Almost anyone that has grown up with Monday Night Football will tell you that there's a level of unexpected excitement that hits your being upon hearing the triumphant theme music and seeing the next level TV graphics superimposed over some 3rd down and long play. No one in their right mind would simply call MNF a sports series, because it's not. It's a cultural institution.
As the storied franchise kicks off its 43rd season, we take a look back at a "simpler" time in MNF's history, back before cable, back when it was on regular ol' ABC. Don't get us wrong, the show has always been cutting edge, whether it was bringing on special guests like John Lennon during the telecast, or utilizing slo-mo technology, or just providing endless entertainment through (usually) drunken banter — or even racism. Back to the days of Frank Gifford, Don Meredith and Howard Cossell pontificating like there was no tomorrow and waiting for that moment when it was time "To turn off the lights, the party's over." Well, this party is just gettin' started as we travel in time to relive some of that televised good-time NFL action of yesteryear.
Monday Night Football Promo (1970)
Announcing not only the start of MNF but the merger of the AFL and NFL, this damn near psychedelic commercial is a real trip, more Twilight Zone than end zone, sorta reminiscent of those groovy, late '60s paperback covers of works like The Naked Ape that you could buy used on the streets of the East Village.
(Props to MattTheSaiyan for the upload)
Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Oilers Monday Night Football Promo (1972)
Not sure if this from a legit broadcast from an ABC affiliate, but hoping that it is since the whisper-y male Baba Wawa voiceover is not off sides but off the chain.
(Props to obsgia for the upload)
Monday Night Football Intro (1973)
Ranking up there with the ultra funky TV themes from shows like S.W.A.T. and Barney Miller, "Score" by Bob's Band still sounds thrilling all these years later, something lifted straight out of a beat digger's dusty crates. Extra point scored for the Andy Sidaris director's credit, the man who brought the horny youths of the '80s the late night Skinemax attractions like Malibu Express and ExpressHard Ticket to Hawaii.
(Props to MNFclassic for the upload)
Monday Night Football Intro for Bills-Giants Game (1975)
Added animated dad on the couch reminds us of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home episodes. The MNF logo seemingly made of out of prehistoric rock screams Sid & Marty Krofft's Land of the Lost.
(Props to thejamootz for the upload)
Monday Night Football Intro for Pro Bowl (1978)
Damn, do you remember how much Uncle Howie was hated on? Nowadays, hard-hitting sportscasters and journalists are a rare breed with the trend overwhelmingly shifted to gossipy soft news types.
(Props to by tvradiodude for the upload)
Monday Night Football Intro for Houston Oilers vs. Miami Dolphins Game (1979)
Yeah, the sound is crap on this clip, but the energetic vibe can't be denied as this opening feels like it's Mission:Impossible influenced. Gotta love the cut-out football highlights and the gaudy chyrons for advertisers like Buick and Löwenbräu.
(Props to 09rockmusic for the upload)
Monday Night Football Intro for Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks (1980)
Jim Plunkett to Cliff Branch... Raider Nation stand up! Jim Zorn to Steve Largent was a totally legit combo, too (obviously), but this is an old school Raider fan writing this. And for this fan, the "Heavy Action" theme music is the best of them all. (Don't miss the glimpse at the no-longer-there Kingdome.)
(Props to Jean0987654321 for the upload)
Monday Night Football Intro for Patriots vs. Dolphins Game (1987)
Week 16 match up (final game of the 1987 regular season) between two teams out of the playoffs and — oh, look, Helmetcam! On board with the Gifford is the reliable Al Michaels and, in one of his better moments, Dan Dierdorf tells you the type of player he don't like.
(Props to unicronrocks for the upload)
Monday Night Football Intro (1988)
Even in '88 a pinball themed show opener seemed dated. Madden video game enthusiasts don't know how good they got it.
(Props to starjerseys2009 for the upload)
Monday Night Football Intro for Steelers vs Chiefs Game (1996)
Big up Marcus Allen. (Pittsburgh won 17-7, tho.)
(Props to SpeckCommunications for the upload)