The other night I was catching up on some TiVo and watched a Centerstage production on the YES Network, this one with host Michael Kay interviewing Frank Gifford.
You might wonder in advance what Frank Gifford has to do with the Denver Broncos, and save for his many appearances doing Monday Night Football games in which the Broncos were participants, nothing at all is the correct answer.
But if you are in pro football, or a fan of pro football, then we are all part of the fabric of the same culture, all of us cut from the same cloth of interest in and appreciation for the game and its greats.
Frank Gifford is a guy whom I only saw play on black and white television back in the days of my youth, but then many years later I came to know him through his work on Monday Night Football.
And he is one of my favorite guys.
So this entry might be a little bit random, but when you write in stream of consciousness you just get more honest, I feel, so the straight stuff is what comes out.
The last couple of decades Frank has been mostly in retirement, and people are aware of his ill-fated affair that challenged his marriage to Kathie Lee. Easy to criticize, but he was honest and above board, and they are still happily married 22 years later.
It was easy to criticize him as an announcer on the MNF games, people throwing stones who never should have even thought of picking up a stone.
He had one of the most difficult broadcasting assignments in football history, sitting between Don Meredith and Howard Cosell. Actually, some might say (myself for one) that have Howard Cosell on either side of you automatically made it one of broadcasting toughest assignments. But he handled his “MC” role with aplomb and became a lifelong friend of Don Meredith’s along the way.
Gifford moved a documented (by his mother) 37 times as a youngster, although he says he thinks it might have been more than that. His day was an oil field worker, tough job, and they finally settled in Bakersfield.
The hard land and tough men who patrolled those Bakersfield oil fields were unlikely to produce one of our most elegant gentlemen in sports, but that’s what happened.
The refinement probably began at USC (just initials, you know the school) but the finishing school was New York City.
He was said by some to be Joe Namath before Joe Namath, and I would agree with that assessment. Film work and television followed quickly, the fame on MNF to come at the end of a Hall of Fame playing career which had him making the Pro Bowl both as a halfback and as a wide receiver.
Asked one time who the three best players he ever saw were, Gifford said, “Jimmy Brown, Jimmy Brown, and Jimmy Brown.”
What I love about Frank are his elements of style, grace, politeness, and professionalism. He was always the best to work with. The best.
And here’s a quality that I have always found in Frank that many might not think he has: humility, baskets of it, and a true caring about other people, especially the less fortunate.
I really like this guy, first class all the way, and I just wanted to share these thoughts.