The Classic Monday Night Football
Monday Night Football debuts tonight for the regular 2011 season with two games on tap. Gone are the glory days of Monday Night Football when Frank Gifford, “Dandy” Don Meridith and Howard Cosell manned the three-man booth.
At the time, the idea of NFL football on any other day of the week than Sunday (or Thanksgiving Day Thursday for the Detroit Lions annual game) was unheard of. According to Wikipedia:
“Looking for a lightning rod to garner attention, controversial New York sports broadcaster Howard Cosell was hired by ABC Sports Head Roone Arledge as a commentator, along with veteran football play-by-play man Keith Jackson. (Arledge had tried to lure Curt Gowdy and then Vin Scully to ABC for the MNF play-by-play role, but settled for Jackson after they proved unable to break existing contracts with NBC Sports and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively. Jack Buck was also considered, but when Arledge assistant Chuck Howard telephoned Buck with the job offer, Buck refused to respond due to anger at his treatment by ABC during an earlier stint with the network. Arledge’s original choice for the third member of the trio, Frank Gifford, was unavailable since he was still under contract to CBS Sports. However, Gifford suggested former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Don Meredith, setting the stage for years of fireworks between the often-pompous Cosell and the laid-back Meredith.
Monday Night Football first aired on ABC on September 21, 1970, with a game between the New York Jets and the Browns in Cleveland. The Browns defeated the Jets, 31-21.”
Frank Gifford later replaced Keith Jackson in the booth.
Here’s how the classic Monday Night Football open looked in 1973 on ABC: