Ice Bowl continues to conjure vivid memories 50 years later

Michael Meredith says he never realized the impact losing the Ice Bowl had on his father, Don, the legendary quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, until he did a documentary on the game.

"It wasn't like he wouldn't talk about it," Michael said. "But he always would quickly change the subject and act like it wasn't that interesting of a story."

Michael knew the story went way beyond interesting. The frigid showdown on Dec. 31, 1967, in Green Bay is among the most iconic moments in NFL history, if not at the top of the list. Meredith's son, a feature filmmaker, revisits the 50th anniversary of that game in The Timeline: The Ice Bowl (NFL Network, Friday, 9 p.m. ET)

Meredith, who narrates the film, spent four years and traveled to nine states to interview the players from Green Bay and Dallas who competed in the NFL Championship game with temperatures at 15-below zero, the coldest in league history. To make the drama complete, the game, Vince Lombardi's last as coach in Lambeau Field, went down to the final seconds with Bart Starr sneaking in from the 1-yard line to give the Packers a 21-17 victory.

Fifty years later, the players' memories are so vivid, it is as if they still can feel the chill piercing their bones.

"I don't agree much with Cowboys fans, but I agree the game should have been postponed," said Packers linebacker Dave Robinson in the film.

The one interview Michael couldn't do was with his father. Don died in 2010 at the age of 72.

As a result, this film on the Ice Bowl also serves as a story of personal exploration for Meredith and his family. Michael seeks answers about the legacy of the game and how it affected his father.

If the Cowboys win and then beat Oakland in Super Bowl II, perhaps Don goes on to join the 15 future Hall of Famers who played in the game, Michael says. Instead, Meredith played only one more season, retiring at 31 in 1968.

"It was like being an archeologist digging into your own family history," Michael said. "I was learning new things about my dad. It was a fascinating journey that still continues. I still hear from people who want to tell me stories."

Michael was born a couple of months before the big game. Obviously, he doesn't have any memories of it, but his mother, Cheryl King, does. King, who watched the game in Dallas while taking care of Michael, was among the most compelling interviews in the film.

While Michael says his father never showed any outward bitterness about losing the game, his mother doesn't hold back.

"My whole life would have been different," said King, who eventually got divorced from Meredith. "Don's life would have been different. Not only did it break my heart, it wounded my soul. You don't ever get over something like that."

Michael admits he was surprised by the intensity of her feelings.

"She really opened herself up," Michael said. "I didn't know how much the game impacted her."

The highlight for Michael in making the film was the chance to meet many of his father's old teammates. Don was the central figure on that team as a leader as well as a good-time guy who kept things loose in the locker room. However, in the later years of his life he retreated to New Mexico, fading mostly from public view.

"There was a void for the old Cowboys. They missed him." Michael said. "I come along all these years later, and in a small way, I represented him. These guys really opened their doors and hearts to me. I could feel their embrace. It made me feel very special."

Originally, Meredith had thought about doing a dramatic film about the Ice Bowl. He started to do the interviews as part of his research. He said there were actors who expressed interest in being in the movie.

Meredith, though, said other things came up and he decided to focus on the documentary.

"Maybe one day, we'll still do the film," Michael said.

For now, Michael is pleased he is able to tell the stories of the men who played on that brutal day 50 years ago in Green Bay. And of course, one player in particular.

"Dad left so much of himself on the field that day," Michael said. "I have so much admiration for him. I wish I could tell him that today. Tell him how proud I am of him.

"Maybe that's what this film is all about."

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Week 17 announcer lineup

Sunday

Fox 1 p.m ET

Washington at New York Giants: Sam Rosen, Matt Millen.

Dallas at Philadelphia: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber.

Green Bay at Detroit: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth.

Chicago at Minnesota: Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis.

Fox 4:25 p.m. ET

Carolina at Atlanta: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman.

Arizona at Seattle: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston.

San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams: Joe Davis, Brady Quinn.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman.

CBS 1 p.m. ET

New England at New York Jets: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta.

Houston at Indianapolis: Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein.

CBS 4:25 p.m. ET

Kansas City at Denver: Beth Mowins, Jay Feely.

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon.

Buffalo at Miami: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton.

Cincinnati at Baltimore: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts.

Jacksonville at Tennessee: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green.

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