By Barry Janoff
August 15, 2013: The iconic introduction to ESPN's Monday Night Football, which begins its 44th season on Sept. 9, is getting a massive makeover that brings back Howard Cosell and evokes images from every decade since the 1970s.
The intro reboot comes with its own sponsor, the 2014 GMC Sierra Denali. The full title: "ESPN Monday Night Football Launch Engineered by GMC." ESPN and GMC will support with a national tour that is expected to hit as many as 12 NFL cities.
Director/screenwriter/actor Peter Berg of Pony Show Entertainment, Los Angeles, was hired by ESPN to create a "dramatic new show open" for the Monday Night Football opening segment.
The full clip, which runs a minute and a half, recalls the full history of the show "by combining indelible football moments from past Monday Night Football games with images of touchstone cultural events" of the past four and a half decades, according to ESPN.
ESPN said that unique versions of the opener will be featured during each week of Monday Night Football's 17-game schedule. NFL highlights will be incorporated showing "relevant milestones tied to specific games and teams" for each week's match-up. The intro will play out to a remixed orchestral version of Monday Night Football's “Heavy Action” theme music (originally composed by Johnny Pearson).
Cosell was a major part of the broadcast crew from 1970-83. Images and audio highlight each decade since the first Monday Night Football game was telecast by ABC in 1970.
The 1970s, for example, are represented by Sesame Street, President Richard Nixon, John Lennon (who says to Cosell about Monday Night Football, “It makes rock concerts look like tea parties.”) C3PO and R2D2. The 1980s get the likes of Madonna, Jon Bon Jovi, Pac Man, President Ronal Reagan and RUN DMC. From the 1990s, there are images from Wayne’s World, Toy Story, Jerry Maguire, Titanic and Seinfeld.
The 2000s are recalled by President Barack Obama, Lady Gaga, Shaun White, the Mars Rover, the logos from Facebook and Twitter and perhaps the most impactful image of all: the firefighters raising the flag amidst the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11.
“I tried to position Monday Night Football in a unique way so it distinguished itself from a more slick, graphic opener that is more common,” Berg, whose directing credits include Hancock and whose scripts include Friday Night Lights, said in a statement. “With such an iconic brand, I wanted to revisit Monday Night Football from 1970 to now and present it as something that was classic and informative. Not just about the sport, but about the American portrait behind it.”
“The collaboration between ESPN, Peter Berg, his team at Pony Show Entertainment and the gifted people at [Hollywood trailers house] Ignition Creative has been a terrific experience,” Bob Toms, vp-product enhancements for ESPN, who has helped create the Monday Night Football opens since the mid-1980s, said in a statement.
“With such an iconic brand, I wanted to revisit Monday Night Football from 1970 to now and present it as something that was classic and informative."
“Looking back at 44 years of American history through the lens of Monday Night Football requires a unique perspective, and that’s just what we got with Peter and his team. His talent, along with his passion for the game, blended perfectly with what we are looking to achieve with this year’s open," said Toms.
The first Monday Night Football game was on Sept. 21, 1970, between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns. The Sept. 9 season opener features the Philadelphia Eagles at the Washington Redskins.
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