ESPN forced football fans to watch the new ‘Star Wars’ trailer

I know, it’s surprising.
I know, it’s surprising.
Image: Disney/YouTube screenshot
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Thanks to Star Wars, we have officially reached peak movie trailer.

The long-awaited, much-hyped new trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens debuted last night (Oct. 19) on the unlikeliest of platforms: Monday Night Football, the United States’ treasured weekly football game on sports behemoth ESPN.

Disney, which bought Lucasfilm in 2012 (and, thus, acquired the Star Wars franchise), also owns ESPN—so the move makes perfect sense business-wise. Yet, the trailer debut still felt like an awkward union between two very different segments of contemporary culture.

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, here it is:

I am both a sports fan and a movie nerd, and I have never seen anything like what transpired on ESPN last night. Star Wars didn’t just interrupt the Monday Night Football broadcast—it lingered on the cable channel all night. The trailer loomed over every pass, every huddle, every highlight.

Shortly after football announcer Mike Tirico introduced the trailer during halftime, it aired again on the channel’s popular daily show SportsCenter. Anchor Scott Van Pelt, with a deluge of yellow and black Star Wars logos on the screens behind him, presented an encore of the trailer.

Meanwhile, in between tweets about the Major League Baseball playoffs and the football game, SportsCenter sent this to its 21 million followers:

Less than 12 hours after premiering, the trailer has over 9 million views on YouTube. Fans are already analyzing it frame-by-frame. Others are discussing the live reactions of some cast members to the trailer, which they posted themselves on Instagram. The trailer itself had its own trailers.

Star Wars is probably the only movie that could inspire such an internet hullabaloo. Even though Disney put the trailer on YouTube right after it aired, fans wanted to watch it live, to be part of the experience, which made last night’s spectacle on ESPN an event, even for non-football fans.

People who have never watched an American football game in their lives caught some of the action in anticipation of watching the trailer. (Apologies to these troopers, who had to endure an ugly contest between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles). And there’s probably even a macho football fan or two who saw the artfully-crafted trailer and then raced to Fandango to order his tickets for opening night (Dec. 17).