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On the eve of the start of the National Football League season, I wrote a Page One story about how some economists and advertising agency executives were thinking that the recession might be a GOOD thing for NFL football on television this fall.

The thinking is that just as lavish Hollywood film productions soared at the box office during the Great Depression of the 1930s, televised National Football League games, which offer the same kind of escape, might be more attractive to viewers and advertisers than at any time in recent memory. In my notes when I was reporting the story, I labeled it "The NFL as MGM Musical Hypothesis."

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"NFL football games on TV are filled with colorful pageantry and uplifting exuberance. And those are the very qualities that helped provide the 'escapism' of the MGM musicals of the 1930s," said Abe Novick, a former executive at the Euro RSCG global agency who now writes about advertising as pop culture at abenovick.com.

Well, the ratings are in for the first couple of weeks, and they are huge. Both the Sunday and Monday prime-time games are dominating all other programming, and I think we can drop the "might" from the sentence about the harsh economic times being good for the games. They have definitely been great.

The first two weeks of ESPN's Monday Night Footballl averaged 13 million viewers making it the most watched show of the year on cable TV. Remember this is cable where 3 million is a big audience. The nearest cable competition the last two weeks: "Hannah Montana" and "WWE Raw," (wrestling) each with about 5 million viewers.

Sunday night's game on NBC between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, meanwhile, averaged 25 million viewers making it far and away the most watched program on all of television. In fact, it was the most watched since the finale of "American Idol" in May. And it was on opposite the Emmys telecast, which drew 13.3 million.

What about you? Are you or are members of your family watching and getting more engaged with TV football games this year? Do you think that's good thing -- or more evidence of America becoming a bread and circuses culture headed in the same direction as the republic for which that term was coined?

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