The start of Monday Night Football on Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC may have caught you by surprise. Last night, after all, was not a Monday. You also had the season premieres of Joey and the second installment of The Apprentice drawing folks over to rival General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC.

Yet, someway, somehow, the Indianapolis Colts and the Super Bowl defending champion New England Patriots found a way to kick off the new National Football League season on Thursday.

For ABC, football means big business. While rivals Fox (NYSE:FOX) and Viacom's (NYSE:VIA) CBS divvy up the Sunday afternoon gridiron contests, prime-time regular season games belong to Disney's ABC and ESPN networks.

The way ABC's ratings have struggled for its original programming in recent years -- often coming up an embarrassing fourth in key demographics in what had once been a three-horse race -- having an attractive slate early into the fall season has given the broadcaster a shot. Last year, Monday Night Football proved to be the third-most-watched show during the critical autumn season. Sponsors love the target audience, too.

While Disney is now weighing in on whether or not it is spending too much money to air the games, the more appropriate question is if Disney can afford to give them up. NBC gave up NFL pigskin action and never looked back. It seems happy with its slate of revenue-sharing deals in arena football and pro hockey. They don't draw gargantuan crowds, but at least NBC knows that it has a prime-time hit list that will keep it competitive in winning over the advertising dollar.

Until ABC has that luxury, it's best served to keep the ball rolling -- in every sense of the word.

Are you ready for some football? How will your favorite team fare this year? Which rookies will step up and make a difference for your fantasy football team? All this and more in the 77's Foolish House of Pigskin discussion board.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a huge football fan. He realizes that it's odd that his hometown Miami Dolphins will be starting their season on Saturday, but it's been a brutal off-season for the franchise anyway. He owns shares in Disney and Viacom.