Is It September 9th Yet? I’m Ready for Peter Berg’s Monday Night Football
“On Sept. 9, as the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to take on the Washington Redskins in the first Monday Night Football game of the NFL season, ESPN viewers won’t be asked whether they are ready for some football. Instead, they’ll be treated to a montage of Darth Vader, Ronald Reagan and the daredevil who jumped from outer space in 2012. The creator of the new MNF opening segment is Peter Berg, the filmmaker and football fanatic best known for the Friday Night Lights film and TV series. Berg won the job after pitching the network on the idea of packing 44 years of culture and football history into a 90-second curtain-raiser for the weekly game. “Whether it be presidents being elected, great films, 9/11, Katrina — these are moments that we all remember culturally and somehow dealt with on Monday Night Football,” Berg tells THR. The new opening, which has been in the works for nine months, references Pac-Man, Bruce Springsteen and Titanic, among other major cultural forces. ESPN execs have been looking for a permanent opening since dropping Hank Williams Jr.‘s classic “Are You Ready for Some Football” intro in 2011 after the singer analogized President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. ESPN executive producer Jed Drake says at the end of last season, the network quietly put out requests for proposals to creative firms before Berg offered the timeline concept. Berg was hired and worked with Los Angeles-based design firm Ignition Creative on the opening, which moves from the first MNF game between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns on September 21, 1970 to wide receiver Calvin Johnson’s catch for the Detroit Lions that set the NFL single-season receiving record in December 2012. Along the way, MNF’s familiar “Heavy Action” theme music plays, and classic game moments are dispersed with cultural ones. Of course, making the cut was John Lennon‘s appearance on MNF in 1974 where he tells Howard Cosell about the experience, “It makes rock concerts look like tea parties.” The plan is to regularly tweak the opening, adding and subtracting historical moments. “We hope this will spark debate about which cultural touchstones should be in it,” says Drake. One aspect of the montage that could generate chatter is the Disney quotient. ESPN’s parent company is represented by Star Wars and Indiana Jones (Lucasfilm), Toy Story (Pixar) and Iron Man (Marvel). Are the inclusions a sly promotional tactic, or was it just easier to license rights from a sister company? Berg says it helped “for sure” to have the Disney archive at his disposal, adding that not all studios were enthusiastic about helping promote football on a Disney network. He notes, “There was some stuff from The Matrix we had trouble clearing.” For Berg, the chance to work on the MNF opening brought back fond memories of watching the games with his father during his childhood. “We weren’t allowed to watch television,” he says about school nights. “But we were allowed to watch Monday Night Football. So it always had this special, secret holiday association for me.” – Hollywood Reporter
It’s about god damn time. It only took ESPN 50 years to get a country bumpkin racist out of their MNF montage and put it in the hands of a legitimate filmmaker. “Are You Ready For Some Football” was one of the dumbest opening themes for any show ever. Obviously I’m ready for football Hank. Why else would I be watching the damn channel. Now the theme is in the hands of Peter Berg, the creator of Friday Night Lights, and the director of one of my favorite 30 for 30 films, A Kings Ransom. He’s one of the more underrated minds in Hollywood, and judging by this interview, his creative juices seem to be in overdrive. If you think Monday Night Football is only about football then your clearly missing the bigger picture. Over the years, it has become as big a part of pop culture as any show on TV. Logically speaking, it’s impossible for any show that’s been on for over 50 years, sports or not, to not influence society, . While we’re going to have to wait until September 9th to see the entire opening montage, Berg did drop us some hints. “Heavy Action” will be the background music, and the pictures featured in the opening will parallel pop culture and Monday Night Football throughout the years (photos included above). If this doesn’t get you ready for football, then I don’t know what will.
P.S. If that Darth Vader/Terry Bradshaw two face picture isn’t the background of your computer by the end of the day then I know everything I need to know about you as a person.