Six years after he and ESPN parted over his comparison of then-president Barack Obama to Hitler, Hank Williams Jr. was back on “Monday Night Football.”
Ready or not, the network decided that it was time to resurrect the “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night” tune that, at its core, has always been synonymous with the network’s prime-time NFL game.
“ ‘Monday Night Football’ has the most famous music video in sports television. It’s time to bring it back,” Stephanie Druley, the network’s senior vice president for events and studio production, said when Williams’s return was announced in June. “The combination of Hank Williams Jr. with Florida Georgia Line and Jason Derulo will get fans excited and ready for kickoff every Monday night on ESPN this fall.”
Williams’s iconic intro song, a staple of the broadcast for more than 20 years, was shelved in October 2011 after Williams called the “golf summit” that summer between Obama and then-House speaker John A. Boehner “one of the biggest political mistakes ever” in a “Fox and Friends” interview and added: “It would be like Hitler playing golf with Benjamin Netanyahu.” Pressed to explain what he meant, Williams added, “They’re the enemy. . . . Obama. And [vice president Joe] Biden. Are you kidding? The Three Stooges.” He went on to say, “We’re more polarized than we’ve ever been, guys, and you know it. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. We’re polarized!”
In removing Williams and his song immediately from the broadcast, ESPN said in a statement at the time that it was “extremely disappointed” in his comments. But times change and, with apologies to Carrie Underwood and “Sunday Night Football,” no song since has been instantly identifiable for the NFL. Despite the lag time between the announcement and the “MNF” kickoff, not everyone was pleased with Williams’s return.
But it was peppy and danged if it doesn’t shout “football!” regardless of whether you turn over some furniture during the game or just doze quietly in a Barcalounger. As Deadspin’s Dan McQuade wrote: “I do like his ‘MNF’ theme. It reminds me of being a football-obsessed kid. It reminds me that I should invite my rowdy (or possibly my mild-mannered friends) over for football on Monday nights. And I enjoy how the opening is often completely [expletive] bonkers.
Williams recorded the tune over the summer in Nashville and told the Tennessean at the time: “I never said, ‘Are you ready for some football’ on stage one time the last five or six years, but I will now. I’m feeling at home and it’s a real good thing. . . . It’s kind of like the Nashville Predators playing for the Stanley Cup, it’s like ‘Wow.’”
Hmmmm. You make the call.
In 2011, both Williams, 68, and ESPN claimed they decided to pull the song, which Williams wrote and owns publishing rights for and Williams, who has considered running for office at times, wrote on his website: “I have always been very passionate about Politics and Sports and this time it got the Best or Worst of me. The thought of the Leaders of both Parties Jukin and High Fiven on a Golf course, while so many Families are Struggling to get by simply made me Boil over and make a Dumb statement and I am very Sorry if it Offended anyone. I would like to Thank all my supporters. This was Not written by some Publicist.”
Druley admitted last summer that she expected “some [backlash], but I’m not concerned. It was the right time. We discussed it internally and it was just the right time to bring him back.”
Say this much for the song: It reminded everyone just how awful Underwood’s “Sunday Night Football” tune is, with its apocalyptic vision of an America in which the world’s worst street toughs, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya, roam the land. At least this is, thankfully, one song you’ll never struggle to get out of your head.
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