Sports

ESPN punted on this season of ‘Monday Night Football’

Tonight, the New England Patriots face the Carolina Panthers on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” in what feels like the first watchable game on the worst day of the week in, well, forever. The Panthers and Patriots are two of the best teams in their respective divisions but think back over the last few weeks. Can you remember any game on Monday night that you circled on your calendar? Didn’t think so.

In three of the past four weeks, NFL fans have been subjected to not-so-riveting games like the Seahawks’ 14-9 victory over St. Louis, the Buccaneers earning its first win when it beat Miami, and the Giants crushing the Josh Freeman-led Vikings. I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge football fan and still I watched maybe a grand total of 30 minutes of these three games combined.

What happened to the days when “Monday Night Football” had the best game on the NFL schedule week in and week out? The bars will be packed throughout the Fenway and downtown areas of Boston for tonight’s game. That’s largely due to the fact that the Patriots are playing its first and only Monday night game but also because there hasn’t been a worthwhile game on for the better part of a month.

Come to think of it, watching the Saints thrash the Dolphins a week after the Broncos did the same to Oakland in September wasn’t great either. Hell, let’s just call this season of “Monday Night Football” what it’s been: dreadful. Like more dreadful than having to endure 20 seconds of a promo for “Dads” when watching a game on FOX each Sunday.

ESPN, you’re better than this. You are supposed to be the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.” The least you could do is give us a game worth talking about at the water cooler as we’re enduring our first day back at work or classes since the weekend (and obviously, football games are random and you don’t pick the winners and losers. I’m talking about giving us good teams and good matchups, heightening the opportunities for drama and intrigue). Instead, you have forced America to watch the Dolphins twice this year. Twice. It’s bad enough you try to convince us that NASCAR is a sport and barely cover the NHL.

As much as Patriots fans probably enjoyed watching their AFC East rivals lose on national television on two separate occasions, they probably would have preferred to watch their team edge out Buffalo or Atlanta in primetime earlier this year.

To be fair to the guys down in Bristol, Conn., the schedule going forward is much more watchable. The Cowboys travel to Chicago in December after the Saints battle the elements in Seattle the week before. Still, a few good weeks of scheduling at the tail end of the season do not make up for forcing the Jets, Buccaneers, and Vikings on us earlier.

Here’s to hoping for some quality football, starting tonight with the Patriots’ trip down to Bank of America Stadium, to make up for a particularly bad year of Monday night games.