Monday, December 6, 2010

The Party's Over

It seems fitting, I guess, that Don Meredith, the famed "Dandy Don," as his Monday Night Football colleague Howard Cosell called him, died last night at the age of 72.

For it was while I was watching Meredith and Cosell and their other colleague, Frank Gifford, doing a Monday Night broadcast that I learned that John Lennon had been killed.

The 30th anniversary of that event will be this Wednesday, and I expect to be writing about it later.

I was in college, and I was drinking beer and eating nachos with a couple of my buddies when Cosell made his announcement. The beer may have clouded my memory a bit, but what I recall is that Meredith said nothing about Lennon on that occasion. He and Gifford apparently sat in the booth and listened while Cosell informed the viewing audience that Lennon had been shot and killed only minutes before.

The thing I remember about Meredith's Monday Night Football career was his habit of bursting into a rendition of "Turn Out the Lights (the Party's Over)" when the outcome was no longer in doubt.

I'm not sure when he did it the first time. I just know he became famous for doing it, and I always knew, when he started singing, that it was time for me to go to bed.

I have few memories of Meredith's playing days. He retired from the NFL before I really began following it, but I do have spotty memories of seeing him play in the infamous "Ice Bowl" against Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers.

I remember, when I was a child, the adults in my world dismissed the Dallas Cowboys as "the team that couldn't win the big one." Some of that criticism was directed at the head coach, Tom Landry, but much of it focused on the team's field general — its quarterback, Don Meredith.

That criticism wasn't fair, but it never really went away until Roger Staubach started playing for the Cowboys — and Dallas finally won the big one.

Granted, Meredith didn't compile eye–popping numbers while playing for Dallas, but he was the Cowboys' quarterback in their early days, when wins were few and far between.

The fact that the Cowboys of the 1960s were ever in the position of participating in the postseason at all was due, in large part, to Meredith's play.

I hope Meredith didn't carry that criticism with him for the rest of his life. And, judging from what I saw during his Monday Night Football career, I don't think he did.

Rest in peace, Dandy Don. The party's over.

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