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There no longer is a Sabbath Day in Football Television Nation USA.

Am I the only one who remembers a time when the colleges played on Saturday, the NFL played on Sunday afternoon, Monday Night Football was a special treat, and all-day football happened once a year on New Year’s Day? Everything is different now, so much so that if an outside observer had to ask whether this was a “Christian” nation or “religious” nation or a “spiritual” or a “sports-watching” nation, there could be only one conclusion, at least based on ratings and dollars paid for the rights to broadcast football. Consider:

• College Football starts early and goes late on Saturdays, and you can watch a triple-header every weekend, quadruple if Hawaii plays at home;
• There are NCAA games on just about every other night of the week, and when Central Florida plays Marshall on October 4, every night of the week will have been covered;
• College games are on ABC, NBC, CBS, BET, and various independent stations on Saturdays; the weeknight games are on either ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN360, and ESPN Classic;
• In the pros, Monday Night Football has moved from ABC to ESPN;
• Sunday Night Football has moved from ESPN to NBC;
• Little Richard and Cheap Trick have been brought in to join Hank Williams, Jr., for the lead-in theme song on ABC;
• ESPN will be showing NCAA games on Sunday nights to compete with NBC;
• One commentator–Cris Collinsworth–can now be seen on three different networks, which is two more than most.

The huge audience that watches the NFL on TV is apparently growing even larger. Just “follow the money” for verification. To broadcast the Monday Night Football games, ESPN pays $1.1 billion dollars. Imagine Dr. Evil saying that, but this isn’t fiction. By adding in HBO, NBC, and other rights packages, the NFL will take in about $3.75 billion dollars just from those who show games (or parts of games) on TV.

More and more of our culture plans not only its TV watching but its social calendar itself around NFL games. Restaurants, bars, churches, youth groups, business travelers, community groups, and families now review the NFL schedule before setting dates for key events in the Fall. Polls suggest that only about 18% of Americans make carrying out their faith the highest priority in their lives. Someday, someone might ask questions about the destiny of a culture that puts watching sports ahead of spiritual growth in its priorities.

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