ABC’s producers must be pretty worried. It seems that no gimmick they try will raise Monday Night Football’s ratings. I bet those guys are scratching their heads right now, wondering, “Isn’t Dennis Miller funny enough for these people? I mean, although anyone with a basic cable package is able to tune into HBO every Friday to see him perform, wouldn’t they rather see him make jokes about defensive formations he can barely identify?” Although I think Miller was a genius as the Weekend Update newsman on “Saturday Night Live,” I laugh the hardest on Monday nights when Miller has to ask Al ichaels questions like “Is that really a rule of football?”

Equally hilarious is the new Monday Night Football theme song performed by Jessica Simpson, which consists of more chest-shaking than actual theme music. Does ABC really think that people were watching other networks because of Hank Williams Jr.’s classic intro? The possibility that the millions of people in Texas who watched the Redskins take on the Cowboys this weekend really think Ms. Simpson’s new ditty is a huge improvement to the program is roughly equal to the possibility that Dan Fouts might actually say something interesting.

The reason I didn’t watch most of the Washington-Dallas game (I flipped back whenever the Oakland-New York game hit an advertisement), and the reason I haven’t watched many Monday night games this year stems from a complete lack of quality football. The reason for this, I think, is that ABC – which must have some control over the scheduling process – chooses which teams will be broadcast on their network based on the team’s previous season record.

For example, struggling Minnesota will make two appearances on the show this winter. Tennessee, which has been disappointing, will appear three times. Oakland, which had a great run last season but almost lost to the woeful Cowboys in Week Three, appears to be a paper tiger but will also be featured twice on Monday Night Football.

The major problem with this total lack of research is that bad teams get left on the TV schedule, while teams having breakout seasons get left off. If you want to watch the Bears, Chargers, Bengals or Browns this year, you’ll have to catch them on other networks on Sundays. Now, nobody really expected Chicago to be 3-1 at this point, especially not this fan. But did anybody really expect the Redskins to be great this season? Well, anybody besides ABC (and my apartment-mate, who predicted this summer that the ‘Skins would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl), that is. Washington was rewarded with a pair of Monday night contests, even after missing the playoffs last December.

Not all the games will be terrible, fortunately. A few games left on the schedule, such as Baltimore vs. Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay at Saint Louis, will be fun to watch. In general, however, I’m disappointed. ABC has apparently forgotten that good football, not new theme songs, makes for interesting football programming. Heck, I put up with John Madden and Pat Summerall regularly on Sundays, and I can’t stand either of them. I don’t really like Fox’s pre-game show, or their glossy logos, for that matter. If the Bears are beating the Rams in the third quarter, however, there’s no way I’ll be changing the channel, no matter how many times Madden uses the telestrator.

So here’s my advice to ABC: I don’t care how much you mess with the show. You can even let Celine Dion sing the theme song, for all I care. Just do your homework on all the NFL teams so that you can consistently bring me good football one night a week. That doesn’t seem like much to ask.

Chin Music Great Game Missed by Too Many -Oct. 12, 2001 Football Could Learn Something -Oct. 5, 2001 Picking a Playoff Winner -Sep. 28, 2001 Full Archive

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