CLEVELAND - It was a novel concept, something that had never been tried and that seemd quite risky. But those kinds of ideas were right up Roone Arledge's alley. The head of ABC sports had come up with many groundbreaking sports ideas, including coming up with ABC's Wide World of Sports and modernizing the coverage of college football, but his latest idea was his boldest yet: a weekly NFL game shown nationwide on Monday Night.
NFL Commissioner Pete Roselle signed off on the idea, and Monday Night Football was born. The premiere broadcast was on September 21, 1970, when Cleveland beat the New York Jets 31-21.
An instant hit was born. Monday Night Football shot almost immediately to the top of the TV ratings for Monday nights, rarely losing the top spot throughout the 1970s. That domination soon spread, when the broadcasts would often be the most-watched television program of the entire week.
Monday Night Football lasted on ABC until the 2005 season, surviving problems such as tape-delayed broadcasts on the west coast to substandard matchups late in the season because of the static schedule. Some of the most iconic moments in NFL history became famous in large part to their happening on Monday night. The growth of Monday Night Football had a lot to do with the growth of the NFL's popularity.
ABC doesn't televise Monday Night Football anymore, with ESPN now taking over the broadcast. Because of that, NBC's Sunday Night broadcast is now considered the Game of the Week in the NFL. But the NFL, and all the networks that televise it, owe much of their success to the popularity of Monday Night Football.
September 21, 1955: BRONX, N.Y. - Archie Moore knocked down Rocky Marciano in the second round of their heavyweight championship fight that night in the Bronx. That was news enough, as it was only the second time the great Marciano had been knocked down in his career. One of the greatest fighters of all time, Marciano was defending his heavyweight title for the sixth time, and he showed the form that had made him unbeatable. He got up from his rare knockdown and pummeled Moore, knocking him out in the ninth round to retain the title. It was his last career fight. Retiring the next year with a record of 49-0, Marciano remains the only man to retire as the undefeated heavyweight champion.