Monday, December 04, 2006

Put On Your Sunday Best, by Sara Hatch

Years ago, ESPN conceived its brainchild Sunday Night Football to give some competition to the Monday Night network stalwart. Sunday Night Football has long been MNF’s inferior cousin, but with the regular season winding down, I’ve come to a realization: Sunday Night Football has superseded Monday Night Football as the premium prime-time game.

Sunday night is a better night for football. During the week, there are major shows to compete with, which isn’t really a factor on Sunday night. The biggest hit on Sunday night is Desperate Housewives, which I have a hard time believing pulls all that many viewers away from football. Also, the game starts earlier on Sunday. It’s not a complete and total deal-breaker to stay up often until one for the end of the game, especially if your team is playing, but it’s very hard once the week has started. Staying up on Sunday night is no picnic, but it’s still technically the weekend.

Monday Night Football has become the NFL’s spectacle. The ornate and long pregame revelry and the commercials that last forever and interrupt at every possible turn have made the game a stalled, badly paced event. (One week they actually brought the guy who sings the Monday Night Football theme up into the booth to talk during the game.) Even the announcers are of the sort that makes it harder to focus on the game over whatever they’re blasting off about that week. No offense to Tony Kornheiser, but if I want to hear your objections to every part of football, I’ll turn on Pardon the Interruption.

Sunday Night also has one feature that completely tips the scales: in weeks 10-15 and week 17, the flexible schedule will be in place, ensuring an exciting and playoff-worthy game every week. This can be seen most recently with the decision to pull the Giants/Bears game on 11/12 to the prime-time slot. This game pits two of the best teams in the NFL against each other and puts in on a national stage. Monday Night Football unfortunately is not blessed in this capacity. They are locked into their schedule. With the flexible schedule, good teams will get showcased and good games will follow. Unpredictable things will happen but the quality of football will be higher.

This season, some of the most exciting games this season have been on Sunday Night Football. The Giants-Colts game at the beginning of the season and the Pats-Colts are some examples. The Monday Night match up the same week as the Pats-Colts game was between Seattle, which is a good team, and Oakland, which is not. Further degrading the play of Seattle was the loss earlier in the season of their quarterback. Profootballtalk.com’s writers stopped writing their blog at halftime in protest. Tonight’s game between the disappointing Panthers and McNabb-less Eagles looks to be not much better.

Even in the non-flexible weeks, Sunday Night Football had interesting and competitive match-ups, while Monday Night Football will feature Oakland twice and there have already been three blowouts this season. And while the Giants and Bears fought it out to the finish, two teams with only mediocre records will played on Monday night. It’s seems that the prominent franchises always get two appearances a year while other decidedly good franchises do not. Favoritism is the name of the game in Monday Night Football.

Finally, Sunday Night Football is the only prime-time game left on one of the three major networks. Thursday Night Football is exclusively on NFL Network and Monday Night will almost certainly be on ESPN for at least a decade. In an age when cable is affordable by large swaths of the population, this does not seem as bad. But it still places one of the most popular American sports on networks that are not accessible by every viewer.

With their flexible schedule and premium placement and time, it’s clear that Sunday Night Football is the best that TV has to offer for true football fans. Are you watching?

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1 Comments:

At 12:00 PM , Blogger Kevin said...

I am watching!

Although I have to admit that I have my DVR recording Desperate Housewives (which is meh) and Brothers & Sisters in the background.

Of course the networks figured this one out a couple of years ago when they agreed to move the Sunday night game to the broadcast network and put the MNF game on ESPN.

Still, I don't know if this is a good thing for football in the long run. Part of the greatness of MNF was that it extended the weekley pagentry beyond just one day. With the decline of the MNF game I find that I just don't watch the MNF game anymore and that my NFL fix is now limited to do a one day event.

Of course, this also coincided with my move into EST. Seriously, MNF being over at midnight is a bit much for even me every week!

 

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