Picks and Pans Main: Etc.
Yes, that was a real, non-exhibition National Football League game that was on TV last Thursday—not just The NFL This Week, Greatest Games of the NFL, Notre Dame highlights or the TV football fan's equivalent of delirium tremens. No, Thanksgiving did not come early this year. The Ram-Bronco game telecast September 6 in fact introduced America to a new cultural phenomenon: Thursday Night Football. It's not that the four Thursday games ABC-TV has scheduled mean we will be deprived other days, of course; already, almost a month before the start of the season, New York viewers had a choice one Sunday of five separate exhibition games or pro-football nostalgia shows. During the regular season, Monday, Saturday and Sunday games will be televised with their usual frequency.
The product may be watered down a little. Partly in reaction to the broken neck incurred last season by the New England Patriots' receiver Darryl Stingley (he is still, and probably always will be, paralyzed and wheelchair-bound), a series of rule changes has been introduced to cut down on all those thuddingly violent "hits" (as in "He comes to hit," "What a hit!" or "hit man"), which the announcers like to deplore through eight or nine replays. Use of the helmet as a weapon to butt or spear the opponent will henceforth be construed as inadmissible behavior, for instance, and a quick whistle will be used when quarterbacks are being tackled, to preserve their revered selves from gratuitous pounding, twisting and stomping. Still, there should be enough mayhem so that ABC viewers lamenting the demise of Starsky & Hutch won't feel too frustrated. Those who feel bad about losing Mork & Mindy to Sunday can take cold comfort from the fact that they're getting Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford in return.