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Don Meredith (c) Served As Analyst
On "MNF" For 12 Seasons
Former ABC "Monday Night Football" analyst Don Meredith, who "became a pop culture icon as an original cast member," passed away Sunday at the age of 72, according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. Meredith served two stints on "MNF," from '70-73 and '77-84, and in between he worked for NBC alongside announcer CURT GOWDY. At ABC, "teamed with HOWARD COSELL and KEITH JACKSON, Meredith didn't sound like the often-solemn NFL announcers of the era." He "cackled" and "sang, most memorably WILLIE NELSON's 'Turn Out the Lights' when games seem clinched." Meredith also "became the marketing prototype of the modern athlete-turned-announcer with high-profile product endorsements and roles in primetime TV shows," including his appearances in Lipton Tea commercials (USA TODAY, 12/7). FANHOUSE.com's Dave Goldberg wrote, "To Texans, Meredith may be the first player signed" by the Cowboys. But "to the nation he will always be the good-natured ex-quarterback who punctured Cosell's pomposity during what are fondly remembered as the golden days of television's Monday night showcase" (FANHOUSE.com, 12/6).
MAKING "MNF" WHAT IT IS: In Houston, David Barron writes Meredith's work on "MNF" helped "re-create the NFL as prime-time spectacle" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/7). On Long Island, Neil Best writes Meredith "helped lighten the mood and make" late NFL Commissioner PETE ROZELLE's "vision for extending the NFL into prime time a marketable reality" (NEWSDAY, 12/7). NFL.com's Gil Brandt wrote Meredith's "likability was so instrumental in the early success" of "MNF." Brandt: "I believe that ability to draw in the casual fan to the Monday night broadcasts helped increase the popularity of the NFL to what it's become today" (NFL.com, 12/6). Former ABC "MNF" announcer and analyst FRANK GIFFORD, who worked with Meredith for 11 seasons, said, "To say that Don was an instant success would be a gross understatement" (L.A. TIMES, 12/7). ESPN's Chris Berman: "For more than a decade his Texas-sized personality and down home style helped create a prime-time sensation" ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 12/6).
PERFECT TEAM: CBSSPORTS.com's Clark Judge wrote Meredith and the rest of the "MNF" crew "made the Monday Night experience so entertaining." Judge: "You were never sure what you were going to get, but you were certain it would be worth experiencing. So a game might bomb. The broadcast crew wouldn't" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/6). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote "MNF" was "appointment viewing, with Meredith's goofy, good-ol'-boy shtick balancing out Cosell's biting vocabulary and staccato delivery" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 12/6). CBS announcer VERNE LUNDQUIST: "Don had the wonderful ability to deflate the bombastic Cosell. He was the perfect counterbalance to bombast. ... He had a wonderful good-old-boy persona" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/7). CBSSPORTS.com's Pete Prisco wrote, "Who can forget his fun at the expense of Howard Cosell? Meredith always seemed to be having a ball, his infectious laugh a stark contrast to the always-serious Cosell" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/6). ESPN.com's Matt Mosley wrote Meredith was "actually more of an entertainer than an analyst, and he was the perfect complement to Howard Cosell's acerbic approach in the booth" (ESPN.com, 12/6). CBS' Harry Smith: "His quick wit and Texas charm made him the perfect foil for Howard Cosell and helped turn 'Monday Night Football' into must-see TV" ("Evening News," CBS, 12/6).
ALWAYS ENJOYABLE: In Albany, Pete Dougherty wrote with his "southern drawl and humor, Meredith helped make telecasts entertaining beyond what transpired on the field" (TIMESUNION.com, 12/6). SI.com's Joe Posnanski: "No color commentator -- not in the long history of professional football on television -- ever made professional football games as much fun as Dandy Don Meredith" (SI.com, 12/6). ESPN's Trey Wingo said Meredith "made many of the miserable 'Monday Night' matchups watchable" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 12/6). ABC's John Berman said Meredith was "often more entertaining than the game" ("World News," ABC, 12/6). In N.Y., Martin & Carter write it was Meredith's "sparkling, fun-loving personality that seemed to define him" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/7). NBC's Brian Williams: "For millions of Americans he made football on TV so much fun" ("Nightly News," NBC, 12/6).
Gillick Was GM For World
Series Titles With Jays, Phils
The Baseball HOF Veterans Committee yesterday announced that longtime baseball exec Pat Gillick was the "only person elected" to the Hall this year, as former MLBPA Exec Dir Marvin Miller and late Yankees Chair George Steinbrenner did not receive enough votes, according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Miller fell "one vote short" of the necessary 12 -- the "closest of five losing votes that began in 2003 -- and he still believes he will never be enshrined." Miller said, "There’s been a concerted attempt to downplay the union. It’s been about trying to rewrite history rather than record it. They decided a long time ago that they would downgrade any impact the union has had. And part of that plan was to keep me out of it." He added that he is "more disappointed by the lack of the Hall’s recognition" for the MLBPA than "by his nonelection." Two of Miller's successors at the union, DONALD FEHR and MICHAEL WEINER, yesterday "issued statements harshly critical of the vote" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/7). Steinbrenner received "fewer than eight votes" from the Veterans Committee (N.Y. POST, 12/7).
SWING & A MISS: In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan writes Gillick "got a boost" for the HOF because "he was not Marvin Miller and he was not George Steinbrenner, two very deserving candidates whose names also should have been called Monday." It in "no way diminishes Gillick's career to say" that both Miller and Steinbrenner "had more significant impacts on the game." Gillick is an "astute baseball man who won everywhere he went," but the other two "changed the course of the game." Their exclusion seems to have been "motivated by pettiness and politics." Sheridan: "It is absurd to deny Miller's role as an 'architect' of the game. Ditto Steinbrenner. If Gillick is being honored for winning three World Series in his career, how do you ignore a man who won seven while restoring the luster of the Yankees and building a media empire to help pay for the whole thing?" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/7). In N.Y., Bill Madden writes the HOF is "diminished from what it is supposed to be as long" as Miller is excluded from it. Madden: "It is a sad commentary that (presumably) the owners on the voting committee could not put aside their lasting antagonism toward Miller and assume the role of historians -- which is essentially what they're asked to be in evaluating executives -- and finally recognize the fact that no one has had more impact on the game than him" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/7). Also in N.Y., Michael O'Keeffe writes Miller's "impact on professional sports cannot be overstated." He built the MLBPA "into the most successful union in the country and led the players through work stoppages and baseball's explosive expansion in the 1960s and '70s" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/7).
Chris Flannery has left his position as Ripken Baseball President after more than eight years to start his own digital media operation. Flannery joined Ripken Baseball in '02, shortly after the company's formation and helped build it into a sprawling empire that includes three minor league baseball teams; a well-known youth baseball enterprise encompassing amateur leagues, tournaments and camps; an athletic field design and management concern; and Cal Ripken's various philanthropic and licensing interests. "It's been a fabulous run, and (Ripken Baseball founders Cal and Bill Ripken) gave me a lot of latitude and trust. But I'm an entrepreneur at heart, and I'm ready to go back to that again," Flannery said. "The various businesses with Ripken Baseball are pretty much optimized now. I set out to help build a successful operation in the name of Cal and Billy, and mission accomplished. But it wasn't my name. I want to do something more of my own now." Flannery, whose varied professional background includes stops in retail, e-commerce and marketing, declined to specify the nature of his next company, but said it would carry a significant international focus. A formal plan for the forthcoming entity is expected in the first quarter of next year. "I don't want to say too much about it now, but it will be much more about media and content than technology."
Lazarus Officially Joins
Comcast As Senior Advisor
Comcast Corp. yesterday formally announced the hiring of MARK LAZARUS as a Senior Sports Advisor. Lazarus joins Comcast from Atlanta-based CSE, where he was President of Media & Marketing. Prior to that, Lazarus was President of Turner Entertainment Group, where he oversaw Turner Sports (Comcast)....Sportsman Channel has hired Versus VP & Creative Dir MICHAEL MAGNOTTA for the newly created position of Senior VP & Creative Dir (Sportsman).
EXECS: MSG Sports has promoted Senior VP/Marketing & Ticket Sales HOWARD JACOBS to Exec VP/Marketing & Sales; VP/Suites, Premium Seating & Service MIKE ONDREJKO to Senior VP/Corporate Hospitality Sales & Service; and Dir of Suite Sales SEAN DOWNES to VP/Corporate Entertainment Solutions (MSG)....The CFL Edmonton Eskimos have hired '10 Grey Cup Festival Exec Dir DUANE VIENNEAU as a VP, effective in January. The Eskimos also hired the following: GREG TREBLE as VP/Business Operations, CATHY PRESNIAK as VP/Finance & Administration and DAVE JAMIESON as VP/Communications & Marketing (Eskimos)....Premier Partnerships named TODD FERDERER Dir of Finance, SEAN KNECHT Marketing Assistant and ALICIA MENDOZA Marketing Assistant (THE DAILY)....N.Y.-based Nixon Peabody LLP has hired CHRISTOPHER MELVIN as Managing Dir of the firm's public finance practice with a specific focus on stadium and sports finance. Melvin will be based in the firm's N.Y. office (Nixon Peabody)....Comcast-Spectacor named ALEXANDRIA MCBRIDE Account Exec for the Wells Fargo Center (THE DAILY).
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York Discusses 49ers
With Feinstein At Lunch
In S.F., Matier & Ross reported 49ers President & CEO JED YORK “got a bit of a surprise when he showed up for lunch at the Villa Taverna” with S.F. Mayor WILLIE BROWN. Brown “set him up, inviting York to lunch without telling him that” U.S. Sen. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-Calif.), “one of the biggest critics of the team’s plan move to Santa Clara, would be there as well.” Feinstein “went over why she thought it so important for the team to stay in the city -- and York just as patiently explained why Santa Clara was better suited to handle game day traffic and fans.” By the “end of the meeting, they’d agreed on three things: York would meet with outgoing Mayor GAVIN NEWSOM, none of them would say anything about their having met, and they’d keep talking about the team’s options should the Santa Clara plan falter” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/5).
CHARITY STRIPE: Sunday night’s episode of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” featured several Browns players assisting with the rebuilding of a house in Cleveland. Also, TRACY HUTSON, one of the show’s designers, visited the Cavaliers facility where Fs ANTAWN JAMISON and JAMARIO MOON, and Gs DANIEL GIBSON and MO WILLIAMS donated jerseys, basketballs and other team apparel and merchandise to decorate one of the children’s rooms. That room also featured a wide-screen TV that aired an ESPN “SportsCenter” clip with messages from ESPN’s NEIL EVERETT and STAN VERRETT and Cavaliers coach BYRON SCOTT (“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” ABC, 12/5).
NAMES: A consortium of 10 health agencies has launched a "campaign to encourage MLB to ban the use of smokeless tobacco in the next CBA." The group, led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, sent letters to MLB Commissioner BUD SELIG and MLBPA Exec Dir MICHAEL WEINER two weeks ago (FANHOUSE.com, 12/3)....Versus is "seeking manly men to compete for a chance to cohost a new sports and comedy show" titled "BEER 30." A "Man-Thelon" competition featuring a "sports trivia challenge and a 3-minute stand-up comedy skit gets under way at 7 p.m. Monday at Jerry Remy's Sports Bar & Grill" in Boston. Three winners "will be chosen to travel to Dallas and compete against finalists from four other cities" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/7)....Padres investor RON FOWLER "is the anonymous donor who has pledged" $5M to San Diego State Univ.'s athletic department (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 12/7)....The Daily Tennis News named WTA Chair & CEO STACEY ALLASTER the '10 Tennis News Person of the Year (TENNISNEWS.com, 12/6)....MiLB President PAT O'CONNER yesterday at the MLB winter meetings presented FRANK BURKE, GEORGE MCGONAGLE and JACK ROEDER with presidential citations, issued to recognize exemplary service on behalf of MiLB. Burke serves as Double-A Southern League Chattanooga Lookouts President & GM and Southern League Board of Trustees rep; McGonagle has been connected with the Rookie-level Appalachian League Bluefield Blue Jays since '51 and served as President & GM from '95-'07; and Roeder recently retired after 20 seasons with the Single-A Midwest League Cedar Rapids Kernels (MiLB)....PBR President Ty Murray and his wife, singer Jewel, presented the award for "Single of the Year By A Male Artist" to singer Josh Turner at the American Country Awards. NASCAR drivers Michael Waltrip and Travis Pastrana presented the award for "Group of the Year" to Lady Antebellum ("American Country Awards," Fox, 12/6).
BEST WISHES: CFL Edmonton Eskimos President & CEO RICK LELACHEUR "has been diagnosed with prostate cancer," and the "good news is his doctor detected the cancer early." LeLaucher will "undergo surgery in mid-December and expects to return to work by the middle of January." LeLaucher said that he "found out about the cancer back in July" (CFL.ca, 12/4).