Remembering Don Meredith
“It looks like they’re working on one of his rear molars,” intoned Howard Cosell in his typically authoritative manner. His voice inflections adding drama to his pronouncement. Dandy Don Meredith’s reply, “Well, if it ain’t that one, Haw’rd, it’s the one right next to it.”
The decision to add Don Meredith and his homespun humor, mannerisms, and common sense to the Monday Night Football announcing team was nothing short of brilliant. He was the perfect foil for Cosell, and as a former player, like straight-man Frank Gifford, had a charming personality with whom viewers quickly identified. When asked how he got the nickname, “Dandy”, Meredith said, “’Cause I am.”
As a player, Meredith kept his sense of humor, even when in pain. Texas author, Caleb Pirtle tells this story: “During Don’s early years with the Cowboys, he scrambled for his life on the ten-yard-line, broke free, and met the middle linebacker head on at the goal line. Meredith crumbled and went down like a broken match stick in the end zone. He lay still. The crowd was hushed. Meredith did not move. Everyone stood in silence as if in prayer. The team gathered around the quarterback as the doctor carefully removed his helmet and checked his pulse. Meredith suddenly opened his eyes, looked up, grinned, and said, “Can you believe they give you six points for just laying here?”
Don Meredith was a product of Mount Vernon High School in Northeast Texas and played college ball for SMU. At SMU, he was so good that many sports writers often referred to the school as “Southern Meredith University”. He led the Dallas Cowboys to two NFL Championship games only to be thwarted each time by the then dominant Green Bay Packers (Bart Starr, Vince Lombardi, et al). At the age of 31 he stunned fans with an early retirement and eventually spent twelve years in the booth for ABC on Monday Night Football.
On the screen is a player standing near the sideline discussing the game situation with his coach. Cosell is droning on about that same situation, the two men in the frame, and speculating on what they might be deciding. With no warning, the player, still with helmet on, vomits profusely straight out through the face mask. Unfazed, Cosell continues, “Look at that. That’s commitment and dedication for you.” Meredith’s reply, “That was sick Howard.”
He will be missed.