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Louis Riddick, Brian Griese and Steve Levy. 

DENVER — With Army and Navy football hogging the service academy spotlight, perhaps you’re in the camp that's bummed Air Force punted on a full 2020 season without so much as a peep.

You've got a friend in Brian Griese. The Michigan man bristles as his beloved Big Ten sits this one out, too.

“The ones that are suffering are the kids,” Griese said.

At least "Monday Night Football" is back. In fact, it’s the 50th season of MNF. Time flies, huh? And when the Broncos host the Titans at Empower Field at Mile High, with no fans in attendance, the newness will extend to the ESPN broadcast booth. Griese, who lives in Denver, will team up with true pros Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Lisa Salters to translate the ballgame into your living rooms.

This is Griese’s first year calling "Monday Night Football." What a first year to call "Monday Night Football."

“I think the feeling that I have is one of being grateful and fortunate,” said Griese, the Broncos quarterback from 1998-2002.

If Griese continues his direct style of analysis, viewers will be grateful. At a time when talking heads too often take the safe route on touchy issues, Griese leveled a valid jab at the Big Ten, Mountain West and others who aren’t playing this fall and weighed long-term implications.

"I think back to if I didn’t have a chance to play my senior year,” Griese said. "I never would have gotten drafted (by the Broncos). I never would have come to Denver. I wouldn’t have met my wife. I wouldn’t have my kids. I wouldn’t be on this (Zoom) call today. I wouldn’t be doing 'Monday Night (Football).' It’s that game of sliding doors that is real for seniors that are playing in college right now that are not potentially going to have an opportunity to fulfill that dream.

“And that’s what bothers me the most.”

Count me as a fan of Brian Griese, the analyst, and a bigger fan of Brian Griese, the Coloradan. His family’s dedication to Judi’s House, a haven for bereaved children in Denver, is God's work. Brian and wife Brook co-founded Judi’s House almost 20 years ago when he was the Broncos quarterback. It’s a powerful mission that honors his mom, who died when he was 12.

Here’s hoping the MNF stage brings even more attention to a cause that's dear to his heart.

Broncos players will bring their own causes to the forefront in Week 1 of the NFL season.

Start with protests during the national anthem, a divisive subject sure to dominate the conversation. Broncos star wide receiver Courtland Sutton has already said he will kneel during the anthem. Here’s a hunch other Broncos will, too.

“We are using our platform to continue to bring light to that situation,” Sutton said, citing the issues of police brutality and racism.

With no fans inside the empty stadium, will the ESPN broadcast show the national anthem as players inevitably follow Colin Kaepernick’s lead?

“We will cover the anthem, obviously, Week 1. We’ll also cover 'Lift Every Voice (and Sing,' referred to as the Black national anthem), at least in the opener,” said Stephanie Druley, the executive vice president of event and studio production for ESPN. "The second game we never know."

The 2020 season presents the most unusual and controversial NFL campaign to date, and the prominent voices broadcasting the games figure to be under a microscope as well.

“We will cover social justice movements, actions, as they happen. We’re not going to shy away from that,” Druley said, answering a question that is sure to earn fans and lose fans as the season moves forward. “We’re going to keep our main rule, which is when it intersects with sports, we’re going to cover it.”

For the time being, other changes are coming to "Monday Night Football," which opens with a doubleheader of Giants-Steelers (5:15 p.m.) and Broncos-Titans (8:10) in Week 1. Hank Williams Jr.’s "All My Rowdy Friends" is a goner. (Understandable, as it would be a peculiar soundtrack when only six NFL teams plan on fans in attendance Week 1.) Then there are the sideline reporters, like Salters, who are not allowed on the field due to the NFL’s COVID-19 restrictions.

"Hoping the NFL will take a look at the NBA and WNBA" protocols that allow sideline reporting, said Salters, MNF's longest-tenured reporter.

In a move that secures his Colorado card, Griese learned he had landed the coveted "Monday Night Football" job while summiting Long’s Peak. 

His goal with the big-time gig is a simple one.

“Ultimately, I don’t view our role as showing up every week and trying to show how much football we know. That’s the not the point,” Griese said. “The point is that people enjoy watching the show. They’re engaged in the show. They’re engaged relationally. ... They want to spend 3 hours with us.”

While Army and Navy forge ahead with 12- and 11-game schedules, respectively, Air Force's season is largely on the shelf. Same for Colorado High School Activities Association and our high school game.

"I think it’s unfortunate," Griese said, speaking directly on his former conference. "The Big Ten made a decision early on. They made a decision without consultation with other conferences, which I think was a mistake. I know they wanted to be ahead of it, but at the same time in the rush to be first and be a leader, I think they made a mistake in not waiting to get more information and more data back."

This time around Colorado's lone football option is the NFL. At least there’s a Colorado guy behind the mic for the only show in town.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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