Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Still, Hard to Imagine

During the "Monday Night Football" broadcast on Dec. 8, 1980, as the Patriots-Dolphins game went to a commercial, Howard Cosell told Frank Gifford -- off the air -- that John Lennon was dead. In the booth, before coming back live, they had less than a minute to decide what to do. recalls there were three seconds left in the game, score tied at 13, and million of viewers watching "Monday Night Football" as New England Patriots kicker John Smith trotted onto the Orange Bowl field 30 years ago.

For those who remember the next few moments of that night, Dec. 8, 1980, Smith and the game itself have become historical and cultural markers overshadowed by but forever connected to Howard Cosell's announcement that John Lennon had been shot and killed.

"Remember, this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses," Cosell told TV viewers. "An unspeakable tragedy, confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous, perhaps, of all the Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead … on … arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which in duty bound, we have to take."

As fans watching the game on TV listened to Cosell deliver the stunning news, all they saw was Smith preparing for a field goal attempt. Meanwhile, players and fans inside the stadium were not aware of what Cosell had just announced on national television.

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