ESPN Sunday Night Football
|ESPN Sunday Night Football|
|Also known as||ESPN Sunday Night NFL
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||180 minutes|
|Original release||November 8, 1987– January 1, 2006|
ESPN Sunday Night Football was the ESPN cable network's weekly television broadcasts of Sunday evening National Football League (NFL) games. The first ESPN Sunday night broadcast occurred on November 8, 1987, while the last one aired on January 1, 2006.
Former NFL Commissioner (1989–2005) Paul Tagliabue credits ESPN with raising the "profile" of the league, from turning "a potential six- or seven-hour television experience into a twelve-hour television experience."
ESPN earned broadcast rights to a series of Sunday night NFL games, which were to air during the second half of the season, beginning in the 1987 season. During the first season of ESPN Sunday Night NFL (as it was then branded) in 1987, the network's announcing booth had Mike Patrick, Roy Firestone, and a weekly "guest color commentator." Joe Theismann took over as lead analyst beginning in 1988. Two years later, the NFL expanded its Sunday night offerings to the full season, with TNT airing games in the season's first half and ESPN taking over for the second half.
ESPN's games were typically simulcast on regular over-the-air television stations in each participating team's local market so that households without cable television could still see the telecasts. During the first season, the game between the New York Giants and New England Patriots (the very first regular season game aired by ESPN) saw WABC-TV (ABC's flagship station out of New York City) produce a completely separate telecast from ESPN's. The reason behind this was that WABC's union contract at the time prohibited non-union workers, such as those at ESPN, from producing live events for WABC. The WABC broadcasts involved play-by-play man Corey McPherrin and Frank Gifford and Lynn Swann on color commentary.
Beginning in 1998, ESPN broadcast the entire slate of Sunday night games (now officially rebranded as Sunday Night Football), and had exclusive rights to any night game other than the season opener and regular Monday night games, which aired on ABC. Thus, ESPN would usually have a few weekends each season with games on both Saturday (sometimes Thursday instead) and Sunday nights. Also in 1998, Paul Maguire joined Patrick and Theismann in the booth after re-joining ESPN after several years as a color commentator for NBC. Beginning in 1999, Suzy Kolber, who had recently rejoined ESPN from Fox Sports, served as the sideline reporter; Kolber replaced Solomon Wilcots, who joined CBS as a color commentator. In 2002, ESPN's SNF crew covered the new Thursday, opening night kickoff game. In 2004, Pat Summerall replaced Patrick for the preseason and for several regular season weeks following Patrick's recovery from open-heart surgery.
After the 2005 season, ESPN ended this package in favor of picking up the broadcast rights to Monday Night Football from ABC. NBC picked up the rights to ESPN's Sunday night games. To replace Sunday Night Football ESPN moved its late-season Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts back to the network and replaced most of the rest of the open weeks with NBA telecasts.
In 1998, as Disney began consolidating ESPN and ABC Sports, ESPN's NFL coverage began using themes associated with Monday Night Football such as "Heavy Action". In-game use of these themes ended after 2000, in favor of another original theme also referred to as "Sirens" (for featuring sirens prominently).
When ESPN gained the Monday night games, they once again began using the traditional Monday Night Football themes, but with increased frequency. See Monday Night Football for more info on music used during that package.
- First preseason game: Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins, August 13, 1987
- First regular season game: New England Patriots at New York Giants, November 8, 1987 (Giants won, 17–10)
- First telecast during opening week of season: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs, September 6, 1998 (Chiefs won, 28–8)
- First regular season game outside the U.S.: San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico, October 2, 2005 (Cardinals won 31–14; see also: Fútbol Americano)
- Last telecast: St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys, January 1, 2006 (Rams won, 21–10)
Joe Namath incident
During a game between the New England Patriots at New York Jets on December 20, 2003, former Jets quarterback Joe Namath in a sideline interview with Suzy Kolber twice stated that he wanted to kiss her, and "couldn't care less about the team strugg-a-ling." Namath later apologized and blamed the incident on his obvious intoxication. Soon after, Namath entered an outpatient alcoholism treatment program. Namath chronicled the episode, including his battle with alcoholism in his book, Namath (ISBN 0-67003-329-4).
|October 30, 1988||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Washington at Houston|
|November 6, 1988||8:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Raiders at San Diego|
|November 13, 1988||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Minnesota at Dallas|
|November 20, 1988||8:00 p.m. Eastern||New England at Miami|
|November 27, 1988||8:00 p.m. Eastern||N.Y. Giants at New Orleans|
|December 4, 1988||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Pittsburgh at Houston|
|December 11, 1988||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Denver at Seattle|
|December 18, 1988||8:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Rams at San Francisco||Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann|
|November 5, 1989||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Dallas at Washington|
|November 12, 1989||8:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Raiders at San Diego|
|November 19, 1989||8:00 p.m. Eastern||N.Y. Jets at Indianapolis|
|November 26, 1989||8:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Rams at New Orleans|
|December 3, 1989||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Chicago at Minnesota|
|December 10, 1989||8:00 p.m. Eastern||New England at Miami|
|December 17, 1989||8:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Raiders at Seattle|
|December 23, 1989||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Cleveland at Houston|
|November 11, 1990||8:00 p.m. Eastern||San Francisco at Dallas||Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann|
|November 18, 1990||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Pittsburgh at Cincinnati|
|November 25, 1990||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Seattle at San Diego|
|December 2, 1990||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Green Bay at Minnesota|
|December 9, 1990||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Philadelphia at Miami|
|December 16, 1990||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Chicago at Detroit|
|December 23, 1990||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Denver at Seattle|
|December 30, 1990||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Pittsburgh at Houston|
|November 8, 1992||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Cincinnati at Chicago|
|November 15, 1992||8:00 p.m. Eastern||N.Y. Giants at Denver|
|November 22, 1992||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Kansas City at Seattle|
|November 29, 1992||8:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Raiders at San Diego|
|December 3, 1992||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Atlanta at New Orleans|
|December 6, 1992||8:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Rams at Tampa Bay|
|December 13, 1992||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Green Bay at Houston|
|December 20, 1992||8:00 p.m. Eastern||N.Y. Jets at Miami|
|December 27, 1992||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Buffalo at Houston|
|November 14, 1993||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Chicago|
|December 5, 1993||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Cincinnati||Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann|
|November 6, 1994||8:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Raiders at Kansas City|
|November 13, 1994||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Tampa Bay at Detroit|
|November 20, 1994||8:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Rams at San Francisco||Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann and Mark Malone|
|November 27, 1994||8:00 p.m. Eastern||New England at Indianapolis|
|December 1, 1994||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Chicago at Minnesota|
|December 4, 1994||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Buffalo at Miami|
|December 11, 1994||8:00 p.m. Eastern||New Orleans at Atlanta|
|December 18, 1994||8:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Raiders at Seattle|
|December 25, 1994||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Detroit at Miami|
- Mike Patrick (Play-by-play, 1987–2005)
- Pat Summerall (Play-by-play, 2004)
- Roy Firestone (Color commentator, 1987)
- Joe Theismann (Color commentator, 1988–2005)
- Paul Maguire (Color commentator, 1998–2005)
- Mark Malone (Sideline reporter, 1994–1996)
- Ron Jaworski (Sideline reporter, 1997)
- Solomon Wilcots (Sideline reporter, 1998–2000)
- Suzy Kolber (Sideline reporter, 2001–2005)
- Chris Berman (Studio host)
- Mike Tirico: (#2 Play-by-play, 2005)
- Sterling Sharpe: (#2 Color commentator, 2005)
NOTE: Pat Summerall filled in for Mike Patrick who was recovering from heart bypass surgery.
Guest commentators (1987 only)
(occasional Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night games)
|NFL Sunday night broadcaster
1987 - 2005
(with TNT from 1990-97)