Timeline Featuring Football, Pop Culture Events since 1970 Will Debut September 9
ESPN is collaborating with acclaimed filmmaker/director Peter Berg of Pony Show Entertainment to create a dramatic new show open for the Monday Night Football franchise. The one-minute, 30-second open chronicles the 44-year history of sports television’s signature series by combining indelible football moments from past MNF games with images of touchstone cultural events of the past four-and-a-half decades.
The timeline-themed open will debut (at 6:55 p.m. ET) before ESPN’s MNF regular-season opener – Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins – at 7 p.m. on September 9. The remainder of the season, it will air on Monday nights (at 8:25 p.m.) before ESPN’s nationally televised prime time NFL game kicks off at 8:30 p.m.
“Monday Night Football has undeniably been an integral part of American culture for 44 years,” said ESPN executive producer Jed Drake. “This open beautifully captures many of the cultural touchstones that have run parallel to this great series, as we now head toward the half century mark. To this day, there’s no bigger, more important sports property than MNF.”
Berg, a lifelong football fan whose film credits include directing Friday Night Lights, the NFL Super Bowl spot “Evolution,” which dramatized the arc of safety and progress in the game in one long play, and other sports-related fare – including ESPN Films’ first 30 for 30 documentary Kings Ransom – created the original storyboard for the MNF timeline and has overseen the live-action filming.
“I tried to position MNF in a unique way so it distinguished itself from a more slick, graphic opener that is more common,” said Berg, who was approached about the project by ESPN MNF producer Jay Rothman, who knew Berg when they grew up in the same area of New York. “With such an iconic brand, I wanted to revisit MNF from 1970 to now and present it as something that was classic and informative. Not just about the sport, but about the American portrait behind it.”
Berg enlisted Hollywood trailers house Ignition Creative to help him bring his vision to fruition. Ignition’s Rebecca Ramsey (producer), Carsten Becker (editor) and Martin Kistler (creative director) oversaw graphic design with ESPN’s vice president of product enhancements Bob Toms and senior creative director Michael “Spike” Szykowny, who also secured the many MNF archival elements and pop icon images that appear in the spot (see list below).
“The collaboration between ESPN, Peter Berg, his team at Pony Show Entertainment and the gifted people at Ignition Creative, has been a terrific experience,” said Toms, who has helped create the MNF opens since the mid-1980s when the series aired on ABC. “Looking back at 44 years of American history through the lens of Monday Night Football requires a unique perspective, and that’s just what we got with Peter and his team. His talent, along with his passion for the game, blended perfectly with what we are looking to achieve with this year’s open.”
The MNF open begins with grainy pre-HD video and the raspy voice of the series’ first director, Chet Forte, cueing the “stand by and roll tape,” followed by a welcome from legendary commentator Howard Cosell. NFL highlights appear chronologically, spanning the history of the series – from the very first MNF game (New York Jets vs. Cleveland Browns) on September 21, 1970 through Calvin Johnson’s catch for the Detroit Lions that set the NFL single-season receiving record in December 2012.
Other images draw upon history, film, television, music and pop culture. The Beatles’ John Lennon describes his personal MNF experience to Cosell by saying, “It makes rock concerts look like tea parties.” President Ronald Reagan famously declares “Tear down this wall!,” and there are other iconic images in the piece ranging from Darth Vader in Star Wars and Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones to ghosts from the popular Pac Man video game and logos of social media brands Facebook and Twitter.
A remixed orchestral version of MNF’s classic “Heavy Action” theme music – originally composed by Johnny Pearson – also provides the underlying soundtrack for the piece.
Unique versions of the open will be featured each week of MNF’s 17-game fall schedule with NFL highlights, and team logos on the back-end, varying depending on the matchup and relevant milestones tied to specific games and teams. The open marks a new direction for the “ESPN Monday Night Football Launch Engineered by GMC,” which this year will showcase the new 2014 Sierra pickup while spotlighting GMCs longtime affiliation with MNF.
About ESPN’s Monday Night Football
ESPN’s Monday Night Football is the most-watched series in cable television history. In seven seasons on ESPN, MNF has registered five of the top 10 all-time biggest household audiences in cable history. For the 2012 season, ESPN’s MNF delivered 12 of the 20 biggest household audiences (and 11 of the top 20 among viewers) for cable television in 2012, averaging an 8.2 US rating and 12,826,000 viewers.
About Pony Show Entertainment
Pony Show Entertainment EPs, Susan Kirson and Jeffrey Frankel, produce award-winning commercials and integrated projects with a roster highlighted by Peter Berg and Spike Lee, as well as other dynamic commercial and Hollywood filmmakers. Find out more at www.ponyshowent.com.
Pop icon images that are part of ESPN’s 2013 MNF open timeline (by decade):
1970s: Sesame Street; President Richard Nixon; President Gerald Ford; The Beatles’ John Lennon; All in the Family; KISS; C3PO and R2D2 from Star Wars; Fonzie in Happy Days (Henry Winkler); and Topps football cards.
1980s: Darth Vader from Star Wars; Raiders of the Lost Ark (Harrison Ford); Magnum P.I. (Tom Selleck); E.T.; Space Shuttle; Madonna; Jon Bon Jovi; Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger); Pac Man; President Ronal Reagan; and RUN DMC.
1990s: Wayne’s World films (Mike Myers and Dana Carvey); Toy Story; Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise); Titanic (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet); and Seinfeld.
2000s: 9/11 firefighters; President Barack Obama; Lady Gaga; Iron Man; Sully Sullenberger’s landing on the Hudson River; Mars Rover; Shaun White; Facebook logo; Twitter logo; Red Bull Stratos jump; and Angry Birds.