Television ratings and stadium attendance may have found baseball handing off the "America's Favorite Pastime" ball to the sport of football many years ago, but that didn't mean that the National Football League wasn't susceptible to fumbling at the throne. As Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC wrapped up another season of Monday Night Football earlier this week, there was a troubling streak even more vulnerable than Brett Favre's string of consecutive games as Green Bay's signal-caller.

See, despite all of the gridiron glory, ratings for Monday Night Football had been slipping every single year since 1994. ABC went through time slot changes, broadcaster juggling, and even hinted at flexible schedules -- all to no avail.

That's why it was welcome news to see the weekly staple close out the year as the country's third most popular television show. Closing out the season with an 11.5 rating -- meaning that 11.5% of all televisions in the country were tuning in -- may only be a marginal improvement over last year's 11.4 showing. However, it does put an end to eight years of losing ground on the viewership front.

Viacom's (NYSE:VIA) CBS and Fox (NYSE:FOX) still have another weekend of games to go through before the playoffs kick in, but it seems that football is finally starting to tack on some needed popularity yardage.

Last week, Sirius (NASDAQ:SIRI) signed a deal to broadcast NFL games on satellite radio. That's on top of the successful relationship with DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics (NYSE:GMH) and its NFL Sunday Ticket programming.

As player salary caps climb every year, new deals and higher ratings are necessary to keep the sport profitable. With yet another parity-doused season in which last year's conference champions will be denied winning records and playoff stints, it's good to know that at least the sport itself is gaining yards in a game of inches.

What did you think of this year's version of Monday Night Football? Are the games on too early for the West Coast or too late for the East Coast? How will Disney fill the void now that its Monday nights will be free of pigskin until autumn? All this and more -- in theDisneydiscussion board. Only on