The world has changed dramatically in the last 40 years. (Hell, it has changed dramatically in the last four years. And in the last four months.)
On the evening on December 8, 1980, few vehicles other than word of mouth spoken into wall-mounted telephones existed to spread news quickly. That night, Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon outside Lennon’s New York City apartment building.
The announcement came courtesy of Howard Cosell of Monday Night Football. Here’s a great behind-the-scenes look at the decision-making process that resulted in Cosell breaking the news.
“Remember, this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses,” Cosell said that night. “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.”
The game had three seconds left in regulation, with the Patriots and Dolphins tied at 13. New England kicker John Smith trotting out to the field to prepare for a game-winning field-goal attempt provided the background for Cosell’s narration. Miami blocked Smith’s kick, and the Dolphins won on a first-possession field goal in overtime, 16-13.
“The press was talking about two things [after the game],” Smith told ESPN.com in 2010, “the fact that we’d lost the game and we had a lead in the fourth quarter, and then it changed to John Lennon. It put things in perspective.”
It put things in perspective for the millions who learned of Lennon’s murder while watching the game. And it sparked several days of shock and disbelief throughout the nation and beyond.
The Beatles became a worldwide phenomenon in the early 1960s, a prolific, groundbreaking, and charismatic quartet who revolutionized popular music. It’s strange to think that this will be news to some who read these words.