Monday Night Football ramblings

CHARLOTTE – Hank Williams Jr.’s iconic “Are you ready for some football?” theme song didn’t debut on Monday Night Football until my freshman year of college. I was ready for some football well before my college days, but as a kid growing up on the east coast, bedtime meant there were no “Monday night parties” for me.

Even rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, son of a longtime NFL player, had to deal with the realities of school night rules. But growing up in the mountain time zone, at least he had a fighting chance.

“As a kid, we’d watch, especially depending on what teams were playing,” said McCaffrey, set to make his Monday Night Football debut against the Dolphins. “But he was strict on the old bedtime.”

Christian was seven years old the last year his father, Ed, played in the NFL. Christian wouldn’t divulge his bedtime, but there’s a pretty good chance he sometimes had to go to bed not knowing who won the game.

Ron Rivera can relate. The Panthers’ 55-year-old head coach has admitted that he sometimes nods off before the end of Monday nighters. He won’t have that choice this Monday and didn’t have that choice back in the day.

More than a decade before McCaffrey was born (sorry, Ron), Rivera made his Monday Night Football debut as a player. As a rookie linebacker with the Bears in 1984, Rivera is listed in the gamebook as a substitute for a surprising late-season loss to the Chargers. He didn’t record any stats.

Rivera more remembers the two MNF appearances by the ’85 Bears. Yes, those ’85 Bears. In Week 7 against the Packers, Rivera recorded the tackle on the opening kickoff, but a defensive teammate made a much bigger splash and left a much bigger wake.

“It was kind of when the ‘Fridge’ was born,” Rivera said.

In the same game as Rivera’s special teams tackle (I don’t mean to mock; Rivera recorded 392 defensive tackles over a nine-year career), the legend of larger-than-life defensive lineman William “Refrigerator” Perry began to take shape. “The Fridge” rumbled to his first rushing touchdown, a feat he’d repeat in a Super Bowl beatdown of the Patriots.

“Refrigerator” Perry gave the Bears their lead first; Ron Rivera got the game’s first tackle on special teams.

That revered Bears team came within one game of running the table, the one loss coming…on Monday Night Football…against the Dolphins. Coached by the one and only Don Shula – father of Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula – Miami manhandled the Bears 38-24 in Week 13 to derail…

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