The Detroit Lions will play on Monday Night Football for the first time tonight since 2001, which will end the longest drought of any team to have played on the big stage. It shouldn’t have taken this long and I believe no team should go more than two years without being showcased to a national audience on either Sunday or Monday night.
East coast bias is a very real thing and ESPN along with NBC does nothing to dispute that. During the season, how many times do we have to watch the Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers play? There are other stars in the leagues and they need to be promoted.
Dating back to 2006, when ESPN bought the rights to Monday Night Football, 24 teams out of the NFL’s 32 on average have appeared on Monday night each season. Some appear more than others, like Dallas, New England and a league-high 11 times for New Orleans while others such as Detroit, Kansas City and Buffalo have been limited to no more than three appearances.
Schedules are produced before the season begins and usually national television appearances are based on past seasons and histories between various teams. It makes sense that winning organizations will get highlighted, but that doesn’t mean no one wants to watch the bottom feeders.
Case and point, last Monday when the Detroit Tigers were facing the New York Yankees in game three of the divisional playoffs, they were going head to head with a football game between a winless and Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts and the unproven Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were making just their third appearance on Monday night since ‘06.
A playoff baseball game featuring the top two pitchers in the league in Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia received four million less viewers than a week four regular season game in the NFL.
If you think ESPN has a bias, then a whole new word has to be created for NBC. Compared to the 24 teams on average that play on Monday night, NBC doesn’t even average 16 different teams a season and that’s less than half the league. Buffalo, Detroit, Houston and St. Louis have never even been scheduled to appear on NBC.
If you’re thinking to yourself that St. Louis played on NBC last year against Seattle in the final game of the regular season, you would be correct. However, that game wasn’t originally scheduled and that’s the one thing for which I’ll gives kudos to NBC. Weeks 11 through 17 are tentatively scheduled so if a more intriguing matchup arises, NBC will make the switch.
But the fact that since 2006, a team from the NFC East division (Dallas, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington) has been scheduled to appear on NBC 51 times compared to the NFC West (Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis) scheduled for nine is a shame.
Football is the most popular sport by far in this country and Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions is tucked away with a team that prior to this year got no love except on Thanksgiving Day.
Did you even know that last week Johnson, the one they call Megatron, tied the NFL record with four straight games of catching at least two touchdowns?
A famous quote from the movie “Field of Dreams” states, "If you build it, they will come."
The same rule applies to the NFL: if you schedule it, they will watch.