With the specter of an NFL lockout looming over the league, the doomsday question has been "what will we do on Sundays without football?" Judging by what was aired in the NFL's absence the last time a work stoppage wiped out games, you won't be watching television.
During the one week that games were cancelled in 1987, CBS showed a replay of Super Bowl XXI, NBC moved around its schedule to air an AL East baseball game and ABC went with "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock." When the games returned with replacement players, the networks aired the games as scheduled.
Things were worse in 1982 when seven weeks of the season were cancelled. To compensate for the lack of programming, NBC (which had AFC rights) and CBS (which aired NFC games) did their best to fill Sundays with other sports. ABC went a different route on Monday and Thursday nights by airing movies and reruns. Not surprisingly, the replacement programs weren't nearly as popular.
Here's a sampling of some of the events and shows that aired during the NFL's 57-day strike:
• Division III football game between Baldwin-Wallace and Wittenburg (announced by Pat Summerall and John Madden).
• "The Outlaw Josie Wales"
• The Malibu Triathlon
• Canadian Football League games
• A one-hour film on the history of Notre Dame football
• Live boxing (lots and lots of live boxing)
• Taped weightlifting and gymnastics events
• Brent Musberger interview with George Steinbrenner
• Tennis exhibition with Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors
• Super Bowl XVI
• "The Cheap Detective," a Neil Simon comedy starring Peter Falk and Ann-Margret
• Rescheduled college basketball games
• Pat O'Brien-narrated profile of boxer Alexis Arguello
• "The NFL Today" (CBS aired the pregame show for all but the last two Sundays of the strike, despite the fact that there was no game to precede)
The networks attempted to move some major college football games to Sunday, but a federal judge ruled that schools owned the broadcasting rights to games and that the NCAA couldn't reschedule at will.
As you could imagine, the replacement programming didn't come close to matching the ratings brought in by the NFL. CBS went from 28.5 million viewers to 14.8 million, NBC was down 12 million viewers while ABC shed 14 million from the 39 million who tuned into "Monday Night Football." Advertisers didn't abandon the networks but paid one-third of the normal rates for NFL slots.
When the 57-day strike ended, pro football returned with decreased attendance but strong ratings. The Malibu Triathlon, however, was never the same again.