Filmmaker Michael Meredith, whose descent on Dallas we wrote about first in The Dallas Morning News, has embarked on a litany of cool, creative projects starting with the Ice Bowl. In case you don't know, that's the famous (or maybe infamous) championship game, played on Dec. 31, 1967, between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, whose quarterback was "Dandy" Don Meredith -- Michael's dad. For Cowboys fans, it was a crushing moment, a bitter loss in the closing seconds, made worse by the Packers having beaten the Cowboys with less than a minute remaining in the previous championship game, played in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1967.
For those of a certain generation, who grew up in Dallas, and for whom Dandy Don was our poster-on-the-wall childhood hero, his son's documentary -- the first airing of which will appear on the NFL Network at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 29 -- is a keeper. It's one you'll want to record on your DVR and never let disappear.
It's not only the most-documented account of a game we all know about, played in almost otherworldly conditions, with the temperature at kickoff plummeting to 13 below zero, it's by far the most human, the most gripping, the most memorable.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated agrees with us. He gives The Timeline: The Ice Bowl the rave it deserves. King calls Michael's film and its placement on the NFL Network "one of the most interesting shows in its history."
And then King adds this:
I can say that because I've seen the one-hour doc, which is narrated and co-produced by Michael Meredith, a New York-based filmmaker and son of the Cowboys' quarterback that day, Don Meredith. The family connection is used to perfection, and Michael Meredith, who did this over a four-year period, strikes just the right tone of personal angst over his father's lifelong regret about losing that game and reporting some of the most interesting things I've heard about the game ...
But I found the most interesting parts those concerning the humanity of Michael Meredith talking about his father. "He died of a broken heart," Michael Meredith said in an interview, "because he never took his team the whole way. You have to understand. My father is a Texan. He went to high school in Texas, he went to college in Texas, and he played in the NFL in Texas. As a kid, I remember we had an armed guard at our house. If my dad lost a game, people would beat on our door. If we won, it'd be like, Meredith for Governor!
"The people who remember my dad on Monday Night Football remember a guy who was celebrated for his TV work. They don't realize how much he felt he let down his city and his team. That team was desperate to give the city a positive identity after the JFK assassination [in 1963]. But the one thing I feel good about is the Ice Bowl was so close and so hard-fought and such a game of millimeters that the city was proud of the Cowboys, and it was close to being the seed of the birth of Cowboys Nation."
I highly recommend you watch this documentary if you love a good history story, or if you love football -- or, of course, if love either team.
The game was one thing, and Cowboys fans all know the outcome. For the second straight year, our beloved team lost to the Packers on the game's final play. The 1966 and 1967 NFL Championship Games were played on the first and last day of 1967 and were the two best football games I've ever seen. The first I saw in person at the Cotton Bowl, soon after my 15th birthday, the second I watched with my family, huddled by the fire, our eyes burning a hole of sadness and regret into the black and white TV screen in front of us. What do I most remember? The second Packers quarterback Bart Starr scored the winning touchdown, my mom burst into tears. I will always hold the Packers accountable for making my mom feel that way.
Actor Willem Dafoe felt differently, and yes, even he appears in the documentary, having risked freezing to death at the Ice Bowl as what Michael Meredith's narration describes as a 12-year-old "Packer backer." The best filmmakers know how to sprinkle in surprise elements, and Dafoe's appearance is one of the best.
For those who can't get enough of this rare history, Michael Meredith has just begun. He hopes to complete a feature-length documentary on the 1960s Cowboys, who lived through the assassination of President Kennedy en route to becoming "America's Team." And after that, he has an even bigger dream that in some ways will encircle all of us: He hopes to launch a television series about Dallas in the 1960s -- set in Dallas, filmed in Dallas.
For those who remember how wild it was in our Texas town when the TV super-hit Dallas was the No. 1 show in the country, I can't wait to see how that one unfolds.