field there will be much more than a party.