Don Meredith, one of the original commentators of “Monday Night Football” alongside Howard Cosell, died of a brain hemorrhage Dec. 5. Meredith was 72.
He played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-1968 and retired from the league when he was only 31 years old. ESPN reports Meredith led the Cowboys from their inaugural season in 1960 to the NFL Championship game in 1966 and 1967. Meredith’s signature phrase in the booth was when he sang “turn out the lights the party’s over” when a game was well in hand.
Don Meredith has several aspects which made him a broadcasting legend in football. “Monday Night Football” is now a ratings powerhouse thanks in part to Meredith’s folksy style in the booth.
My absolute favorite moment during “Monday Night Football” broadcasts with Meredith was when he would sing “Turn out the Lights,” a Willie Nelson song. He gave a rendition of the song to SMU the day they retired his number #17 at the Mustangs’ Ford Stadium.
Meredith was a Texan to the core. He was born in Texas, played college football in Fort Worth at SMU and spent nine seasons as a pro for the Dallas Cowboys. When Meredith returned to SMU to have his number retired he sang “Varsity” in honor of his alma mater. In good Texan style, Meredith would always have an excuse to break into song.
His legendary singing ability didn’t happen overnight. He would sing tunes in the huddle to his teammates. The Los Angeles Times reported Meredith would sing as he went into the huddle. Nothing was too serious for Meredith, even when his head coach was often never seen with a smile on his face — fellow Cowboys legend Tom Landry was Meredith’s only professional coach.
This example of the candor in the booth for “Monday Night Football” was hilarious. At the pre-game show for a Jets/Packers game in 1973, Cosell remarks to Meredith about the big games he played against the Packers.
Meredith’s Cowboys made it to the NFL title game twice, losing both times to the Green Bay Packers. Cosell let Meredith know it.
When talking about field conditions, Cosell said “We’ll get astute observations on that during the course of the game from our resident expert on the Green Bay Packers. Nobody lost more critical games to them in the history of football than Don Meredith.”
Meredith quipped back to him, “Most of it was right.” He was referring to Cosell’s assessment of the weather.
What amazes me about the broadcast was the hair. All three broadcasters had perfect hair. And then seeing John Riggins’ mohawk haircut when he played with the Jets was the icing on the cake for the pre-game show. It was a perfect antithesis to the grooming of the three broadcasters.
Don Meredith was truly one of the best when it came to bringing the game to the masses of Americans. He will be missed as one of the greats of the game both in front of the camera and behind it.
ESPN, “Don Meredith highlights.”
Southern Methodist University, “Legendary Mustang Don Meredith Dies.”
YouTube, “Don Meredith sings ‘Turn Out the Lights.'”
YouTube, “Don Meredith Sings Varsity.”
Famer, Sam, “An appreciation: For Don Meredith, the party never ended,”Los Angeles Times.
YouTube, “Don Meredith, NY Jets vs. Green Bay Packers Monday Night Football.”