Don Ohlmeyer, 'Monday Night Football' Producer, Dies at 72 – New York Times


Donald Winfred Ohlmeyer Jr. was born in New Orleans on Feb. 3, 1945. His father was a chemist and brewmaster and his mother, the former Eva Bivens, was a physical education teacher who influenced his interest in sports. After working as a gofer for ABC Sports events while he attended the University of Notre Dame, he was hired in 1967 as a production assistant and rose quickly to producer and director.

“Monday Night Football” was an established hit when Mr. Arledge promoted Mr. Ohlmeyer to its producer in 1973. Viewers were engaged by its distinctive if unusual threesome of announcers: Howard Cosell, a dyspeptic, easy-to-dislike commentator best known for boxing and his relationship with Muhammad Ali; Don Meredith, the mellow and mischievous former quarterback who could drift into song or wit; and Frank Gifford, the handsome football hero and straight man who tried to tame the other two.

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Mr. Ohlmeyer in 1998.

Credit
Lisa Berg/NBC

Mr. Ohlmeyer was known as a workaholic who used NFL Films footage as an inspiration, seeking low angles and tight close-ups that revealed players’ emotions. He also effectively handled Mr. Cosell, a brilliant but brittle personality who had never called football before. Mr. Ohlmeyer dealt firmly with him, persuaded him to rerecord segments if he thought he could do better, and fed him information that made him sound prescient.

He left ABC in 1977 to join NBC for the first time, telling Mr. Arledge that he needed to prove himself rather than stay in his outsize mentor’s orbit.

As the executive producer of NBC Sports for five years, Mr. Ohlmeyer elevated the quality of its broadcasts and gave it some of the swagger of ABC’s sports division. But he was disappointed when the opportunity to oversee NBC’s broadcasts of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow was scuttled when President Jimmy Carter boycotted the United States’ participation because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

When he left he created Ohlmeyer Communications.

Mr. Ohlmeyer is survived by his wife, the former Linda Jonsson, who is called L.J.; his sons Drew, Chris, Todd and Kemper; and nine grandchildren. His two previous marriages ended in divorce.

In 2000, he returned to produce “Monday Night Football,” keeping Al Michaels as the play-by-play announcer but replacing the analyst Boomer Esiason with two men — the verbose comedian Dennis Miller, a surprising addition, and the former quarterback Dan Fouts, a conventional choice.

Mr. Ohlmeyer was expected to stay in the job for two years but left after one season, saying he had wearied of the travel.

“From the second week of the preseason, I realized I had made the most dreadful mistake of my life,” he told the television archive.

In retirement he golfed, painted and taught communications courses at Pepperdine University. But he made one further foray into sports television, acting as the ombudsman for ESPN from 2009 to 2011.

A more complete obituary will appear on Monday.

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