50 Years Ago, MNF Came into View with a Husky Connection

Dan Raley

The most boring day of the week, beginning in 1970, suddenly had substance in Monday Night Football.

This huge traveling extravaganza offered a nationally televised game on ABC that had everyone scurrying to the nearest TV set to watch a nasally and overly opinionated New Yorker, a singing cowboy and fairly authoritative third wheel with a strong University of Washington football and Seattle connection. 

Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Keith Jackson.

Cosell was the guy you loved to hate, the broadcaster who stuck his nose in everything on the sporting landscape, saying whatever he pleased whenever he wanted, a self-made institution.

"Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff," Cosell once famously said. "There's no question that I'm all of those things."

Playing off him at all times was Meredith, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who was folksy and funny, weekly breaking into his rendition of "Turn Out the Lights" whenever a MNF game was out of reach.

Unbeknownst to Jackson, he was just a one-year fill-in as the play-by-play announcer, a stopgap until former NFL player Frank Gifford could get out of his contract with CBS Sports. 

Six years earlier, Jackson left Seattle's KOMO TV news desk and his different roles as UW football, Seattle University basketball and the Seattle Rainiers broadcaster to see how far he could go as a national airwaves presence.

Despite this career setback, Jackson became nearly as big or bigger than the others who shared the MFN booth with him, calling Olympics Games, NBA, Major League Baseball and especially college football games. 

Jackson, a Georgia native who earned a broadcasting degree from Washington State University after getting out of the Army, passed away in 2018, spending much of his retirement years in a remote getaway home in British Columbia just over the Washington border. 

As MNF football celebrates its 50th year, Sports Illustrated's Mark Bechtel offers an inside look at this sporting staple that you can read here, one that still gives the first day of the week a real shot of adrenaline for 16 weeks of the season. 

Happy birthday, MNF. 

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Comments (3)
No. 1-2

And for about the first 15 seasons of MNF, the broadcast was delayed for an hour (7pm) in the Seattle market. It didn't matter much during pre-Internet days, but it was annoying.

Patrick T
Patrick T

Loved MNF in the early days, back before the NFL over-saturated the market. Having Keith Jackson as the voice was a bonus. Incidentally, Keith was a Marine. Once a Marine...

Now I admit at my advanced age, I no longer watch as many games as possible. Just the Hawks. Even now, in a pandemic as we're longing for sports, I just can't find the interest in game after game of the NFL, or any sport. Maybe I'll re-read Pitchers of Beer. But you're going to have to write a new book, soon!

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