Hey, NAFTA, I'm Coming Afta Ya!

By Tony Kornheiser
Thursday, September 28, 2006

It has taken me three regular season games, but I have finally found what I have been sorely missing -- something to take aim at. (Other than Theismann's supply of bronzer.)

It's a TV show starring someone whose name is hardly in the news anymore and yet I can't escape him and the preposterous shadow he casts. Three times in a row, "Monday Night Football" has had progressively higher ratings numbers and three times in a row -- climbing its own personal ladder -- has produced the second-highest ratings in cable television history. Think about that. Higher than any other show ever on cable, even the classic "Inside the Actors' Studio With Steven Seagal: My Live, My Oeuvre, My Ponytail."

And it is the "second-highest" part that is the problem. Because one show stands betweens "Monday Night Football" and the mountaintop.

Name that show. Go ahead. I'll wait . . .

On second thought, who has that kind of time? There is no chance you will ever guess the show, but evidently everybody in America huddled to watch it back in 1993. The show is the NAFTA debate between Ross Perot and Al Gore, son of the famous bowler.

(Yeah, sure, you had that one. You and Tyra Banks, right?)

NAFTA??? At first, I thought that stood for the National Association for T and A, which would explain that monster rating and make me feel much better about being No. 2 because you know people are tuning in for T and A! Why do you think SpectraVision is such a goldmine? But it stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement. And, honestly, what the hell is that?

How can anything having to do with Ross Perot and Al Gore get numbers? Come on. Ross Perot? Oh, I'm sorry. H. Ross Perot. What does the "H" stand for, Hellzapoppin'? He had a short-lived marriage to Mariah Carey, right? "Monday Night Football" can't beat this little jug-eared has-been billionaire???

We keep losing to him by about 250,000 viewers and my great fear is that we've crested. We've got dogs coming up. This week we've got Green Bay and Philadelphia, which might give us a big number in the first half, but not in the second if Philly is up by 30 and Favre has already thrown four picks. A few weeks from now, we've got Oakland at Seattle. Nobody's watching that.

In order to get big numbers, you need strong teams from the two easternmost time zones, where most of the population is. And we've had that three times. Or you need two Super Bowl contenders. I'm looking ahead at our schedule and our blockbuster game may be Cincinnati at Indianapolis in Week 15. Maybe that's where we'll take Ross Perot down. We could even have him in the booth that night. Him and Gore. And I could say, "I've got your global warming right here, boys."

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