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"Why do you do this to me, Howard?" Meredith asked.
That night Gifford couldn't sleep. He lay in bed and worried about forgetting numbers and being devoured.
On Monday afternoon it rained and they had to tape the opening again shortly before the kickoff. Finally they rode the elevator up to the booth, a box fenced off on three sides and open in front to a view of the green field and the old green stands. Gifford peeled off his blazer and stood with a microphone around his neck, wearing a yellow sweater. Cosell sat in the middle in a raincoat, and Meredith sat on the right in his blazer. A Las Vegas publicity man came in and gave them ballpoint pens. Paul Hornung came in and asked who was going to start at quarterback. Bob Cochran, the broadcast coordinator from the NFL office, came in for a moment. The band was playing The Notre Dame Fight Song, and Meredith and Cosell joined in a sing-along.
"Here we are as a new season approaches, cowed by the pressure," said Cosell.
Meredith put in a phone call to his mother Hazel in Mount Vernon, Texas. Cosell took the phone from him. "Hello, mother," said Howard, "what I've done for your son in one short year is absolutely amazing, but he deserves it." Down in the No. 1 mobile unit, facing 18 monitors connected to nine cameras, Forte was talking to several people at once with his rather special ability to concentrate in the midst of what to an outsider appears to be incipient chaos. "Don't panic in the truck," Cosell said. "We still have one minute until air time." His voice became a parody of itself. "You could cut the heavy atmosphere with a knife, as tensely the three men awaited their 1971 debut. For Dandy Don Meredith, it was the second time around."
"Peace, flowers and love," said Meredith.
Gifford made a V sign, the co-director in the booth pointed a finger at him, and Frank began to talk. In the first half Gifford made two major errors, neither one entirely his fault. On a tip from Meredith he put the wrong quarterback into the game for Minnesota, and Meredith apologized for it over the air. Someone handed Gifford a card that said it was halftime, and Frank read it aloud with 10 minutes yet to play in the second quarter. But by the time the half did arrive, there was joy in the ABC truck. Meredith and Cosell had trimmed their chatter to a more moderate level. Gifford was doing the promotional announcements and the play by play and also was including analysis of the game in a natural, unobtrusive way. "Frank is getting better by the minute," said Arledge. "No matter what all those other guys think, this thing is going to work."
By the second week, Gifford had enough confidence to enter exchanges on the air with his partners. When Phil Wise of the Jets received a kickoff and knelt with the ball, Gifford said, "Wise wisely stays in the end zone."
"Little play on words there, Frank," said Meredith.