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Volume 3, Number 11
November, 1998

Fun & Games
For What are We Being Punished?

By Dean Shutt

Well, it's that time of the month again. The time when I plunk myself down in front of the keyboard and attempt to give you my perspective on the world of sports. As you can probably tell from the intro to this piece, there are certain months when my heart really isn't in it. So I pad my column with useless introductory paragraphs that don't do anyone any good, but do get me to that magical 800 word barrier.

Well surprise, this isn't one of those months. I just threw that intro at you to lead you astray, call it a perk. No, this month I have a bunch of topics to choose from, the sports world is like that sometimes. I could choose from a host of subjects, from my beloved Colts getting jobbed in San Francisco (You know God hates your team when the NFL announces that the officials blew calls worth a minimum of 14 points in a three point game), to the extended idiocy of the NBA lockout (has anyone noticed?), to the pain of watching the Yankees win yet another World Title (yeah I know, they're scrappy, they're hard workers, I hate them anyway), to the futility of my New York Rangers and the Senior Citizen's plan that they call a team (Thank God for Wayne Gretzky), to the imminent departure of Mo Vaughn from the Boston Red Sox (which will result in my foot up Dan Duquette's ass, by the way). You see, I have several columns just sitting there waiting to be written. I tell you sometimes it's just too easy.

Which is why I am not taking on any of those topics this month. It's my job to take on the big subjects, the problems of national import that go beyond my own selfish needs (OK, I haven't actually done that yet, but I am aware of it). That's why this month I am going to speak on a cancer that is eating away at the very fabric of American life. A threat to the very society that millions have died to build. You guessed it, I am going to talk about the destruction of Monday Night Football as we know it.

Now I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that I'm going to let those boneheads in the booth have it. And while I have yet to see in all my years of football watching a pair of more incompetent color men than Boomer and Dan, that isn't the problem (little trick I learned, turn down the sound and turn on the radio, Howard David and Matt Millen do a fine job). Failing that, you think that I am going to attack the overproduced abortion that MNF has become since the ABC/ESPN marriage a few years back. Wrong again, I just throw stuff at the screen, it does no good but it is therapeutic.

No folks I'm talking a shift in the MNF paradigm that can't be corrected by sophomoric fixes. I am talking about the brilliant plan of moving MNF forward one hour to 5PM Pacific time. Now I realize what all you folks on the East coast are saying, that the earlier time means you get finally watch the entire game and still be in bed by 1AM. Well I grew up on the East coast and you know what? Screw you, if you were truly dedicated you wouldn't care how late the games ran, you'd call in sick the next morning like a real man. So don't whine at me about your beauty sleep, I don't want to hear it.

"But what about the children?" you cry. "They can't stay up late to catch the whole game," you whimper. Again, I grew up back east and I found a way to catch the whole game if it was worth it. My dear father knew the importance of football in a youngster's life and if the game was worth watching (which happens what, once or twice a season?) he made sure that an exception was made to the bedtime rule so I could see it. If you are that concerned about your kid seeing the whole game, let him stay up and call in sick to school the next day like a real man, you're a parent now, you can do that.

The fact is, the only problems with the later start times were failures of will amongst the East coast fans. They didn't want to stay up late, so now the rest of us are screwed. The problems with the early start time are logistic in nature. Put simply, we can't get to a TV by 5 o'clock on the West coast. Have you people ever heard of traffic? Work? Female bosses?

When the games started at six life was simple. I bailed out of work by 5 (which is already early), hopped in my car and was able to make it to our favorite watering hole by six. There, my friends and I would relax, bask in the glow of the last bit of football we were going to get for six days and generally be guys. Sure the games usually sucked (that is a whole other topic by the way), but that was OK, we talked, we ate fried foods, we drank, we found the glory of God in the simple things, like Dierdorff shutting up for five entire seconds. In short, it was much needed rock of stability in our hectic lives.

Now though, with the infernal 5 o'clock start time, it is impossible to make it for the kickoff. Which frankly, is usually the high point of a Monday Night game. By the time we get to a TV the game is usually a blowout or a snoozer. Knowing that. It isn't really worth the effort to get to our favorite bar. What's the point of leaving work early to miss the first half? Even committed souls such as ourselves can't justify all that effort for a game we know to be a piece of crap. The unspoken contract between the fans and the NFL is that the game will be worth watching. Sure that contract is broken week in and week out. But as fans we are able to overlook that up until the kickoff. Then the illusion is usually shattered and we sit through a crappy game. If however we can't make the kickoff and the game starts without us, we find out that the promise for a decent game has been broken once again and we bail.

So now we all work until we are finished for the day. We maybe catch the first half on the radio while we sit in traffic. Then we go home and if it is an exceptional game we catch the second half while making dinner. More often than not the second half is a pointless exercise in listening to Dierdorff and Esiason babble about irrelevancies so we skip it all together. We don't gather together like we used to, Monday is no longer special, it's just the first day of a long week that gets longer every year.

For reasons that no one understands, ABC has forsaken the left half of the country and in doing so has killed a little part of the NFL for all of us. And let's face it, the NFL really can't afford that. With crummy matchups, overpaid showboats and mystifyingly bad refereeing, the NFL has killed enough of itself already.

Dean's House of Pain

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