Thursday, December 29, 2005

Football, Food, Farewell

ABC's 'Monday Night Football' came to an end this week, going out with a whimper instead of a bang (the Pats pounded the Jets and I escaped before Vinny Testaverde and Doug Flutie took the field).

But that's how it's been with MNF for the last few seasons. Wretched games that looked good on paper in August, the occasional memorable finish (like the Redskins pulling a victory out of their ass against the Cowboys earlier this season which might be the difference between one going to the playoffs and the other team sitting home), and more than a little bit of unintentional comedy thanks to the hiring of people like Lisa Guerrero, Eric Dickerson, and those horrible halftime comedy bits (their attempt at pulling 'Punk'd'-esque stunts was particularly painful) and musical interludes.

But for me, and a generation that grew up in the 70s, MNF used to mean something. I was allowed to stay up late two nights each week... on Saturday for the first half of 'Saturday Night Live' and for as long as I could stay awake on Monday to watch MNF with my Dad.

In the days before cable television, 24-hour news channels and the internet, Howard Cosell's halftime highlights were truly Must See TV. You'd see clips of players you'd never see anywhere else and your team making Howard's highlights was like some kind of papal blessing.

To me, though, it was the one sport, the one activity that my father and I could really connect on. He loved baseball, I loved basketball and tennis. He listened to Mitch Miller and watched Lawrence Welk, I blasted the Ramones and taped 'The Cutting Edge' hosted by Peter Zaremba. Seeing eye-to-eye on things was not common but even during the most tense years in our household we called a truce to watch MNF.

Years later, when I was out on my own, I turned the game into my own reason for snacking. Whole grocery trips were planned around the Monday Night Football Snack Tray. Cheese, crackers and pepperoni? Nachos with refried beans and salsa? If I was feeling adventurous maybe some Savory Chicken Bites.

Oddly enough, I never started the snack express once this season got under way. It started bad with the Eagles losing to the Atlanta Falcons on opening night (and McNabb suffering a blow to the chest that would affect the whole season) and the games got worse and worse, bottoming out with the Birds losing 113-0 to the overrated Seattle Seahawks (a team that has beefed up its record thanks to one of the worst divisions and softest schedules in recent history).

There were plenty of articles these past few weeks bemoaning the loss of MNF but what are we really losing? The game is shifting to ESPN next season and that's hardly like it's moving to cable access or Outdoor Life Network. Tens of millions of households have ESPN. My mother has ESPN. This is not a life-altering change, though the addition of nitwit Joe Theisman to the booth is a different story altogether. Personally, I think it's like a reality show and the suits at ABC are just trying to see which partner will make the great Al Michaels finally crack.

Anyway, MNF is gone (sorta) and I've lost my snack mojo. At least we still have the playoffs.

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