Football 1959


In an otherwise rather lackluster attempt at a “throwback” football column designed to offer a humorous take on the 50th anniversary of the American Football League, Gregg Easterbrook captures beautifully how much our choices have expanded:

In vacuum-tube news, have you heard the big story? ABC will televise the new upstart American Football League. With one NFL game on NBC each Sunday and another on CBS, if there’s also a game on ABC, that means three pro football games on TV in the same week! Add the one college game, and that’s four televised football games weekly. Plus, ABC says it’s going to bring two complete camera crews to each game, instead of the standard one fixed midfield camera. Good golly Miss Molly! Football on television has reached nirvana — it can’t get any better than this. If only my set’s rabbit ears would bring in CBS. But don’t get me started.

My parents were teens in 1959 but this remained the status quo well into my teens — if not beyond.  Sure, “Monday Night Football” debuted in 1972, expanding the number of available NFL games by one.  But that was it until fairly recently with the explosion of satellite television and various packages that allowed fans willing to pay for it access to any game they care to see.   I’ve had NFL Sunday Ticket, available only through DirecTV because of a monopoly licensing agreement, for years and never miss a Cowboys game now unless I’m out of town. (I’ll DVR the games but they go stale pretty quickly even then.)

Even for those unable or unwilling to spring for premium packages beyond basic cable/satellite access, there are now a freakish number of college games available, including a Thursday night game and more Saturday games than you can shake a stick at.   The NFL usually has four games available during the day Sunday, a Sunday night game, and the Monday night game. There are also frequently games on Thursdays, too.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The big explosion is in college football since the lawsuit that struck down the NCAA coverage-fixing scheme in the 80s and Notre Dame’s break from the CFA to negotiate their own deal a few years later. The NFL hasn’t expanded anywhere near as much, even though we do have SNF and late-season Thursday nights now.

  2. James Joyner says:

    True. The NFL has fewer games, obviously — 16 a week max, often less — but they definitely have endeavored to make it a very boutique product. Even with “Sunday Ticket,” you can really still see only four live games in an average week.

  3. Well, not technically true. DirecTV allows me to watch eight games at once with sound for any one of them. With a big enough TV, it is pretty cool. And with well practiced use of the remote and the DVR, effectively watching multiple concurrent games isn’t that hard — though it does drive the wife crazy. The DirecTV features cannot be lauded enough to be able to see and choose from multiple games at once, and the NFL Network’s condensed replays are pretty cool too. I don’t have to go to a sport’s bar to keep up with multiple games in real time anymore. Hey, I’m going green!

    I think you are selling the 24/7 extravaganza that is college football a little short. There are games just about every day of the week but Sunday now, and sometimes even on Sunday. Live games are routinely running on Saturdays with kickoffs anywhere from noon to midnight Eastern time (and later if Hawaii is at home). With all the various packages, you might be able to choose from to almost 20 games at any given time. Throw in the Big 10 Network and all their replays of just played and “classic” games and ESPN Classic and their “classic” replays and 24/7 isn’t too much of an exaggeration. But choice is good.

  4. Herb says:

    This past Sunday, I watched a bit of the Green Bay-Chicago game online and was even able to pick my own camera angles! Options abound.