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Sacco Sez: 'Monday Night Football' tables have turned for Broncos

With the Broncos' 2020 season opener vs. the Titans on "Monday Night Football," Denver will continue its illustrious history on the prime-time series, including a league-leading 29-year streak making at least one MNF appearance each season.

"Monday Night Football" has become an American institution.

As television goes, just the words "Monday Night Football" are almost as big as the National Football League itself, a television institution practically since its beginnings.

The NFL first announced a three-year agreement with ABC to televise "Monday Night Football" in 1969, when the marriage of television and the NFL was just beginning to explode.

The announcement came on May 26, and the new series made the NFL the first league with a regular series of national telecasts in prime time.

If you can believe it, owners were not too keen on the concept, as it disrupted the normal Monday-through-Sunday schedule that every team was wedded to at that time.

But it became an instant hit.

And this year, when the Denver Broncos kick off their 61st season of professional football, they will do so in a "Monday Night Football" game at Empower Field at Mile High on opening night vs. the Tennessee Titans. That game will mark the 29th consecutive season in which the Broncos will have appeared on Monday Night Football, and that will be a new NFL record.

Right now the Broncos are tied with the Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders at 28.

Considering that streak, it may not feel like such a big deal for the Broncos, but unless you were there at the beginning of the Broncos' history on the program, you cannot help but have no idea.

The first appearance by the Broncos on MNF did not come until 1973 against the Raiders, and that was also the first winning season for Denver.

To put things more in perspective, you likely have no idea how easterners looked at our quaint little team in the Mountain Time Zone that "wears orange and plays in the mountains," to quote Pat Bowlen on the national view of his team before it reached dominance.

Not only was Denver ignored on the MNF schedule up to that point, but the Broncos were ignored in the all-important (to the egos of Denver residents) halftime highlights.

At halftime, Howard Cosell of ABC would narrate highlights of the previous day's games. There were only three networks then, no cable or satellite, so the viewing audience was enormous.

And we Bronco fans sat on the edge of our collective seats with fingers crossed, thinking, "They have GOT to have us on this week!  We played such a great game."

But alas, it was not to be. We were never on, just another blow to our collective psyche.  

They used every excuse imaginable, such as Denver is so far away from the East Coast that the film cannot get back in time. Of course, they seemed to get film from San Diego and the Los Angeles Rams in time for the show.

It turned out, among other things, that Cosell thought that Denver was a cow town, as I learned a few years later when my Broncos employment put me in close proximity.

There was a bar in the Denver area named Sweetwater, and every Monday night they hauled in an old television set and had a contest among the patrons, with the winner selected to throw a brick through the TV set after the Broncos' highlights did not appear on MNF.

I wonder what that MNF crew would think now, with the Broncos set to become the all-time record-holders for consecutive seasons on MNF?

Of course, John Elway, Peyton Manning and eight Super Bowl appearances made the Broncos must-see TV, and now we are clawing our way back to national prominence with Drew Lock, Von Miller and a cast of talented, young players. 

As an example of the coming season and the thought patterns attached, the Houston Texans have the very captivating Deshaun Watson at quarterback.

But the Texans have just one prime-time appearance.

And in addition to our opening the season on MNF, the Broncos have Thursday-night and Sunday-night games as well.

Of course, besides the talent of our team, the view of the mountains at sunset is captivating — made for TV.

So things have changed a lot for the Denver Broncos, who this year are set to have the longest streak of appearances on MNF in NFL history.

Fans now put their names on the waiting list for highly desirable tickets, as opposed to in a drawing to throw a brick through a television set at halftime of "Monday Night Football."

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