Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Monday Night Football Moves to ESPN, or Why I’ll Have More Time This Fall

Where I live, Basic Cable is not a given. Not for me, anyway. I ain’t no kind of Fortunate Son, I guess. Purchasing a cable package that includes the basics – we’re not talking any kind of fancy-schmancy “premiere” channels HBO or Starz or Digital Whozeewhatsits here – costs in the neighborhood of $60 a month.

That’s $720 a year for mostly crappy stations.

Now, my family pays $14 a month for what I guess would be considered low-budget basic. We get the local channels, and we still get a decent smattering of cable stations such as Bravo, FX, HGTV, and USA. This deal, however, isn’t even advertised by the cable company: I had to practically pry it out of them.

Because I basically can’t afford stations such as ESPN and TNT, what really suffers is the part of me that used to be a sports fan, the part of me that is dying a slow death, year after year. As a native New Yorker transplanted to LA, I rely on catching the odd Knicks, Yankees, and especially my beloved New York Giants game on broadcast television to fix my sports jones and reconnect with my childhood, my home town, and my formative years looking up to sports greats such as Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor, and Don Mattingly.

The announcement that Monday Night Football – an institution among sports media institutions – is moving from ABC to ESPN will likely close the door on my interest in professional football forever more.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Monday Night Football," the second-longest-running program on prime-time broadcast television, will leave ABC for ESPN at the start of the 2006 season in an eight-year deal worth a reported $1.1 billion a year.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You want to get all Reservoir Dogs on me: suck it up and cough up a few bucks for Basic Cable, you cheap bastard. I just can’t do that. It’s more than the money. I just can’t see paying that kind of cheddar for entertainment that I used to enjoy for free on network television. And, to be honest, it is about the money as well. If that makes me a cheap bastard, so be it.

The 2005 season will mark Monday Night Football's 36th and final season on ABC, which began the Monday night franchise in 1970. Only the 37 seasons that "60 Minutes" has been on CBS tops the football showcase's run.

Talk about the end of eras. There’s been a lot of them lately.

I hope this news doesn’t mark the final descent of Big Time Sports into a money-mad maelstrom.

In any case, I’m not sticking around to find out.


The Sore Loser said...

I wonder if this is the beginning of the end for sports on the basic channels. If MNF is fleeing to cable, what's to stop all football from doing the same? Could you imagine the Superbowl moving to ESPN? It may happen.

Eric Berlin said...

That's certainly the trend. There were a pitiful number of pro basketball games on national television this year, and perhaps only the finals will be on ABC?

I think the Super Bowl on ESPN and the NBA finals on TNT are the future of sports media. It's not the end of the world, but like I said, this trend has helped to significantly reduce my enthusiasm for pro sports.

Matt said...

EB--you gotta let this notion that you can't pay for TV go. My Comast Cable Bill is, get ready, $130/month (including $40 for high speed internet). Once you publish that novel, $60 will be nothing. Don't avoid it for the 'principle'. You need your ESPN. How are you surviving now without it?

Eric Berlin said...

$130! Damn, that's a lot. I think I'll choose not to pay that... and not get over it, thanks.

As soon as I become a huge successful published novelist, all of these notions of the value of things will become meaningless of course. To me, anyway.