Watchdog

Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

Frank Gifford helped make Don Meredith a TV star

How cold was it at the Ice Bowl? Not cold enough to make Frank Gifford mess up his hair by donning a hat (see video).

It turned out that Gifford, working for CBS, would perform his best work later, after the Packers' historic victory over the Cowboys, when he convinced the losing quarterback, Don Meredith, to do an an-camera interview.

That interview later helped convince Gifford and in turn ABC's Roone Arledge that Meredith would make for a compelling television personality in the "Monday Night Football" booth.

Here's the story:

"He wouldn't talk to the press, but I knew him really well," Gifford said. "We had partied a little bit in New York. He was fun then. I took him out to a couple of spots - P.J. Clarke's, Eddie Condon's - and we had kind of kept up a friendship.

"So he wasn't going to talk to the press after that Green Bay game, but I went up to him and said, 'You've got to talk. Talk to me.'

"We had a camera crew there and he was so moving and so right from the heart. He said, 'Dadgum it, I let all these guys down.' And it came across so human and so real, the media went bonkers over it.

"So as I'm leaving the locker room he said, 'Where are you going?' I said, 'I'm leaving. I'm going to New York.' He said, 'Can I go with you?' I said, 'Sure, if you want to.' I had a plane that I was flying back to New York that night. I wanted to be back for New Year's Eve.

"So he flew home with me and he stayed at my home in Scarsdale and was there for several days."

Forty-three years later, Gifford went to Santa Fe for a final visit.

"I saw him about three months ago. [His wife] Susan called me and said he was a little down in the dumps. He really wasn't talking to anyone. He would just sit there and was on oxygen at the time and just every now and then he'd try to sing. She had an around-the-clock nurse for him.

"I figured it was getting close to the end. I just flew out one afternoon and spent two days with him and came back.

"He didn't take very good care of himself, to say the least. Once he got to where he couldn't do anything he just fell apart. Sad."

Tags: CBS

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