Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Night Switchoff

For years and years, the ESPN evening telecasts of football -- whether it was the 3-man Joe Theismann / Paul Maguire Sunday night weaving chucklefest that still makes surviving viewers twitch, or the current Monday night QB strokedown talkathon from Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden -- has made decent football fans want to smash their television sets with a hammer.

And today, I give you a message of hope.

The NFL's regular season ratings was down 2.1% for the year. In a year of pinball offense, in a year where Jesus started fixing football games so that only the good and virtuous people of Denver, CO would be Raptured, in a year where everyone played fantasy football and had a QB throw for 5K yards.

And the numbers by network were far more telling. Fox was down 0.1% for the year, which meant they were pretty much a rounding error away from absolutely normal. NBC's SNF game was down 1.4%, probably because everyone under 50 turned it off once Old Man Costas told those kids to stay off his lawn. (I keed, I keed. They had some blowouts, and couldn't flex away from the free-falling Manningless Colts fast enough.) CBS slipped by 1.5%, mostly because the Jets stunk and the AFC markets are smaller than the NFC's, so when Noo Yawk Fan tunes out, they take it in the neck. And the World Wide Lemur? Dropped 9.6%. (NFLN, the fifth and smallest telecaster, was up 10.8%, which meant that 21 more people got the channel this year. You go, NFLN!)

Now, I'm being naive in thinking that the down numbers were entirely related to the broadcast crew. The abysmal schedule and all-year non-flexed nature of the MNF games (Rams! Seahawks! For Nothing!) is much more telling, and the second half of the season (not one but two Jacksonville games, multiple NFC West matchups, and ratings-crushing blowouts by the Packers, Patriots and Saints) was especially must-skip TV. Hell, maybe that many rednecks got offended by the idea that Hank Williams Jr wasn't going to sing to them before the game. Or that some percentage of the audience took the whole year off to protest the lockout.

But if this somehow leads to anyone -- Gruden! Jaworski! Scott! Dilfer! Berman! BERMAN! ***BERMAN!*** -- at the Lemur getting canned, or cut back because 9.6% less ad revenue has to come from somewhere... or gives them the small but telling message that they are not adorable sports-loving scamps that the audience will indulge, no matter how navel-gazing they become?

Yes, yes, a million times, yes. Let's finally get something out of austere times, people.

And proof, not that you needed it, that you always have a reason to turn off the game. Especially when it's on ESPN.

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