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Associated Press
This July 24, 1974, file photo shows Don Meredith, one of the most recognizable figures of the early Dallas Cowboys and an original member of ABC's "Monday Night Football" broadcast team.

Dandy Don. RIP.

Sometimes a piece of news crosses your desk and the only reaction available is, "Aww, (bleep)."

This just in: Dandy Don Meredith is no more.

The former Cowboys' quarterback, and Howard Cosell's perfect foil on Monday Night Football back when MNF was still an event, died in Albuquerque on Sunday. He was 72.

And so another piece of my childhood goes whirling off into the cosmos.

If you're of a certain age, Don Meredith was the guy who could never beat the Green Bay Packers, and of whom your clearest memory is of that refrigerated day in Green Bay when he looked like he was going to freeze solid at any moment in what's come to be known as the Ice Bowl. It was minus-13 that day in Green Bay, and Meredith was a Texas boy born and bred. They didn't make weather like that where he came from.

Still, it took Bart Starr burrowing in from the one in the final 16 seconds to beat Meredith and the Pokes that day.

Of course, then he went on to join Cosell and Keith Jackson in the MNF booth and become a media rock star.

These days the NFL plays on Thursday nights and Sunday nights and Saturday nights and lord knows what other nights, and so no one born after 1970 remembers what a ground-breaking thing MNF was. Football on Monday night! Three announcers in the booth! One of them Cosell!

One of them the alleged country bumpkin who one-upped him at every turn!

It was Dandy Don's lot to be the comic relief in the booth, and no one did it better, puncturing Cosell's pomposity with an ease that hinted his poor ol' country boy act was something of a con. He is famous, of course, for crooning "Turn out the liiiiights, the party's over" when a game got out of hand, but my favorite Meredith moment might be the night the Houston Oilers were getting romped by the Raiders and the camera came to rest on a disgruntled fan in the Astrodome.

Just about the time the cameraman zoomed in, the guy looked up and flipped America the bird.

And in the booth, with perfect timing, Meredith piped up: "Why, Ha'ard, he thinks they're No. 1 in the nation."


Ben Smith's blog.