The date September 21, 1970 may or may not mean something to you. You’ve earned my sincere respect if you knew this was the date of the first NFL Monday Night Football broadcast.
The mid-September clash featured the Cleveland Browns vs. the New York Jets. For this game, Cleveland Municipal Stadium welcomed nearly 86,000 fans to see a showdown between the Jets’ media darling quarterback Joe Namath and Browns’ powerhouse running back Leroy Kelly. The Brown’s prevailed knocking off the Jets by a score of 31-21.
A pair of aging championship teams from the 1960s grabbed enough attention to impress the ABC Network. Strong ratings and a creative blending of broadcaster’s personalities helped the Monday night experiment turn into a tradition with a life of its own.
Fast forward to 2018 when the Cleveland Browns hosted the New York Jets in a prime-time Thursday night game. A troubled franchise coming off of an 0-16 season playing against a Jets team who were poised to embarrass the Browns in front of a national audience. We all know that game was a huge turning point for the Browns who took down the Jets 21-17, winning their first game in over 600 days.
This season, the Browns and the Jets will meet up in a Monday Night game hosted by the Jets. The Browns are coming into the game as a slight favorite as the Jets are playing without Sam Darnold, their 2018 number one pick.
The battle of QB ones imagined when the NFL schedule appeared won’t come to pass, but this game could still turn into an interesting contest. Plenty of chatter went on around Cleveland regarding Jet’s defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams ordering hits on players. Just a year ago, Williams was dialing in hits from Cleveland’s sideline as the defensive coordinator and eventually as the Browns’ interim head coach. I can’t speak on Williams’ intentions. However, I know the man runs a tight ship and would have likely popped blood vessels if his defense played like Cleveland’s D in the season opener.
It has been a tough week for the Cleveland Browns, personal loss paired with a few injuries can strain the best teams. Cleveland should avoid any air of overconfidence as they come off of last week’s atrocious series of penalties often interrupted by a football game. As a Browns’ fan, I am hoping discipline was a frequently discussed topic this past week. In fact, I am counting on it.
Now it is almost showtime and last week is long gone (much like the weak bandwagon fans who fell off when the Browns lost to the Tennessee Titans.) Nearly four decades after their first Monday Night Football meeting, the Browns and the Jets will come full circle.
The initial broadcast team of Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson, and “Dandy” Don Meredith remain icons in the eyes of many. Monday Night Football brought a new level of must-see television to America, and the game of football owes it a debt.
Of course, the game and the broadcast have changed considerably over the years. I will spend the rest of my life happily not missing the nasal droning of commentator, Howard Cosell, or those god-forsaken goldenrod jackets the broadcast team wore. No matter how much time passes or how many announce teams call the games, the collective imaginations of NFL fans everywhere bear the indelible imprint of Monday Night Football. So, are you ready for some football?