Monday Night Football legend 'Dandy Don' Meredith dies
December 6th, 2010
12:09 PM ET

Monday Night Football legend 'Dandy Don' Meredith dies

Don Meredith, an all-pro quarterback who made his greatest impact on the game after he finished playing, died Sunday at a Santa Fe, New Mexico, hospital, according to a spokesman. Meredith, above at center, was 72.

The spokesman was unable to confirm the cause of death.

Meredith, nicknamed "Dandy Don," was part of the original Monday Night Football broadcast team when the program debuted on ABC in 1970.

At that time, virtually no NFL games appeared in prime time, and many at the time thought it would fail because - wait for it, wait for it - women who controlled the TV set at night would not want to watch football. (Digital video recorders could have solved a lot during such TV gender wars.)

But in a then-unprecedented three-man broadcast booth, Meredith and Howard Cosell - joined by Keith Jackson the first year and Frank Gifford (above at right) after that - created a broadcast unlike any other.

Cosell (above at left), a former New York lawyer, and Meredith, the Cowboy from Texas, provided commentary and entertainment that attracted football and non-football fans alike. Their success was chronicled in the 1988 book "Monday Night Mayhem."

Meredith left Monday Night Football in 1984, but the series has run for 40 years - first on ABC, and more recently on ESPN. (Both networks are owned by Disney.)

Before entering the broadcast booth, Meredith played college football for Southern Methodist University and eight years for the Dallas Cowboys. He made three Pro Bowls and was the league's player of the year in 1966.

ESPN plans to run a tribute to Meredith and an interview with Meredith’s longtime announcing partner Frank Gifford at halftime of tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones issued a statement on his passing in which he called him a "Dallas Cowboys original."

"His wit, charm, and strength of personality were matched only by his wonderful leadership, toughness and athletic skill. His persona defined the Cowboys of the 1960s and set the course for what the franchise became. Throughout 50 years of history, the Cowboys legacy has been built by dynamic and colorful personalities who could also compete at the highest level. No one fit that description better than Don Meredith," he said.

Jones also acknowledged and praised Meredith's transition to his legendary broadcast career.

"After guiding this team from expansion franchise to title contender, his charismatic style helped build Monday Night Football to a level of popularity that was unprecedented for sports television in America," Jones said in the statement.  "Few men have contributed, both on the field and as a broadcaster, to the impact that the NFL currently has on our country today more than Don.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and his spirit will be with Cowboys players and fans forever."

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soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. Kasey

    Turn out the LIghts the party's over. Dandy Don you are one of a kind. Spent many Monday nights enjoying your humor and quick wit. Peace

    December 6, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. verify

    Don was a fine football player and was lots of fun on Monday Night Football. Sad to have him leave the party. Thanks, Don, for the entertainment, excitement and fun.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Janice

    oops sorry I mean Mac Davis played Don not Nick.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Karen

    Why would you make fun of someone just because they don't know what Don Meredith looks like? They could be interested in the story even if they aren't old enough to remember him. Sheesh...

    December 6, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • discripplemation

      if they were so interested in the story, how did they miss the last sentence in THE VERY FIRST PARAGRAPH that says exactly who Don Meredith is in the picture? it's not making fun to point out such a glaring bit of foolishness. it's not "cool" to rap CNN for making a mistake when they didn't.

      December 6, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Johnnyreb

    One of the best ad lib lines occurred before the Earl Campbell era when Bud Adams Oilers were really reeking. Monday Night was at the Astrodome that evening and the Oilers were putting up another stinker. Many of the fans were already wearing their Paper Bags on top of their heads. Late in the game the camera panned over to a single fan in the stands sitting all by himself with his bag placed accordingly. All of a sudden the fan gives the camera a middle digit salute. Cosell glibbly asked Dandy what did the fan mean. Dandy didn't miss a beat and said that we are number one. I wish I could have been in the booth at that moment cause it was sure darn funny coming over the tube.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hayduke

    Fred Exley must be rolling in his least they can now finally share witicisms.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • bookfraud

      Now, when Frank Gifford leaves this mortal coil, Exley will *really* have somebody to talk to...

      December 6, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bill

    I became a Dandy Don fan when the Cowboys almost beat those hated Packers in the "Ice Bowl". RIP.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evelyn

      Yeah, I remember.

      December 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Andy Mc

    Dandy Don's best line – "Give it a rest Howard"

    December 6, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bookfraud

    Yes, turn out the lights, the party's over, but it was one hell of a party and we're all better for having you, Howard and Frank on Monday nights. I know Meredith didn't like the "Dandy Don" moniker in his later years, but he was an original and will be missed, especially compared to the bland automatons doing color commentary these days.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. cj

    he will be truly missed

    December 6, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike B

    II still remember a game in the early 70s where the score was so lopsided, the hometown fans left in droves. When the camera zoomed in on a guy in an almost empty grandstand, he displayed the one-finger salute. "That's right, we're number one in the nation," quipped Meridith.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The_Mick

    In the early 1960's, Don Meredith did commercials for Shell Oil and in one he explained how Shell chemists had figured a way to create an oily mat to greatly reduce the oiling time of railroad cars. Partly because of that and Dupont's "Better things for better living – through Chemistry," commercials, about a decade later I became the first member of my extended family to graduate from college. It was the first of my two degrees in Chemistry.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Frank

    America has lost another ICON,DDM was a player and entertainer young people could look up to.He will be missed.
    This just reminds me of how old I am getting and to make every day count for something

    December 6, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DJ

    Turn Out the Lights, the party's over...but the light that Dandy Don had, will forever shine on! This (imho) was the greatest broadcasting crew ever assembled and to this day, after so many years no one can measure up to the standard these created. The chemistry, the knowledge of the game and half-time highlite show were just good 'ol professional broadcasting at it's best! hell they made women and the entire nation, tune in and watch MNF.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Terry

    Don was my hero for many years. My mother and much of my family is from Mt. Vernon, TX. I grew up hearing about the kid who was all-state in both football and basketball - almost impossible in Texas.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
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