A Page From the Past
For one night, at least, it was as though the fabled Monday Night Football of my youth was back, vibrant and thrilling.
Then, it was Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and Don Meredith providing a wonderful verbal overlay to games that were often exciting, if only because they seemed a little more special on Monday night.
Last night, it was the threesome of Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Tony Kornheiser supplying the words while the New England Patriots, in search of a perfect season, banged heads with the Baltimore Ravens.
Tirico and Co. have developed brilliantly this season, so much better than Al Michaels and John Madden on Sunday nights. Kornheiser, in particular, has one of those verbal motors that just never shuts down and keeps tossing out smart, witty stuff. He's a sportswriter, too, and believe me, we never speak too kindly of one another. But in this case, it's unavoidable - Kornheiser is just that good.
So you have the personality, the smarts and the information in the booth, and on the field, the Pats and Ravens delivered a marvellously flawed game. Kornheiser kept using the term "tragic inevitability" to describe the sense that while the Ravens led the game into the final minutes, it just always seemed the Patriots would win in the end.
From one angle, it made you think these guys will, in fact, be able to put together the first perfect NFL season since the '72 Dolphins. From another, piled on top of last week's narrow escape against the Eagles, you wondered if the Pats are getting closer and closer to losing, showing a new wart every week.
"I think the "S" has kind of been ripped off their shirts," said Baltimore cornerback Corey Ivy.
Maybe. The Steelers, who blitz almost as much as the Ravens, are next up, followed by the Jets, Dolphins and the New York Giants.
It's hard not to feel that everybody in football, outside the Pats and their fans, want them to lose one of those games. Watching New England defensive back Rodney Harrison taunt Baltimore head coach Brian Billick during last night's game - Billick responded by blowing kisses - just gave a lot of people another reason to dislike the terrific and terrifically arrogant Patriots.
The NFL, to me, just seemed too tough for any team to go unbeaten, but now, even I'm starting to wonder if New England will pull this off.
This much seems true. They're showing a few holes these days, and you have to wonder if there's a possibility that they could be perfect in the regular season, but then exposed in the playoffs.
If only MNF did the post-season.