Here’s Why Bringing Hank Williams Jr. Back on ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ Is a Bad Idea
On Monday, ESPN announced that Hank Williams Jr. is back to do a new rendition of “All My Rowdy Friends”—you know, the one with the age-old query “Are you ready for some football?”—for its Monday Night Football intro theme beginning in September. [Update: Williams will be joined by Florida Georgia Line and Jason Derulo, so ESPN is making an effort to appeal to everyone (or no one).]
Apparently, ESPN thinks it’s 1991. Also, ESPN must believe viewers have forgotten why the network kicked Williams and his rowdy friends out of the house in 2011:
It’s not as if Williams has suddenly seen the light and deserves a second shot at this. His website sells merchandise depicting the confederate flag, which seems at odds with the image the NFL and ESPN like to project. Perhaps ESPN’s trying to appeal to the audience that embraces those ideas and images. That audience is certainly big enough—big enough even to elect a U.S. president.
Politics aside, Williams’ MNF act had grown stale a decade before ESPN dropped it. Like Chris Berman, it was just one of those things the network held onto much longer than it should have. Bringing it back is not forward thinking by the Worldwide Leader.
But there’s a much bigger problem for ESPN, and it won’t be solved by Bocephus.
ESPN is struggling with bloated TV sports rights fees and cord-cutters who are dropping their traditional pay TV packages and the $9 per month ESPN commands. Rehiring Williams is even more baffling in light of ESPN’s latest round of layoffs.
Is Monday Night Football even worth ESPN’s investment? MNF used to be the NFL’s primetime showcase, but that role’s since been taken over by NBC’s Sunday Night Football, which also gets the added benefit of a flexible schedule. There’s also Thursday Night Football on CBS/NBC/NFL Network/Amazon Prime to further dilute the NFL’s primetime pool.
MNF is now an afterthought, necessary viewing only for fans of the participating teams, fantasy football addicts or the few who can tolerate Jon Gruden. And ESPN’s schedule is set in stone, so if that game in December has two teams with five wins between them, I’m probably going to spend my Monday night endlessly browsing Netflix instead.
Unless ESPN can resurrect Chris Farley to stand in for Williams. I’d totally watch that.
"Are you ready for some football?"
Hank Williams Jr. will be bringing his rowdy friends back to Monday nights. https://t.co/arVtf5Pmpb
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) June 5, 2017