Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday's giant

Of course I'm going to write about this today. It's Monday, isn't it?

It's Monday, and that means Monday night, and so of course I am going to write about Don Ohlmeyer. For most of the last 50 years he was just a name rolling past America in the credits in the infernal TV wasteland, but he was also the man who shaped what America was across those same 50 years. And that's because he transformed an entire day of the week for my generation and my children's generation and probably my children's children's generation.

Don Ohlmeyer, see, is the producer who hooked us all on Monday Night Football.

He passed Sunday at 72 -- so much more appropriate had it been today -- but before that, he made MNF appointment viewing and turned the entire concept of Monday on its head. Before Ohlmeyer put three announcers in the booth, and the right three, the show was all on the field, and it was exclusively a Sunday afternoon, weekend thing. MNF changed that.

MNF gave you first Keith and Howard and Dandy Don, and then Frank and Howard and Dandy Don, and the very fact that we remain on a first-name basis with them almost 50 years later only hints at their status as cultural icons. All three are dead now, and Monday Night Football is just another dreary ESPN vehicle now that the NFL has encroached upon Sunday and Thursday nights, too, and sometimes Saturday nights. So it's hard to explain just how big it all was, how new, how beyond-the-pale game-changing it was.

Football? On a Monday night? Who does that?

And then, not much later: Football? On a Monday night? Can't wait to see what Howard and Dandy Don say tonight!

So it became a thing, and the three men in the booth became a thing, and today, no time capsule buried on the courthouse lawn would be complete without a clip of Dandy Don deflating Howard's pomposity with some country-boy bon mot. It might largely have been an act on everyone's part -- Don Meredith in the flesh was no more Dandy Don than Charlton Heston was Moses -- but it was damn good act, and America lapped it up.

Of course, Ohlmeyer's legacy extends beyond MNF. He was also the guiding hand behind three Olympic broadcasts, contributed mightily to ABC's iconic Wide World of Sports, and went on to shape America's prime-time viewing habits again as the president of NBC and head of its entertainment arm.

But Mondays are the landscape he changed the most. And so, on this Monday, a pause to remember.

And a word from our sponsors, before we rejoin Frank and Howard and Dandy Don.

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