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Football's Double Reverse

Rick Aristotle Munarriz
April 19, 2005

I've always been a fan of the double reverse in football. In handing off the ball in one direction and then again in the other, a team has a chance to create a masterpiece of misdirection. Sure, it doesn't always pan out that way. A defender can sniff the play out and deck the scrambling runner in the backfield for a loss.

Last night, just days before the annual NFL draft of collegiate athletes, the league came up with its own double reverse. Come next year, Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) ABC will hand off the Monday Night Football franchise that it has championed for decades to its ESPN subsidiary, while ESPN will be handing off its Sunday night gridiron contests to rival General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) NBC.

With Fox (NYSE: FOX  ) and Viacom's (NYSE: VIA  ) CBS still airing their Sunday afternoon games, ABC will become the only major network without football. Forget the implications for football fans. They'll adjust their viewing patterns accordingly. Investors have the only question that matters for the moment: Can ABC live without football?

Despite being NFL-free for seven years, NBC has remained as a ratings leader, thanks to its slate of hit prime-time sitcoms. But the network also found itself making some desperate deals to satisfy its pigskin addiction. It wound up on the losing end of broadcasting games by Worl