SBD/Issue 60/Sports Industrialists

Don Meredith Remembered For Contribution To "MNF" Booth

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).

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