ESPN is trumpeting its ratings following Monday night's enthralling New England Patriots-Buffalo Bills game played in Hoth-like conditions. As expected, they are quite strong. In the fashion of 15 million viewers per the release, the highest figure since Week 1. The ManningCast garnered an additional 1.63 million as an alternate option. The company says it's up 11 percent from last year's Monday Night Football numbers, and 4 percent from 2019.
The perfect storm came together for maximum exposure two nights ago. Both the Bills and Patriots have major goals and the result would shape the AFC East going forward. Mac Jones has only grown more interesting as a case study in what happens when someone tries to build a second Tom Brady. But more important than anything were the elements. It was cold as hell, snowing and the wind was gusting in a manor that would take down even Clark Griswold's Christmas lights. People love that viewing experience more than anything.
It's just scientific fact that people have more fun the more miserable those out in the elements grow as the game progresses. Watching the snow fall and the winds whip from the comfort of a living room is one of life's great joys. It doesn't matter how bad the two teams playing are as things tend to become totally random and the fumbles start slipping away. Or you realize, damn, Bill Belichick is going to win this game while only throwing the ball three times. It's always great.
So, first and foremost, props to ESPN for capitalizing on the opportunity. But why stop there? Why won't anyone take up the reins the project of devoting a full day of airtime to the medium?
There's surprisingly deep inventory from which to choose from and something about a snow-saturated field proves timeless. Perhaps the most intriguing element at play here is how the stakes of the game are almost immaterial to the enjoyment. Sure, it's fun to watch The Tuck Game or the Ice Bowl because of their importance, but Michigan's 5-0 victory over Purdue in 1995 is just as pleasurable. Five to nothing! In football! Or the time Detroit managed to allow Philadelphia to score 34 points in a 19-minute stretch even though the Linc could have been used as stand-in for Hoth.
There could be a whole series here. Rip through the snow games. Then the rain games. Then the really hot games. Then the windy games. You get it. Strike a partnership with the Weather Channel. Find something else for Steve Kornacki to do. Or Al Roker.
We love football and we love watching football in the snow. Combining the two to the point of absurdity just makes sense.