Little Bits of History

Monday Night Changes

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 21, 2011

Howard CosellSeptember 21, 1970: The Cleveland Browns beat the New York Jets 31-20 when Monday Night Football (MNF) premieres on ABC. The show would continue with ABC through the 2005 season, broadcasting 555 games during the 36 year run. For the 2006 season, MNF moved to ESPN and continues to air games weekly during the NFL season. Both ABC and ESPN are owned by the Walt Disney Company.

Pete Rozell, the NFL Commissioner in the 1960s, envisioned a weekly game played during prime time to capture larger audiences. In 1964, a proposal for a Friday night game was soundly denied as it would interfere with the high school football schedule. On September 28, 1964 the first Monday game was played at Detroit when the Tigers hosted the Green Bay Packers to a stadium packed with 59,203 fans – the only ones to see the game as it was not televised. Both CBS and NBC aired a couple games during four seasons in the late 1960s.

The contract for the weekly game went to ABC. Keith Jackson, a veteran play-by-play announcer; Howard Cosell, a controversial New York sports commentator; and Don Meredith, a retired Dallas Cowboy quarterback co-hosted the show the first season. Cosell disapproved of ex-jocks in the booth and his ongoing feud with “Dandy” Don sparked viewer interest. There have been different announcers over the years, each adding their own personal touch to the show along with color commentators and sideline reporters. Dennis Miller’s highbrow humor went over the heads of many viewers and the show put up a webpage to explain his jokes.

The first points ever scored on MNF came when Gary Collins of the Browns completed an 8-yard pass from Bill Nelson. The 20,000th point came on November 5, 2001 on a 39 yard field goal by Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos. The highest rated game in the show’s history was the 1985 clash between The Bears and The Dolphins. The highest scoring game with 95 points on the board was during the 1983 Packers and Redskins game with Green Bay taking the win at 48-47.

“Great teams have great character. These are teams that are not distraught that they’re down at halftime.” – Keith Jackson

“Sports is the toy department of human life.” – Howard Cosell

“It worked out all right. It really did. I give (Cosell) a lot of credit for setting a certain tone. He made my job so much easier.” – Don Meredith

“As Don Meredith used to say, turn out the lights, the party’s over.” – Nick Hunter

Also on this day:
Yes, Virginia – In 1897, Virginia finds out there is a Santa Clause.
Got Milk? – In 1995, the Miracle of the Milk began in India.

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