11.23.05

Sandomir Commemorates MNF’s Humble Begining

Posted in Gridiron, Sports TV at 9:11 am by


(Roone Alredge explains to Howard that the segment with Oscar Madison will be very brief and what could possibly go wrong?)

As “Monday Night Football” comes to the end of a 35 year run on ABC, The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir looks back on the very first broadcast, a September 1970 contest between the Jets and Browns.

The game in Cleveland offered clues to how “Monday Night” would change the way football was televised, even if the revolution looks modest when compared to today’s high-tech wizardry. In its day, the use of nine cameras (versus a standard four or five) to get closer to the action, hand-held cameras for sideline close-ups and reaction shots, split-screen and end zone replays, and Cosell’s halftime highlights constituted a visual revelation.

There were no sideline reporters, constant score boxes or Telestrators, commonplace elements of today’s broadcasts, and there were only hints of the chemistry that would develop between Howard Cosell and Don Meredith. Cosell referred regularly to Dandy Don, but Meredith sounded tentative. The division of labor was clear: Keith Jackson gave the basics (Frank Gifford replaced Jackson the next season), Cosell commented when plays ended and Meredith spoke during replays. Sometimes he went a full series without speaking.

One slightly ribald comment by Meredith gave a glimpse into the charismatic, country-fried personality that played off Cosell so well.

“Isn’t Fair Hooker a great name?” Meredith said, referring to the Cleveland receiver.

“I pass,” Cosell said.

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