On this day 42 years ago — September 21, 1970 — sports television’s signature series was born.
The Cleveland Browns defeated star quarterback Joe Namath and the New York Jets 31-21 in front of more than 80,000 rabid fans and a curious national audience as ABC’s Monday Night Football made its prime time debut. The photo gallery above features archival black and white images from that debut night.
Producer Roone Arledge changed the way the NFL was presented on television that season with the three-man booth team of Keith Jackson, Don Meredith and Howard Cosell, and by implementing twice the number of cameras normally used during game telecasts, as well as replays and graphics.
With the recent passing of both NFL Films’ President Steve Sabol and Art Modell — who owned the Browns in 1970 and was so influential in the creation of MNF — today’s anniversary is another reminder of the great contributions that both men had on pro football by broadening the game’s appeal among fans through television and film.
On Monday night — 663 games later for the longest-running sports series in TV history — MNF returns with another star quarterback in reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers taking on the upset-minded, host Seattle Seahawks (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Once again, the nation will be watching.