Well, it’s Monday Night, so it seems like a good night to tell the story about Monday Night Football.
Assuming they actually have a 2020 NFL football season, this year will mark 50 years of Monday Night Football broadcasts. The first year of MNF kicked off with Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Don Meredith as announcers, followed by the replacement of Jackson the next year (1971) with former NFL star Frank Gifford.
Gifford, the most valuable player in the League in 1956, would be the pivotal broadcaster on MNF for the next 27 years; that is a lot of Monday nights, and a lot of football. Of the 3 announcers Frank Gifford certainly had the background and experience and credentials for the job. He held the group together with his play by play, if not exciting, at least consistent. And then there were the other two.
Howard Cosell was far different than most broadcasters of his time. He described himself proudly as
“Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff; there’s no question that I’m all of those things.” As you might imagine it made for an interesting mix with Gifford and “Dandy Don” Meredith. Cosell had never been a professional athlete and so alongside Meredith and Gifford, there was an interesting mix of the intellectual perspective versus the former player’s viewpoint. Strangely enough this mix of the three stooges led to Monday Night Football becoming a very popular show and it regularly topped the Nielsen ratings as the #1 TV show for the week.
Cosell was known for stirring the pot. He had always been prone to controversy, including his coverage of boxing and the career ups and downs of Mohammad Ali. Cosell also was at the center of the 1972 Munich Olympics, providing key coverage of the Black September murder of Israeli athletes.
Add to this mix one fun-loving guy, Don Meredith. Dandy Don as he became to be known was the color and the comedy for the Monday night act. Don was one of the original Dallas Cowboys. Out of SMU, Meredith joined the Cowboys in 1960 and became the starting quarterback in 1962. Don was named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last 3 years of his career, and claimed the honor of the league’s most valuable player in 1966. Though he never led the Cowboys to the Superbowl, he is remembered as one of the team’s all-time favorite players and he was certainly a Monday night favorite with the TV fans. His easy going style bounced well with Cosell’s more formal cadence and analysis. It was quite a show to see.
Unfortunately, all 3 of these guys are gone now, but the die-hard Monday Night Football fans live on. SSOMG remembers the broadcasts well, rarely missing a chance to share Monday night with Frank and Howard and Don. The games may have been routine or lopsided, but the announcers kept you in the game.
Hopefully we will be able to see a few NFL games on the TV this fall and MNF will be able to celebrate its 50th season. Thanks to Frank and Howard and Don, I know I will be watching.