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FROM THIS EPISODE

Good-bye to Monday Night Football

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

It was a big year for good-byes, 2005. Jack Nicklaus walked his final 18th fairway of championship golf, the flame of his signature Golden Bear fire flickering at last, after 43 years of mastering the game he helped bring to world-wide prominence.

The same can be said, without argument, for cyclist Lance Armstong. No athlete ever dominated an endurance event, perhaps any event, as Armstrong did the majestic Tour de France and this July, after his seventh appearance on the podium constructed on the Champs Elysees in Paris, his seventh time wearing the winner's yellow jersey, or maillot jaune, Armstrong announced his move from cycling to family and cancer advocacy. Sometimes you get the sense that an athlete was born to excel in his sport, that neither his life nor the sport will ever be the same once they part. That was the tender sentiment shared by us fans last summer when Lance stepped down from his bike for the last time.

The sweet long-ball shooter of the NBA, Reggie Miller, hung up his basketball shoes this year, too. The swoosh of his smooth 3-pointer was unique. The in-your-face taunts he used to exchange with Spike Lee in Madison Square Garden were entertaining. Reggie is one of those one-in-a-generation, distinguished athletes--a personality and NBA statesman who is sorely missed on the hardwood this season.

There was another retirement this year. As a matter of fact, that farewell was this week and I for one am not taking it very well. We saw the last installment of Monday Night Football, after 36 years, this past Monday and it's going to be a huge adjustment for many of us, come Monday nights next fall. Only one other prime time television show has been on longer and that's 60 Minutes. ABC will move the telecast to Sunday nights on ESPN and claims it will reprise all of the Monday night trappings. Big-time opening production, with the familiar mantra in full voice: Are You Ready for Some Football? But now the game will simply mix into the long line-up of games all day Sunday. This will just be another one. There's even an NBC game in the same Sunday night slot next season. Even considering the storied history of the Monday Night franchise, spotlighting such character stars as Howard Cosell and Dandy Don Meredith (who made a quick appearance on this week's finale for the first time in 21 years), the truly special factor of the game was that it was played on Monday night! Your work day was more fun than usual, in anticipation of the Monday night ritual. You got home just in time to change into your most comfortable sweats, perhaps your favorite NFL jersey, before the opening kick-off. Or you met friends at the proverbial neighborhood tavern. It was a special event throughout the fall season.

And the players will tell you that competing Monday nights was always a highlight of the season, sometimes of their careers. There were the occasional Monday nights that drew close to 30 million viewers. As Brett Favre put it before the last Monday night game he will ever play, a couple of weeks ago, -I've been fortunate to play 29 games on Monday Night Football. It's a great stage.-

As have evidently millions of fans, I have so looked forward to the NFL on Monday nights most of my adult life. It's true that all good things come to an end and all of us Monday night regulars will have a transition to make next September. That's emotional. But I what I can't understand is the business end of Monday night's retirement. One-sided games of course haven't pulled in big ratings but the show is still in the top ten of all programming, week to week. Entertainment executives wouldn't yank a Desperate Housewives or a CSI while still ranking top ten in the dog-eat-dog slate of prime time viewing.

Well, as Don Meredith used to wail in the booth back in the day, -The Party's Over.-

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.

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