Monday Night Football once meant something. The best teams played each other in the most competitive and anticipated game of the week. The Monday workday wasn't nearly as soul-crushing when you knew that, come 6 p.m., you'd be greeted by the familiar cowboy hat and rock tones of Bocephus. Monday night was a time when even casual fans could hover above a mountain of chicken wings and enjoy the spectacle.
The San Francisco 49ers once meant something, a team that was among the leagues elite every year. The 49ers won 10 or more games every season from 1983 to 1998. The city of San Francisco was awash with red and gold jackets. During football season, you couldn't walk down the street or enter a bar without hearing a familiar rallying cry.
Then, a few years back, the Monday Night franchise began to die out. Blame Dennis Miller, poor team matchups or simply a shift in NFL game-of-the-week strategy. Monday Night Football has become a shell of what it once was. It's joined by a 49ers franchise that hasn't made the playoffs or won more than eight games since 2002. Two emblematic NFL mainstays, dead.
Tonight could mark a rebirth in the history of these two great franchises. This is only the fourth time two 10-win teams have met each other on Monday Night Football. Two of the previous times, the 49ers were involved.
The 49ers have been thrust into the national spotlight several times during their run of mediocrity. And each time, the game has been met with a groan. Little has been at stake for the once dominant team since 2002. Meanwhile, Monday Night Football has churned out a season of lopsided finishes and meaningless games. The point differential in the last five Monday Night contests comes out to a snooze-worthy 196-61.
If the 49ers' recent Thanksgiving game rating is any indication, the NFL fans' eye of Sauron is now affixed firmly on them. A game against the equally matched 10-win Pittsburgh Steelers could be just the shot in the arm that the Monday Night Football franchise and the San Francisco 49ers franchise need to thrust them back into the limelight.