The United States is in the throes of a revolution wrought by faceless young men, some of them with Afros and long hair, who throw bombs—the NFL players now performing on Monday night television. Without question, the Monday games on ABC, already dubbed "the Mondays" by alert gamblers who have made a bundle, have affected a variety of human endeavors from drinking habits to movie attendance. Anytime 35 million people suddenly start spending three hours of a hitherto normal weekday evening watching a pro football game on TV, they are bound to significantly influence mass culture, business trends and possibly the birthrate.
Variety, the voice of show biz, reports that Monday, traditionally the worst night for movie attendance, has become a disaster as a result of the TV game. Some theater owners are even thinking of closing down for the night. Hardest struck of all are the houses featuring nudies, which attract male members of the middle class.
Restaurant and bar business may be off as much as 25%. For example, Herb Rushing, who operates Sizzler Family Steakhouses in Manhattan Beach and Montclair, Calif., says, "Monday's the worst night of the week, period. It's been terrible the past few months but since the NFL telecasts began it's atrocious."
The staff of Overlake Hospital in Seattle has suggested that no babies be born between 7 and 10 on Monday evenings. When Mrs. Joel Schroedel, the wife of a photographer, in labor since 3 p.m., gave birth to a boy at 6:52 p.m. one Monday, there were cheers from the delivery room.
Dick Benson, a grade-school teacher in Milwaukee, did not believe the Nielsen rating that gave the Mondays a third of the total national TV audience. The morning after the Detroit Lions-Chicago Bears Monday evening game he polled his class and discovered that sets had been turned on to the game in 29 of 31 homes.
A Nixon supporter in Kansas City who had been urging his friends to go to the President's speech there last Monday night was asked how he liked it. "I didn't go," he said. "Did you think I was going to miss that Oakland-Washington game?"
In Long Beach, Calif. a fan built a $3,000 den in his garage so he could watch the Mondays in seclusion. "I would have been happy to have spent $6,000," says the fan, who, fittingly, has the All-Pro name of Darrell Otto.
Dr. Ernest Dichter, the big daddy of motivational research, says viewing interest in the Mondays may indicate Americans "are getting back to clean competitiveness. People are growing sick of nudies and violence. Pro football is the Lawrence Welk kind of thing. It might be compared to the success of the bestseller Love Story—a return to sentimental romanticism. Football is law and order in playful fashion. There are rules, and they are being obeyed. The good guys are rewarded and the offenders penalized. People are watching fair play. The coaches shake hands afterward. On another level football replaces the discussion show, and there maybe lessons here for the media. Football is sort of a three-dimensional Susskind show, with measurable results. You see these discussion shows and you know just as much at the end as you did in the beginning. You don't know if Women's Lib beat the Black Panthers. But with football you know one team won, six to nothing, period."
As is always the case with any revolution, the Mondays are devouring their own. Much as Robespierre went to the guillotine and Marat bled to death in the tub, four of the five winning Monday teams have been liquidated on the following Sunday. This toll has given rise to the feeling that there is a definite Monday hex (see cover), and has resulted in a bonanza for shrewd bettors, whose only concern is to beat the point spread set by the bookies. If you had bet against both Monday teams on the following Sunday, you would have won seven out of 10 bets! This came as a surprise, even a shock, to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, usually billed by advance men as the finger-snapping Original Mr. With-It. Rozelle's bag maybe ratings, major markets, demographics and the Sherman Antitrust Act, but when it comes to the points and the Mondays some gamblers were a calendar year ahead of the supposedly sophis commish. Says one proud bettor, "I think I got on to this before anyone else. When Dallas played the Giants on a Monday last year on CBS, I thought both teams would be off form the next Sunday. Cleveland clobbered Dallas 42-10, and the rotten, rock-bottom Eagles beat the Giants 23-20. I won a bundle."
The first public personage to take note of this potentially profitable probability was not, despite the alliteration, Spiro Agnew, but a landsman, Jimmie (the Greek) Snyder, the Las Vegas oracle who airmails his weekly Sports Newsletter ("...offered as a matter of news, information and entertainment and must not be construed as an invitation to violate any laws") to more than 300 newspapers and football freaks. According to the Greek, any Monday that plays the next Sunday is automatically minus at least three points. "Monday is a field goal," he says, sounding like a line out of Peanuts. Indeed, Monday has been such a warm blanket to the Greek that he even managed to pick the San Diego Chargers over the Bears. The Chargers were the first Monday to beat the spread. The Greek has stumbled more than once, but to quote from his Newsletter of Oct. 14: "The Chicago Bears are rated a 3 point favorite [by the bookmakers] over the San Diego Chargers. Chargers would have been rated at 2 by the Greek had they not played on Monday night. The Greek's rating: even."
According to Lem Banker, oddsmaker for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there is more action now on pro football than ever before. "Monday night games on television and more competition between teams of the previous two leagues have helped to increase the amount of the action," says Banker. One big attraction of the Mondays is that bettors can sit back and watch their selection at work, something that does not happen to a gambler betting half a dozen or more Sunday games. Betting has been so brisk that one San Francisco bookie laments, "Monday was my day in the country until this thing came along. Now some of my customers insist that I be available up to 5 o'clock in the afternoon. When Rozelle gives us Tuesday and Wednesday football I'm going into another business."
There appear to be several reasons why the Mondays lose on Sundays, at least as far as the point spread is involved. For one, the Mondays cut down the preparation for next Sunday's game. Ordinarily, most pro teams coming off a Sunday game rest the next day. This usually does not happen with the Mondays. The regular routine is upset and, as Safety Mike Howell of the Browns says, "Anything is bad that gets you out of the training routine." Quarterback Bill Munson of the Lions agrees, "It messes you up mentally and physically." After a Sunday game the Lions' routine, typical of most pro teams, is the day off on Monday, a mild workout without pads on Tuesday, offense day on Wednesday, defensive work on Thursday, half offense and half defense without pads on Friday and special teams on Saturday. After beating the Bears in a rough Monday night game four weeks ago the Lions tried to resume a normal work schedule on Wednesday. Coach Joe Schmidt had to curtail practice on both Wednesday and Thursday because many players couldn't work.
That Sunday the Washington Redskins "upset" the Lions. "We were just a flat team," says Schmidt. "We came off a Monday game. We had hurts. We couldn't generate anything." Running Back Mel Farr was kept out of the Sunday game because of an injured knee, but he says, "I think another day would have helped me play." The other players racked up on Monday did play on Sunday, but as a follower of the Lions notes, "They looked lousy and undoubtedly could have benefited from one more day of rehabilitation."
To be sure, there are a few players who don't believe the Mondays affect next Sunday's play. Johnny Unitas of the Colts says, "The shorter week doesn't hurt any. I found no trouble." True, the Colts beat the weak Boston Patriots on Sunday, but by only 14-6, their second touchdown coming on a Unitas pass with 1:52 to go when he was supposed to be running out the clock. The Colts played badly, no matter how well Unitas might have felt, and they won by less than the spread. Curiously, a couple of players even relish the Mondays. Lance Alworth of the Chargers says, "I like it when the game comes quicker. You don't practice so long." Teammate Walt Sweeney adds, "I love it because it cuts down on heavy practice."
But most pro players who have experienced the Mondays loathe them. "You need a day of rest to get the last game out of your system before you start another," says Jack Concannon, the Bear quarterback. Dick Schafrath, offensive tackle for the Browns, says, "I'm really not ready to work all out until Thursday or Friday of a regular week. Being physically tired has an effect on a team mentally, and there is a tendency to make more mistakes." One player, who requested anonymity, says, "Monday is the day many guys sleep all day. After a real physical game, especially on the road, you start to feel the bruises about the time you get on the plane. Maybe a guy sneaks a bottle aboard. Maybe the coach doesn't want to see. It's hard to sleep on a plane after a rough game, win or lose."
Some players are bothered by the fact that the Mondays are played at night. Cornerback Lem Barney of the Lions says, "The reason I hate Monday night games is that you have all day to sit around and think about them. It drives me nuts." Baltimore Tackle Bob Vogel hates losing out on his sack time. "Against Kansas City," he says, "I was playing the second half at a time when I'm normally in bed." Jerry Mays, the Chiefs' defensive end, points out, "It takes longer to recuperate from a night game than a day game. Even if you play the game at home, you usually end up missing a night's sleep. If you've won, you're too excited to sleep. If you've lost, you're too mad at yourself to sleep. What made our Monday night game with Baltimore unusually tough was that it was a night game played on the East Coast. We didn't get back home until about 3 a.m. Tuesday, and Wednesday didn't feel all that good. The effect was not so much to cut our preparation time for the Denver game from seven to six days as it was to cut it from seven to 5½ days."
Any mental blocks that result from the Mondays are minor compared with the physical wounds. "You have to be in the game to see these men try to recover for the next weekend," says Cleveland Coach Blanton Collier. "The short week has given the next opponent a definite advantage." Frank Larry, consultant to the Rose Bowl Sports Book in Las Vegas, disagrees. "All it amounts to is that one team has 24 more hours to recuperate and we take that into account to the extent of one point at the most. But, over all, I think it's been exaggerated; it's a coincidence that has become a conversation piece, and it will even out before the season is over." Last Sunday's results (both Mondays managed to beat the point spread) support Larry's prediction.
San Diego trainer Jim Van Deusen, estimates players need from 48 to 72 hours to shake off the physical trauma of game contact. Kansas City Trainer Wayne Rudy says, "Pro football players are geared to play a game every seven days, and if they have less time than that between games it pushes them too much to get ready. Our heavy days in the training room are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. By Friday and Saturday, excluding those with serious injuries, everybody is getting into pretty good shape. Coming out of any game, half the squad will have sore shoulders or backs. Take 24 hours' healing time away and most of them can still play, but not at full capacity, as they could if they had one more day." This is particularly true of veterans. "I have some back trouble," Jerry Mays says, "and when I play a game on Sunday and then go out and practice on Tuesday I find that when I try to touch my toes I can only reach as far as my knees. Wednesday I can reach to the tops of my socks, Thursday my ankles and then finally on Friday or Saturday I can touch my toes. So you can see what the cutting-down time between games does to me."
Will the aches and pains get better or worse as the season progresses? In all likelihood, worse. Ed Podolak of the Chiefs says, "As you get into the season I'm inclined to think that maybe a day of rest does you more good than a day of practice." Assistant Coach Bobby Boyd of the Colts believes the situation "probably will be worse later in the year when injuries begin to pile up."
No matter how the players may feel, Rozelle is pleased. Oddly enough, much the same might be said for NBC and CBS. When Rozelle finally decided to deliver his pitch for the Mondays—an idea he has had for years—CBS and NBC turned it down. They were locked into Monday night schedules. Rozelle tried ABC, and when it signed up, "CBS and NBC," in Rozelle's words, "were not obviously overjoyed." However, as a result of ABC taking on the Mondays, Rozelle was able to lessen the NFL's financial demands on CBS and NBC, and in return they agreed to cut back on Sunday doubleheaders. To Rozelle, this was ginger peachy because he feared doubleheaders would overexpose the game. By contrast, he sees no threat of overexposure with the Mondays, explaining, "We feel we've broadened our audience. On Monday night there are more sets in use than on Sunday afternoon. We're undoubtedly getting a lot of new fans."
Indications are that some of the new fans may be women, who, according to past popular thinking and cartoon captions, can't stand the sight of the old man staring hypnotically at the tube. "There may be some resentment by a woman about Sunday," Rozelle admits, "because there are family things that can be done, such as having a picnic, visiting Millie and Bob or playing ball with the children." He points out, however, that Monday is traditionally a night at home, and a telephone poll indicates women are receptive to football that night.
So far so good for ABC, Rozelle, law and order, fans old and new, and knowing bettors, even though the players have their doubts. But as Jim Houston, the Cleveland linebacker and co-captain, says, "We like to watch the other guys on Monday nights on television."