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Tuesday, 11 October, 2011 9:38 PM
Monday Night Football Game Thrills Audience
Barry Sanders Honorary Captain, Crowd Rocks Ford Field
DETROIT -- The ESPN Broadcast team helped hype the Bears-Lions Monday Night Football game into a national happening. This is the 42nd season of ESPN's Monday Night Football telecasts. The broadcast crew of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski gushed about Detroit. Suzy Kolber was on the sidelines.
Jaworski, the 17 year NFL veteran quarterback from Lackawanna, N.Y. was a 1991 National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame inductee. During his Philadelphia Eagle days he was known as the “Polish Rifle” for his strong throwing success. He was NFL Player of the Year in 1980. His former next door neighbor and basketball television analyst Doug Collins gave him his current nickname, “Jaws.”
‘Jaws’ mentioned how the record and large crowd (67,873) affected Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears had nine illegal procedure penalties in the 24-13 loss. The Lions are 5-0, the first time since 1956.
Some of the penalties were attributed to the noise that the Lions faithful made. The loud crowd noise was overwhelming. They also gave numerous encores to former Lion Barry Sanders.
Jaworski is the X’s and O’s technician for the MNF crew and speaks the specific coaching language of football. When asked how good the Lions’ Matt Stafford can be at quarterback “Jaws” replied, “If anyone’s watched this preseason, he may be the sharpest quarterback. I mean, he looks confident. He looks understanding of the system. You can see the big strong arm. You can see the accuracy. What I've seen in the preseason until now, a healthy Matthew Stafford, you know, he’s in for a banner year.” Stafford had two TD passes in his first MNF game.
Downtown hotel rooms were sold out, tailgate parties started in the afternoon for an 8:30 p.m. game and giant crowds milled around Ford Field. Revelers mingled and scalpers hawked tickets to the sold out game. The autumn evening and mild temperature screamed out football frenzy. There were plenty of Bears jerseys sprinkled throughout the stadium.
Chicago supporter Anthony Dubek said, “We drove in from Naperville, Illinois for the game and had dinner in Hamtramck at the Polonia Restaurant beforehand. We had Polish city-chicken and Polish piwa, Tyskie beer. It has been a great road trip so far. His group was showing off their matching Bear’s jerseys as they mingled outside of Ford Field before the game.
Tirico, who lives in Ann Arbor said, “The thing that still surprises me in some regard is how even after six years into my being part (MNF), how special it feels every Monday night. The early tailgating in the afternoon sure showcased Detroit in a nice light.”
As dusk approached the home audience saw the overhead television shots that made the event sizzle. The Detroit Lions haven’t hosted a Monday night game since 2001. Two thousand standing room tickets became available last Thursday and sold out in four minutes. There was electricity in the crowd. Courtesy shuttles dropped off revelers from nearby tailgating parties including the nearby Eastern Market parking area.
Earlier in the afternoon many sportsmen blended around the downtown bars and eateries to watch the Tiger’s playoff game on TV against the Texas Rangers. The Lions management showed the final innings on the Ford Field screens.
The last time the Lions were on MNF, ABC-TV was still broadcasting the game. That was ten years ago. The Lions have appeared in 25 Monday Night games with an overall record of 11-13-1. Tom Lewand spoke for the team when he said, “We have a great opportunity to showcase our city.”
The game broke open when Lion running back Javed Best established the ground game in the second half. He had 170 yards on nine carries with one touchdown.
Veteran Lion and place kicker extraordinaire, Jason Hanson became the first NFL player to play 300 games with the same team. He has spent all of his 20 NFL seasons with the Lions.
Besides the football aspect of the game, the ESPN broadcast had current event awareness. They recently dumped the high energy and popular opening song of singer Hank Williams Jr. He was ousted for making recent controversial political comments.
ESPN spokesperson Bill Hofheimer gave AmericaJR.com a preview of the music and video new for the telecast opening. It featured Detroit’s own ‘Selected of God’ gospel choir and R&B singer Jimmy Scott. The choir and Scott performed a pre-recorded, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City.” Detroit Lion legend Barry Sanders was featured with narration. An ESPN crew shot the grunge scenes throughout Detroit and some jazz action at the famed Baker’s Keyboard Lounge.
Hofheimer added, “For the rest of the season the opening spot will be different.” Williams had done the opening music since 1989.
After the game, Lions Coach Jim Schwartz gave a symbolic game ball to the Detroit fans for their passion and enthusiasm. “It was a great night for the city, we have to get back to this kind of atmosphere,” Schwartz added.
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