Dandy Don Meredith, the carefree Cowboy and Monday Night Football star, is dead.
He died at 72 last night in Santa Fe, N.M., where he'd been living a life decidedly out of the spotlight, ignoring most interview requests.
He was one of a kind, and here are five reasons to mourn him.
5. Introducing Willie Nelson's "The Party's Over" to most of America I grew up in New Jersey. I can guarantee you no one but a very, very small minority had any idea that there was a song called "The Party's Over" that wasn't from a Broadway show. Until Dandy Don started belting it at the end of MNF, that is.
4. He had a healthy attitude toward fame and football It drove legendary tight-ass St. Tom Landry nuts, but Meredith was determined to have fun playing football, and if it wasn't fun he didn't see the point in playing. He quit at age 31 with plenty of years left in him. Tom Landry eventually got the do-gooder QB he dreamed of with Roger Staubach.
4. He immortalized the ineptitude of the Houston Oilers The Oilers were sucking, and MNF was broadcasting yet another desultory beating. The camera panned around a half-empty Dome (the NFL would never allow such a thing now), catching dozens of bored fans. One threw a middle finger at the camera. "He's just saying the Oilers are number one," Meredith analyzed.
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3. Although he never won a Super Bowl or an NFL championship, he really was a great QB Two tough losses to Green Bay, including the famous Ice Bowl, kept Meredith from wearing rings (We assume the Cowboys would have won the Super Bowl in 1967.) But Meredith was the QB who took the Cowboys from utter ineptitude to regular challengers for the title.
2. He was the inspiration for the Dallas QB in North Dallas Forty There have been better NFL movies, and Mac Davis was about 5-foot-2 and supposedly an pro QB, but the movie -- especially G.D. Spradlin as the Landry guy -- showed a side of the league many fans weren't aware of at the time.
1. He was the perfect foil to Howard Cosell If you weren't around for Cosell, there's no way to explain him. Or the intense hatred he somehow engendered. Meredith was perfectly able to deflate the pomposity whenever the urge struck him.
Vaya con Dios, Dandy Don.