It was at an ABC affiliates' meeting in 1989, in a ballroom at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, that a tape was rolled in front of some 500 television station executives. Its purpose was to get the assembled group stirred about a football season that was still some three months away.
These meetings always feature preview looks at a network's upcoming fall lineup and are designed to get the affiliate body enthused about the to-debut-in-September products. I've been to dozens of these dog-and-pony fests. Most of the presentations involving the upcoming dramas and comedies and made-for-TV movies are usually met with responses that range from polite applause to utter boredom. Then there was this one.
It was a six or seven minute clip that featured highlights from the prior Monday Night Football season. But what set off the most incredible scene I've ever witnessed at one of these affairs was the way the tape opened. There, from the world of country music, stood Hank Williams to ask, "Are you ready for some football?" That's how Hank's now-iconic ditty was born. The place went wild.
This was in June. If that affiliate body could have opened up the season that night, they would have scrapped every other show on their schedules. And over the last 22 years, the answer to Hank's question, across the length and breadth of the United States and into every hamlet, mountain ranger station and goat farm, has been a resounding "YES!!"
I love baseball -- built the early part of my career around it -- but there can't be a sliver of doubt in anyone's mind that football, particularly NFL football, trumps all. The television ratings are spectacular. Sunday Night Football was the No. 1 ranked show in all of television last season. Super Bowl Sunday might as well be declared a national holiday.