30 years ago today John Lennon was shot and killed outside his New York City apartment by Mark David Chapman. It was a day the world was stung in the heart. How the life of a man who only wanted peace in the world was ended so violently.
What does this have to do with football? That night most of the country learned of the tragedy from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football. The New England Patriots were playing the Miami Dolphins. Journeyman kicker John Smith was ready to try a field goal when Cosell broke the news.
“Remember this is JUST a football game”, Cosell started. “An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC news in New York City.” Cosell went on to announce to the world that John Lennon was “Dead on arrival.”
The football game was secondary, even meaningless at that point. America was stunned. It was one of those chilling moments. You remember where you were when it was announced. Even Frank Gifford and Cosell seemed distracted the rest of the night.
ABC literally fell into the story by accident. A news producer was in a motorcycle accident that night and was taken to Roosevelt Hospital, the same center Lennon was taken to. According to reports Alan Weiss didn’t see Lennon, but overheard Police and Medical officials talking about what happened. Weiss then tipped off his ABC station, which got the news to Cosell.
Cosell had interviewed Lennon earlier, during a MNF game. Ironically it was 6 years and one day before Lennon would be killed. In the Los Angeles coliseum the Rams were playing the Washington Redskins. Lennon was at the game as a guest of ABC because later that week the network was showing the two night “Beatles Anthology”. Lennon was his usual self, joking about how he didn’t understand “why half the team runs off the field and the other half come on.”
From the first game in Cleveland between the Browns and New York Jets in 1970, Monday Night Football has been an event every week. It was an experiment by ABC to combat with CBS’s “Here’s Lucy” show. It worked. Lucy was gone by 1974 and MNF has been going 40 years. Easily the longest running show in it’s time slot in the history of television.
Every week, America “Comes Together.” “Watching the Wheels” of MNF, “Starting Over” another game. Yes Sports and Life transcend each other. We all knew it. John Lennon’s death proved it. 30 years ago today we still remember.