Monday Night Football is special.
There’s a different feeling in the air; an excitement well beyond what’s felt during day games.
It’s something born on national television more than 40 years ago that we’ve grown up with and followed, for most of us, our entire lives.
And when Monday Night Football came to our town, it was a happening. It was more than a game.
The announcers became icons, starting with Howard Cosell, who achieved rock-star status. He teamed with Frank Gifford and Don Meredith and fans lined up to simply catch a glimpse of the trio.
However, no matter the network that brought the experience to us, whether it was ABC or ESPN, or the who’s who of announcers that called the games – from Al Michaels and John Madden, Dennis Miller, O.J. Simpson (yes he did), and our own Dan Fouts, to the current tandem of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden – it was always the game that created the memories. It’s the one game that everyone around the country is watching.
These night games seem to stay in my memory longer than others. The first Monday Night Football game I attended was the season finale in 1979. Chargers – Broncos … final game of the season … winner takes the division. Wide receiver Charlie Joiner, now the Chargers receivers coach, was twice taken to the locker room for repairs only to come back in the fourth quarter to catch the title-clinching touchdown pass from Fouts and give the Chargers a 17-7 victory and their first postseason appearance since 1965. I still remember then-team owner Gene Klein, arm around Joiner on the field, giving the fans a chance to salute one of their favorites.
That season finale in ’79 was the first of three consecutive years in which the Chargers closed out the NFL season in the last Monday Night Football matchup. San Diego each game with the AFC Western Division title on the line and each time came out on top. The Chargers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers at home in the final game of the 1980 NFL season, 26-17, and they found themselves once again at home on Monday Night Football in the 1981 season finale and beat the Raiders, 23-10.
Those were memorable nights in San Diego, each of the three wins catapulting the team to the playoffs.
Monday Night Football was in its heyday at that time, and the Chargers were the NFL’s most exciting team. San Diego was featured in the Monday night matchup nine times from 1979-83. As the team went, so did its appearances on the Monday night stage. San Diego struggled in the late 1990s and early 2000s and during that time, the Chargers went nearly seven full seasons without a game on Monday Night Football.
Most recently the NFL has scheduled Monday Night Football double-headers on the opening weekend and the Chargers have been regular participants. During the past seven season (2006-12), San Diego has opened the season four times in the second game of the national double-header: three times in Oakland (2006, ‘09 and ’12) and once in Kansas City (2010).
Did you notice none of those double-header matchups were in San Diego? What’s with that?
The NFL and its current MNF partner, ESPN, makes sure the matchups are optimum and the broadcast is special, both for those sitting at home and those in the stadium that night.
Could this be one of those memorable Monday nights? The Chargers – with a chance to take a two-game lead in the AFC West while still searching for their identity – taking on their nemesis and the defending-champion, the Denver Broncos, led by one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game.
If you’re lucky enough to be inside Qualcomm Stadium Monday night, this could be the night your Monday Night Football memories are made.