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Graney: ‘Monday Night Football’ still magical to Derek Carr

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Derek Carr tried singing the tune this week: “Da da da, da, da da!”

Yeah. I know.

But what the Raiders quarterback might have lacked in belting out the famed “Monday Night Football” tune, he made up for with a genuine and still exuberant outlook about what is often the NFL’s most featured weekly game.

The lone one on that particular night.

The history told and legendary performances made from it. The pageantry of it all.

“You always dream as a kid about playing on Monday night,” Carr said. “If you don’t still love it, you might as well go home. I’m in my eighth season and I still have all those same feelings. If it ever gets boring for me, I’m going home.”

He will instead on this Monday night be at SoFi Stadium, where the unbeaten Raiders are to engage the Chargers.

It’s the second Monday night game for the Raiders this season, who opened by beating Baltimore 33-27 in overtime at Allegiant Stadium.

ESPN crew

Louis Riddick was in attendance. The former NFL safety is part of the ESPN broadcast crew alongside Steve Levy and Brian Griese. The trio also called a Monday night game in Las Vegas in 2020, when Allegiant Stadium was empty because of the pandemic. That was then.

This is now: What a difference 61,756 screaming souls and a television audience of 15.2 million viewers, the most for an opener on the network since 2013, can make.

“I thought the stadium was spectacular last year from a structural standpoint,” Riddick said. “But you knew how great it would look with fans. And it did. The place was buzzing (Sept. 13) from the beginning.

“They created the kind of environment that they wanted when they envisioned the whole thing coming together.”

He was also able to watch and evaluate the Raiders.

They have been overly successful on Monday night, compiling an all-time record of 42-19-1. That ranks among the Top 5 in win percentage across the league.

But that has no bearing on being 3-0 to begin this season and now facing a Chargers side coming off a win in Kansas City.

This is about as big an AFC West game as you can imagine early in a 17-game schedule. The Chiefs are still the division’s most talented side and a strong favorite to win it. But they have shown some vulnerabilities in starting 1-2. They’re not world-beaters again. Not yet, anyway.

It gives a team like the Raiders hope. It would allow for even more with a 4-0 start.

“They’ve had moments where you thought this could be the best offense in the NFL,” Riddick said. “On defense, they’re going to get the stiffest challenge of their season so far Monday night. They know that and have to answer the bell.”

The same feelings

Riddick’s forecast is simple: If the Raiders do that, it could go a long ways in determining what kind of season they have— from the perspective of a strong finish and potential playoff berth instead of again fading down the stretch.

He played for four NFL teams — including the Raiders while in Oakland — and wholeheartedly agrees with Carr about the importance of Monday night.

That it is an iconic brand. That generations upon generations of players have dreamed about experiencing it. How if you’re any type of competitor, the anticipation of being on such a stage in unlike any other.

“I still get as pumped up as ever for that opening kickoff,” Carr said. “I still get overjoyed in my heart that I’m able to do this. I’m 30. I have played a lot of football. Yet you still get all the same feelings for Monday night.”

Da da da, da, da da!

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at [email protected] or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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