World loses a good one in Meredith

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:52 PM ET

TORONTO - “Turn out the lights, the party’s over ...”

Dandy Don Meredith is leaving. The folksy good-ol’ boy who warbled those lyrics whenever he thought the game was over as one of the original analysts on Monday Night Football, has died.

Meredith died at 72 in his beloved Texas of emphysema, six years after suffering a stroke. He had mostly preferred to stay out of the limelight after retiring as the comedic foil to the taciturn, gritty Howard Cosell and the urbane Frank Gifford.

Meredith’s goofy delivery helped make MNF must-see television.

He played his high school, college and pro career within spitting distance of tiny Mt. Vernon in East Texas. He found his American dream — a country kid who left for college stardom at SMU and a celebrated NFL career with the Cowboys, one commemorated with his induction into the team’s Ring of Honour in 1976.

Meredith played for the Cowboys from 1960 to 1968 and twice led them to the NFL title game. He retired at 31 saying the game was no longer enjoyable, paving the way for Roger Staubach just as the club was entering its glory years.

Said Cowboys’ president and general manager Tex Schramm once: “He could be a practical joker. He could do just about anything in that huddle or on the practice field, and that drove the head coach crazy. But put him in a uniform, and he played like hell.”

His squabbles and homespun humour drove the sterner Cosell to distraction; their banter making MNF a magical live sports program that remains unmatched. He quickly became a national celebrity through MNF, starting in 1970. Millions tuned in to Meredith’s rapier wit, homespun tales and needling of Cosell. “He had a wonderful sense of humor and a very laid-back personality,” said Schramm. “But he was an absolutely intense competitor who could rally a team. He was very charismatic, maybe the most charismatic player we had.”

Asked once by a reporter about a game in which he completed 12 of 14 passes, Meredith, almost apologetically, explained: “Well. No one is perfect.”

He was married for 39 years when he died. “We just lost a good one,” his wife told the Dallas Morning News Monday. He might not have been perfect, but Meredith got as close as anyone can ask of a man.

Cowboys No. 1 choice

The Dallas Cowboys may be finished with Marion Barber.

Given a Choice.

Tashard Choice, that is.

There is speculation in Dallas that Barber may be placed on the season-ending injured reserve after Choice’s striking effort Sunday.

With Barber sidelined with a calf strain, Felix Jones got his third career start at running back with Choice as his sidekick. Jones had 83 yards on 22 carries which might’ve been expected. Choice had 100 rushing yards and a touchdown, which wasn’t expected.

Dallas’ inside-outside tandem of Jones and Choice would be a cheaper, and potentially more effective, way to go than keeping Barber next season.

Owens speaks up

It took nine consecutive defeats but Terrell Owens finally popped his controversial top.

Owens questioned the play-calling after the Bengals 34-30 defeat to New Orleans. “I just think that, coming here this year, with the opportunities that presented themselves with myself and Chad (Ochocinco), the progression of Jordan Shipley and Gresh (Jermaine Gresham), we could be a little more aggressive,” Owens told the Cincinnati Inquirer. “That’s what I’ve thrived on all my career. There are times when I’m not the No. 1 option, but considering the things that I’ve done this year, I present matchup problems.”

In other words, what he’s saying is: ‘Gimme the $%#^@# ball!” Only he’s saying it nicely. Imagine Terrell Owens being politically correct. Who knew?

Owens was targeted nine times and caught six passes for 47 yards and one touchdown, He also drew a 45-yard pass interference penalty against Saints cornerback Tracy Porter. The 15-year veteran has been everything the Bengals could’ve asked with 71 catches for 961 yards and nine touchdowns this season. But the team still can’t win.

“It’s frustrating when you feel like there are opportunities that are left out on the field and they aren’t being taken advantage of,” said Owens. “Everybody’s frustrated but I feel like I can be part of the solution ... That’s just confidence; it’s not arrogance.”

No place like home

The Green Bay Packers looked everywhere for a running back this year.

Turns out they may have had one in their own backyard all along.

James Starks, a rookie who hadn’t played in nearly two seasons, scampered around the 49ers for 73 yards on 18 carries Sunday.

“I was just anxious to get out there and play ... and to play for the fans at Lambeau,” Starks told reporters afterward. “It was an exciting moment for me. I just took it all in. I was like an excited little kid out there.”

Starks was a sixth round pick by the Packers but he missed his senior season at Buffalo after undergoing shoulder surgery and started his professional career on the Packers’ injured list with a hamstring injury.

But for the past three weeks he had been healthy yet left off the roster. “I had no clue,” said Starks of suddenly becoming the go-to guy. He is bigger at 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds than Brandon Jackson, who has been inconsistent, and he is faster than backup John Kuhn.

“Hey, if they give me carries, I’ll accept them with open arms,” said Starks, who had more yards in his rookie debut than any other Packers’ running back since Ralph Earhart had 78 in 1948.


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