Don Meredith passes at 72

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.

45 responses to “Don Meredith passes at 72

  1. R.I.P. Dandy Don. One of the funniest color guys to ever be on Monday Night Football. His “turn out the lights” was classic. Godspeed.

  2. Guess I’m showing my age, but I remember he also was in the booth the night Howard Cosell announced that Johgn Lennon had been assassinated on Dec 9, 1980. He was funny and entertaining. Also remember a game when the Houston Oilers were getting slaughtered and the cameraman had a shot of a pissed off fan who then made an obscene gesture. Meredith said he thinks they’re number one in the nation!!! Those three were the best group of all.

  3. MNF was a “bargain” for all who watched, as the game was often secondary to what was going on in the broadcast booth, in terms of entertainment.
    Those were the best years of MNF.

  4. Dandy Don ,
    You were great on the field with the Cowboys , but you were better on the Monday Night football broadcast with Howard Cosell . I truly hope your name was written in the ” Book of Life ” and that you can continue your good work in heaven . You brought a lot of joy to us fans here on earth . So long Dandy !

  5. Some people only saw the clown in the booth and not the serious guy on the field. He retired too soon and a lot of people never saw how good he really was. Yes, he was fun loving but you don’t put your team into position to win the Ice Bowl if you’re not a damn good QB.

    As for MNF, I don’t think that you’ll ever see the like as they had with that group. Separately, they were never as good but when they were together, Howard and Dandy Don pushed the right buttons in each other .

    One of my favorite Meredith Moments was when Houston was playing Oakland and the Oilers were getting their butts kicked and they panned through the crowd and one of the guys gave them the finger and without missing a beat, Don said “He thinks they’re number one in the nation.”

    Goodbye, Dandy Don, you made a lot of people happy when you were around.

  6. Don, you were truly one of the greatest and have been missed since your retirement, both as a player and broadcaster. You have been an all time favorite for many of us who followed your careers from the beginning…no one will ever be your equal. May you R.I.P. and thanks for all of the happy memories.

  7. It’s somewhat nostalgic that as I sit here in Dallas this morning listening to sportstalk radio, people are calling in complaining about Tony Romo and how Jon Kitna should be the starter and I recall these same arguments being made 40 plus years ago about Don Meredith. People did not truly appreciate Don until after he retired and I believe the same will be said one day about Tony Romo

  8. I can remember when he and Eddie LeBaron alternated plays in the Cowboys’ early years.

    My favorite Meredith Moment was when Humble Howie said, “The ______ have a veritable plethora of fine receivers.” Danderoo mumbled “Wha?” but the next week he used the word plethora, correctly, at least three times.

    RIP, Don.

  9. I remember the episode he guest-starred on King of the Hill (one of favorite episodes, too). Hank got all PO’d because he wouldn’t take off his jacket when making the throw to win a million dollars, and Dandy Don said, “I’m not the one who blindsided a QB at the knees, Hoss.” Good stuff.

    R.I.P. Mr. Meredith.

  10. I wish to add my name to the ring of sorrow at the passing of Don Meredith. He and Howie were the best. I remember that a marketing scheme during those heady days of MNF was the sponge brick that you could purchase to throw at the TV screen. Another grand star of the past joins the legends. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Meredith family.

  11. I guess “The Party is truly over”. When I received word of Don’s passing the first thing I immediately thought about was hearing him sing that country tune when the MNF game results were not in doubt. What a character and he and Cosell were polar opposites. They don’t make them like him anymore. My sympathies to his family.

  12. Somone already said it. Cosell, Meredith and Gifford. They were what made MNF what it is.

    God rest your soul, Dandy, we’ll miss you. Here’s hoping that the NFL puts some of those classic games onto DVD so we can relive some of your fun moments.

    Look at the little dandy sing!

  13. I wonder how all those critics who joked about Meredith’s “brain cramps” on MNF are feeling now?

  14. R.I.P. Dandy Don……he was a classic……gotta chuckle though at all the love being given to the old MNF crew. Back in the day, the mojority of people use to say they hated Cosell.

  15. good luck on your next journey Dandy One…i cannot speak for eveyone, but generally announcers today are a joke…you were part of the best crew ever my friend. God speed…

  16. One of the very best crews to ever telecast a fotball game, and Dandy Don was a key part of it.

    He was also a pretty damn good quartberback. I remember him giving the Packers all the could handle in the playoffs, even though his ribs were broken and bruised – before the days of “flak jackets”, remember!

    Too young at 72. Another piece of my childhood crumbles away.

  17. I remember once Dandy Don said ”6 more inches and i would be Bart Starr” refering to that great game in 1967…MNF was must see Tv…Humble Howard and Dandy Don were a treat to watch each week

  18. Everyone loved to hate Howard and Don knew exactly how to use that!

    I’ll never forget one episode when he and Howard were arguing about something that happened during the game and Don got the last word when he said “Howard, I’ll leave it to all of your on field experience”. I still laugh to this day.

    RIP the party’s over…..

  19. I agree with all of the comments concerning his football career and especially his performances with Howard and Frank on MNF – classic.

    One question to the community: His onetime teammate Pete Gent authored the book “North Dallas Forty” some years back, and the book was later made into a movie. Although the book is fiction, I always thought that the people and scenes in it were taken from Mr. Gent’s real-life experiences as a WR with the 1960s-era ‘Boys. And…I could assume that the hard-partying QB in the book was patterned after…Don Meridith?

    RIP and Godspeed Don.

  20. The man was always a pleasure to listen to as a commentator even as a kid. He had a great personality and just seemed like “one of the guys”.
    R.I.P. Dandy Don and sincere thoughts of sympathy go out to your family and friends who knew you so well …

  21. Hey, Cosell was an attorney who made his fame through football. How about that. And I thought Mike was a trail blazer.

    If not for Meredith, Cosell & Gifford I don’t think MNF would have the stature that it has today. Certainly will never have the caliber announcers.

    RIP DD.

  22. As a child, thought Meredith had the most beautiful speaking voice, and as I got older, developed a big ol’ crush on him. Loved his occasional roles as cops or cowboys on movies of the week. He had an easy charm that made him a natural in front of the camera. Read North Dallas Forty recently, and like badgerbob, wondered if he was the inspiration for the hard-partying QB in the book. Maybe Florio can enlighten us.

    Definitely the only Dallas Cowboy who ever found a place in my heart. RIP Dandy Don. The lights are out.

  23. Had the opportunity to work on an interview with Dandy Don several years (over a decade) ago. During a break, I had about 15 minutes to talk to him. Growing up a huge Cowboys fan, I had a milion questions and he answered at least six or seven of them before it was time to get back to the business at hand. As for “North Dallas Forty”…he said that the book was pretty realistic but that it only went about 75% of the way in describing what really went on. Mac Davis played the character based on Meredith (Seth Maxwell) in the movie and Don didn’t care for the movie as much as the book. I remember his final sentence on the subject…”Nobody would have believed it if Pete had told everything that went on.” I am sad today, a legend from my youth has passed on. RIP.

  24. It must have ben 30 years ago that I read North Dallas Forty on an airplane. Yeah- Dandy was the QB- also had characters patterned after Bob Hayes and some of the other players. Best part of the book was when hard drinking QB undressed in locker room for practice- looked down at his private parts and said- “Oh partner- what did I do to yew last night?”

  25. I remember a MNF game between the Cowboys and the Giants. Howard Cosell spoke to Gifford and Meredith and said, rather pompously, “Gentlemen, your respective teams are looking rather shoddy tonight.” Meredith, without missing a beat, said “Well, Howard, at least we HAVE respective teams!” Meredith was wonderful.

  26. I remember Dandy Don singing “Mama’s don’t let your Cowboys grow up to be babies” while the camera panned downtown dallas. (That’s not a typo, he actually sang that way) He was down to earth, funny, and real – the perfect counterpart to Howard.

  27. footballrulz says:
    Dec 6, 2010 3:50 PM

    Hey, Cosell was an attorney who made his fame through football. How about that. And I thought Mike was a trail blazer.
    = = = = =

    Humble Howie made his name as a boxing commentator. Muhammad Ali made him and liked to remind him of that fact.

  28. I was a kid during the hay day of MNF and just begining to love football, and I have to admit Dandy Don was a reason I started watching MNF. Loved the “chemistry” he and Howard had. One you loved to hate, the other you just loved! RIP Don…!!

  29. I loved Monday Night Football! I liked Cosell because his words made me focus to listen to what he was saying.

    FWIW, to set the record straight, Howard Cosell DID NOT say “Look at that little monkey run” when he was referring to Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett. Cosell made this remark 11 years earlier in 1972 in reference to a play by Kansas City Chiefs Mike Adamle. It was 1983 on Monday Night Football when Cosell made his comment about Alvin Garrett which was “That little monkey gets loose doesn’t he.”

    I am still looking for a sound byte or video clip of Howard Cosell saying “Look at that little monkey run.” I hear that it might be contained in a Preseason 1972 K.C. Chiefs @ Giants 07/29/72 “Hall of Fame” Game. Can anyone locate the actual clip?

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