This past Monday night, for the first time in 20 years, the telecast of Monday Night Football didn’t begin with Hank Williams Jr’s song “All My Rowdy Friends.” The song is synonymous with not just Monday Night Football, but American football in general. The chorus – “Are you ready for some football?” – is probably shouted by someone before the kickoff of every single football game, just as the words “Last Call” are usually shouted right before I vomit and pass out. This song has opened Monday Night Football since the time when I was a wee lad of 12, happy to be able to stay up late to watch my beloved Bills play on prime time. To me, starting a telecast without it is unimaginable. It’s like beginning a baseball game without the national anthem, or starting a Simpsons episode without having them all run in and sit on the couch. These are my American pastimes, and as “All My Rowdy Friends” has been muted in the Monday night sky, I am left to wonder what my country is becoming.
To be clear, there is actually a decent explanation for why the song was pulled. Earlier that day, the oddly nicknamed (we’ll get to that in a moment) “Bocephus” appeared on the TV program Fox and Friends, and appalled everyone by making offensive statements about President Obama. I – as I’m sure a lot of people were – was confused, as I thought the Fox channel encouraged making offensive statements about President Obama. Apparently there is a line, and Hank Jr crossed that line like a scab shuffling through a pack of strikers (nobody reading this expects the metaphors to be good, right?). Brought onto the show for unclear reasons, Bocephus was asked about politics. It was, according to 100% of the viewing audience, a terrible mistake. Reclining with arms folded across chest, Bocehpus complained about the golf match that Obama had with Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, and then drew a parallel from a parallel universe, saying it was like “Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.”
My first question, after watching the clip, was this: I can get why someone would compare a disliked person to Hitler, by why is Bocephus comparing John Boehner to Benjamin Netanyahu? Then it dawned on me…oh…he’s Jewish. Hitler didn’t like Jews. Then I laughed, because it’s sort of funny. Who comes up with the idea of the current Prime Minister of Israel shooting golf with mein fuhrer? It’s just a weird thing to think of. My second question, still bewildered that “All My Rowdy Friends” had been pulled from MNF, was: Why the hell is he called “Bocephus”?
As far as I knew, it was a nonsense word. And how does one get nicknamed a word that means nothing? So I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, Hank Williams Sr started calling his baby son “Bocephus” because the boy reminded him of a wooden ventriloquist dummy used in the Grande Ole Opry (the dummy belonged to a comedian named Rod Brasfield). To me, nicknaming your son after a ventriloquist dummy seems a little mean. However, it caught on. I can only imagine that first conversation between Hank Sr and his wife, Hank Jr’s mother:
“Hank, it sounds like little Hank Jr is crying again…can you go check on him?”
“Check on who?”
“You mean Bocephus?”
“I call him Bocephus now.”
“Yeah. Cause he looks like that dummy from the Opry.”
“Hank, that’s an awful thing to say!”
“No it ain’t! That dummy is darn funny and makes me laugh. The baby makes me laugh too! Just the other day I was burping Bocephus and playing a Tex Ritter record and it looked just like Hank Jr was singing the song himself. I even got a little teary eyed over it.”
“That’s a little strange, Hank. Were you drunk?”
“No. Well, yes. But that’s beside the point. The point is, I think we should all call him Bocephus from now on. Don’t you want your son to be successful? Don’t you want him to one day write a song about football and be on Fox and Friends?”
“Of course I do!”
“Then start calling the boy Bocephus! And for Christ’s sake, get him a top hat and a monocle! Doesn’t anyone have a sense of humor around here?”
Anyways, I digress. There are very few things in this world that I hold sacred. “All My Rowdy Friends” playing before Monday Night Football is one of them. I didn’t know that until it was gone. Yes, it was written by a guy who might be a little off his rocker. Yes, he said a stupid thing about the President. Yes, he’s gone by a wooden dummy’s name his whole life. We all have stories. The presence of the song means a lot. I’m willing to overlook a little slip of the tongue.
How will I know if I’m ready for the football or not if there isn’t a man in a cowboy hat there to ask me? Do what you want with the health care bill, gay marriage, whatever…I want my football song back.
Change, my fellow Americans, was so four years ago.