Thursday, December 16, 2010
I was 9 years old when Monday Night Football debuted on ABC. But I remember it well.
I was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. And one of the original members of the broadcast team in 1970 was Don Meredith, who played for the Cowboys from 1960-68.
Back then, folks wondered if televising a football game on Monday night would work. NFL games were only supposed to be on Sundays.
But, like most sports nuts, I became a big fan. I was hooked.
I don’t think I missed any Monday Night Football games for years – at least as long as “Dandy Don,” Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford were a part of the show.
I grew up 12 miles from town and there was no such thing as cable TV. We had an antennae and only picked up about three channels.
I was leaning toward a career in print journalism. But Meredith and Cosell almost made me switch to sports broadcasting.
Meredith played the role of comedian on the Monday night team. He was great.
His approach to color commentary was light-hearted and hilarious, while Cosell provided intellectual analysis and Gifford the play by play.
My fondest memory of Monday Night Football is Meredith singing, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over” when one team had locked up the victory. It was a line from a Willie Nelson song.
My friends and I, who grew up playing sports, adopted the phrase ourselves.
Meredith left Monday Night Football for three seasons (1974 to 1976) to work with Curt Gowdy at NBC, then returned to work with Cosell and Meredith at ABC. He retired from sportscasting after the 1984 season, a year after Cosell’s retirement. His final broadcast was Super Bowl XIX with Gifford and Joe Theisman, which was ABC’s first Super Bowl.
As a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, Meredith was a three-time Pro Bowl selection (1966, 1967 and 1969). He was one of the most popular Cowboys ever. He is a member the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.
Don Meredith died Sunday, Dec. 5, at the age of 72.
His death and the tributes I’ve watched over the past week brought back many special memories of the original Monday Night Football and my love for the Cowboys.
Call me old-fashioned, but I like it the way it was then. I grew up with high school football on Friday nights, college football and NFL games on Sundays, except for the big one. All the teams wanted those Monday night games – in the spotlight on national TV.
Today there are high school games on Thursday nights, college football games every night of the week (thanks to TV, mainly ESPN), plus NFL games on Sundays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Mondays and perhaps more. NBC plugs Sunday Night Football, while ESPN has snatched up Monday Night Football.
I haven’t watched an entire Monday Night Football game in many years. And I’m a sports nut.
But if “Dandy Don,” Cosell and Gifford were back – no doubt, I would be glued to the tube.
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