ESPN owns the trademark on the phrase, and it would be surprising if it does not return in some manner with a prominent entertainer or signer at some point. Maybe even this season.
(As an aside, it's interesting that the trademark for the phrase was not filed until March 17, 1997, and approved on April 21, 1998. Williams started in the role nearly a decade earlier, in 1989. Imagine how this situation would have been different it he would have secured the trademark.)
While some purists like the football-focused feel of this past Monday night's opening, which happened because ESPN pulled the iconic Hank Williams Jr. singing intro because of his politically charged remarks on "Fox and Friends," the "MNF" broadcast made the big opening an expected and synonymous part of the game's pop culture-sports combination.
The influence of the approach was so great that when NBC Sports launched "Sunday Night Football" it first used Pink (a good although maybe edgy choice for some) in that role. "SNF" later moved toward a somehow safer and similarly sexy Faith Hill for its opening song.
For both ESPN and Williams the fallout, as summarized well by USA Today's Michael Hiestand, should be positive. The network gets to distance itself from a problem and Williams gets to play a victim card that will boost ticket sales for his upcoming tour and allow him to bolster his rebel image.
Still, the biggest unfortunate outcome of the situation is the continued perception that what entertainers or sports types think about politics (or any subject other than the area in which they work) matters.
Make no mistake, Williams was not wrong in expressing his opinion. He was just wrong in thinking that it would not impact whether he was employable as a representative of the brand on one of the most-watched TV shows during any season.
At the same time, those who blather and react about Williams have heightened the controversy around the situation for no reason. And some -- including almost every talking-head "expert" in this "Outside the Lines" piece from earlier this week (the only one with any sense seems to be the academic) -- seem more offensive than Williams because they promote their own agendas and take things out of context. They're doing what they do knowingly, too. If not, that's even worse.
In this case, "OTL," often a beacon of sports journalism on TV moved closer to Jerry Springer than anything else. And that's a shame.