Ed Driscoll

Turn Out the Lights: Don Meredith Dead at 72

Don Meredith, the legendary Dallas Cowboys and SMU quarterback, and Monday Night Football icon passed away at age 72 yesterday, the Dallas Morning News reports:

Meredith died at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, a hospital spokesman confirmed this morning. The Meredith family’s attorney, Lisa Fine Moses, said his wife, Susan, and daughter Mary were at his side.

Meredith had battled emphysema in recent years and suffered a minor stroke in 2004.

He was the only living Cowboys Ring of Honor member unable to attend the franchise’s September 2009 inaugural game at Cowboys Stadium.

Meredith was the original Dallas Cowboy, signing a personal services contract on Nov. 28, 1959, two months before the franchise officially gained admittance into the NFL.

Meredith would play nine seasons with the Cowboys, but clashing frequently with head coach Tom Landry throughout the 1960s, which led to an early retirement from the NFL, arguably while still in the prime of his career. (And ultimately opening the door for Roger Staubach to lead the team to multiple Super Bowls in the 1970s.) But Meredith parlayed his career with the Cowboys into a major television presence in the 1970s, appearing in commercials, in occasional dramatic spots (he was married to the ex-wife of actor Keir Dullea, according to the IMDB), and most visibly as the longtime co-host of Monday Night Football.  Meredith’s southern twang made for a perfect contrast and great TV, even when the game itself was a dud, with Howard Cosell’s dulcet New Yawk tones and spectacular pomposity.

Between the expansion years of the Cowboys, and his stint in the broadcast booth, Meredith witnessed some of the most important moments in the NFL, but as he would sing at the end of many a ballgame, turn out the lights, the party’s over for many football fans who look back on that great era of pro football.