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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Monday Night Football game exciting for Lions fans; nation may continue to yawn

Ever since NBC began its Sunday Night Football coverage some five years ago, the Olympic Network has been getting noticeably better matchups than its Monday night counterpart, ESPN. So, while it's great for Detroit fans to see their team on the national stage, the rest of the country might beg to differ.
The Lions haven't played in prime time since a Sunday Night game in 2005 vs. the Packers, which they lost, 16-13 in OT.
The Lions haven't played a Monday night contest since the program was still on ABC. They were shut out by the Rams in 2001, 35-0, at the Silverdome.
The point I make is this: Monday Night Football is still a big deal, but it doesn't get the ratings NBC gets for its sexier matchups.
The Lions' accomplishments in the grand scheme of things notwithstanding, the upstart Jim Schwartz gang is actually drawing buzz around this game with their 4-0 start.
Think people aren't making this into a bigger deal than it is? Fans were clamoring for attention.
Monday Night Football tickets sold out in less than an hour in August.
Look at the shirt I saw on the rack at Gameday Detroit, a retailer at Great Lakes Crossing. "Historic Rivalry" it says. Don't these teams play twice every season? (It is designed well, I admit.) Haven't they both been in disarray, minus a Super Bowl appearance for the Bears in 2007, for a long time?
The Bears are actually on MNF twice this season.
And speaking of Super Bowl, Lions president Tom Lewand estimates a larger crowd could fill Ford Field than did Super Bowl XL (68,206) in 2006.
ESPN did end up saddled with a Tampa Bay-Indianapolis game last week, but it was still better than the MLB playoffs on TBS, proving yet again football is king.
"So the Colts-Bucs game, which was notable mostly for a star player who wasn’t on the field (Peyton Manning), drew far more fan interest than Yankees-Tigers. This represents just one more datapoint demonstrating the NFL’s dominance over the American television landscape," wrote Pro Football Talk.
Sunday Night Football is the No. 1 program in prime time. And its ratings grow every season.
If football is king and NBC's Sunday night program earns the best ratings, does that make Monday Night Football the prince?
Wow your friends with this stat: The Lions are 11-13-1 all-time on Monday Night Football and owners of one of just three ties in the program's history.
It's cool the Lions are on Monday Night Football for the first time in eons. And Barry Sanders will be introducing them in Hank Williams' Jr.'s absence. But the game just isn't the same marquee it used to be, but their invitation is yet another sign the Lions are on the right track.
(FYI: Monday's game will be simulcast on WXYZ-7 for fans who don't have cable or satellite, or those who just prefer local commercials.)


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