“Turn out the lights, the party’s over. . . .”
Somewhere, Don Meredith is singing that tune right now. The one that he sang on countless Monday nights, when he concluded that the game he was calling with Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell no longer was in dispute, to the certain dismay of ABC executives who would have preferred that the audience didn’t receive a musical invitation to change to one of the two other channels that were available at the time.
Then again, who changed the channel? Monday Night Football was appointment viewing, with Meredith’s goofy, good-ol’-boy shtick balancing out Cosell’s biting vocabulary and staccato delivery. Directing traffic and/or staying out of the way was Frank Gifford, who handled the play-by-play action and otherwise refrained from clunking their heads together or throwing either or both of them out of the window of the broadcast booth.
According to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News, Meredith has died at 72. The Associated Press reports that Meredith suffered a brain hemorrhage. He also had emphysema, and he endured a stroke in 2004. Meredith played quarterback for the Cowboys well enough to join the team’s Ring of Honor, but he remains best known for providing comic relief via his squabbles with Cosell, back when MNF was truly magical.
Meredith retired from football at only 31, opening the door for Roger Staubach to author a Hall of Fame career. As Townsend points out, Meredith retired the same day Staubach left the navy.