45 years later, Monday Night Football still sets the stage

Mike Tirico said that very few things last for 46 years, but Monday Night Football has.

The program began uniting the country on Monday nights on Sept. 21, 1970, in the era of Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and Don Meredith.

Since then, the media landscape shifted graphically.

Instead of three main networks, there are hundreds of channels and no longer is Monday Night Football the sole prime time football program. With nearly a half-century of iconic voices, plays and match-ups, producer Jay Rothman said the stage that Monday Night Football sets still continues to be a uniting influence.

“The brand, the history, the cultural phenomenon and the appointment viewing that it’s been for so long, the NFL is so popular and it’s the last game of the week,” Rothman said. “The stage means so much to the coaches and players who play on it.”

Tirico said although the program has shifted with the times — most recently by unveiling new graphics, instating the Pylon Camera and a new show opening Monday — the crew’s goal is to never forget their influential beginnings.

“It’s almost a half-century from where this started and trying to chase the days of old will make you old and irrelevant quickly,” Tirico said. “But that doesn’t mean the spirit of the show and keeping it going is not something that fuels us. I think that there is a huge mountain of history to stand on with 45 years is never lost on any of us.”

As the crew prepared for their first season match-up between the Eagles and the Falcons, Jon Gruden, the indisputable coach of the Monday Night Football crew, said the program was an icon in his life long before he joined the team in 2009.

Like many Americans, those iconic bars of the opening music bring Gruden back to childhood.

“When I was a kid, I would wait for (Monday Night Football) to come on and beg my mom and dad to let me stay up and watch the third quarter,” Gruden said. “They’d make me go to bed and I’d sneak down the steps to watch it. I wanted to see Dandy Don sing too. I wanted to see Frank and Howard go at it a little bit.”

Gruden said now as a member of the Monday Night Football cast, he honors the legacy of the program built by the “greatest broadcasters of all time” before him.

“We don’t get caught up in what the record are of the two teams,” Gruden said. “We get caught up in Monday Night Football.”