Miracle on Ice was a WJLA Fail
One of the lasting storylines of these Olympics will be NBC, both for its tape-delay madness and for its delay in recognizing that the U.S. hockey team was going to generate a heckuva a lot of interest. By the end, of course, those things were solved for at least one game, the hockey team's pursuit of a gold-medal mini-miracle, which was shown live, in HD, in all time zones, on the mothership station. (The result will, of course, not be discussed here, ever again.)
Which all brought to mind the TV coverage of the real Miracle on Ice from 30 years ago. This WaPo story was forwarded on by Chris Chase, himself a top-notch sports writer, who had always heard from his father about how a WJLA anchor spoiled the Miracle for a bunch of local viewers. This is a good one, indeed, and it must have kept the typewritoggers of the early '80s plenty busy.
It also goes to show that Communist empires might crumble, and Al Gore might invent the Internet, and cable might take over the world, but no matter how much time passes, people will still call the newspaper to complain about the failure to preserve tape-delayed Olympic secrets.
Channel 7's Flub;When No News Was Good News; Or, No News Was Good News
By Junette Pinkney
Those who wanted to know, did. Those who didn't know, didn't want to. But those who didn't know they didn't want to, forced them to.
Confused? Not if you were watching Channel 7 last night during the Olympic hockey game between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.
The game, which had been played at Lake Placid earlier in the evening, was taped rather than shown live. It aired locally on WJLA-TV, starting at 8:30. In an effort to preserve the suspense for those fans who had not yet heard the news of the U.S. upset over the Russians, ABC's sports commentator Jim McKay announced he would not give away the outcome of the game while it was in progress.
The score was tied 3-3 with about 10 minutes left to play when ABC took a station break. Channel 7's Renee Poussaint, apparently unaware of ABC's attempts to keep the secret, announced that the U.S. had scored a major upset over the Russians by winning the hockey game 4-3.
WJLA's switchboard lit up with calls from over 200 irate viewers who had avoided news and sports reports all evening so they could experience the drama of the game on TV. The ABC bureau in Washington also logged over 200 calls.
Some viewers who couldn't get through to Channel 7 called The Washington Post.
"I'm sorry I'm yelling at you," one furious woman told a reporter, "but this is the worst piece of planning I've seen in years. I'd tell those guys myself but the phone's been busy -- boy, I bet they're really getting it."
"The most boorish, goddamn insensitive thing I've ever heard," was the assessment of another woman caller.
"Devastating," said a third.
Poussaint apologized as she began the 11 o'clock news, saying she was sorry she had "let the cat out of the bag."
It was unfortunate, said a co-anchor, but "these things happen."
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