Remember those hazy days of the lockout when we all thought football was dying a horrible death? They were fleeting, but they happened, and people were even making crazy claims about staging a football boycott if the lockout lasted one more day.

Silly NFL fans. Tomorrow at this time if you check the ratings for tonight’s game there won’t be a hint of a boycott, or a juggernaut enterprise that’s been weakened by an offseason of labor bickering. The water is quite warm in the NFL’s money pool, and it’s been raised a few degrees after ESPN announced a new eight-year contract extension this morning to keep Monday Night Football until 2021. The current deal started at the beginning of the 2006 season, and was set to expire in 2013.

The total value of the extension is reportedly $15.2 billion and $1.8 billion annually, although the New York Times has it pegged at $1.9 billion, but what’s a bit of pocket change between friends? That means the new deal represents a 73 percent increase over the current contract, which cost the network roughly $1.1 billion per season. The NFL has cashed in, and it keeps an American institution running smoothly for the next 12 years, ensuring that men are separated from their wives and bars are tapped dry every Monday night.

The league wins, and ESPN doesn’t, with the network still barred from the Super Bowl rotation, and the future of playoff football at the Worldwide Leader remaining murky and uncertain. The general consensus seems to be that a Wild Card game will land on ESPN soon, with the deal providing an avenue for the NFL to take a playoff game from another network and graciously hand it to Tirico and company.

MNF is seen in an average of 10.5 million homes, and the ESPN NFL brand will now be expanded with an additional 500 hours of video highlights and studio programming as part of the new contract. This will clearly alter ESPN’s existing NFL content, starting with “NFL Live,” which will change its format and become an hour-long show.

Most importantly, Chris Berman now has much more time to bond with the brunettes in Bristol…

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