ESPN’s Monday Night Football kicks off September 9th when NFC East rivals Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles square off. The familiar intro music from Hank Williams Jr would ask arm-chair quarterbacks and NFL fans if they were “ready for some football?” Not any longer.
ESPN has been looking to replace Williams song since 2011 when he made inappropriate comments about President Barack Obama, essentially comparing him to Adolf Hitler.
Instead you will watch a montage of clips that may have absolutely nothing to do with football. In the clip you’ll see literally anything and everything, from Darth Vader, to Ronald Regan, to the Red Bull skydiver from outer space, to Big Bird.
The idea behind the pitch was packing 44 years of culture and football history into a 90 second introduction.
“Whether it be presidents being elected, great films, 9/11, Katrina — these are moments that we all remember culturally and somehow dealt with on Monday Night Football,” the segment’s creator Peter Berg told The Hollywood Reporter.
Berg is best known for the Friday Night Lights television show and movie, and Berg is a football fanatic who fondly remembers watching MNF as a child.
“We weren’t allowed to watch television,” he says about school nights. “But we were allowed to watch Monday Night Football. So it always had this special, secret holiday association for me.”
I get the point they’re making, that is that Monday Night Football transcends sports and is culturally significant. But really?
The opening covers the life of MNF and “moves from the first MNF game between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns on September 21, 1970 to wide receiver Calvin Johnson’s catch for the Detroit Lions that set the NFL single-season receiving record in December 2012.”
So they’ve compiled a bunch of culturally significant moments?
Aside from the previously mentioned inclusions, the opening will also reference Pac-Man, Madonna and Titanic. You know, cause nothing gets you ready to watch football like Leonardo DiCaprio screaming “I’m on top of the world” from the front of a ship as he tries to woo Kate Winslet.
It will also include John Lennon’s appearance on MNF in 1974 when he tells Howard Cosell that “it makes rock concerts look like tea parties.”
Of course since ESPN is owned by Disney you’ll get their catalog of movies referenced in the opening like Star Wars and Indiana Jones (Lucasfilm), Toy Story (Pixar) and Iron Man (Marvel). Berg wouldn’t address whether that was purely a promotional tactic or simply an easier route to take when acquiring license rights. He tried to add scenes from The Matrix but struggled to get clearance.
“There was some stuff from The Matrix we had trouble clearing,” Berg said.
The plan is to continuously work on the opening, adding and subtracting cultural moments, and ultimately generating a conversation.
“We hope this will spark debate about which cultural touchstones should be in it,” says ESPN executive producer Jed Drake.
Here is a gallery of clips from the opening.