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Posted at 5:28 AM ET, 12/ 8/2010

How 'Monday Night Football' told world John Lennon had died

By Cindy Boren

Originally filed Dec. 6; updated Dec. 8, 5:33 a.m.

"We have got to say what we know in the booth."

News of the death of John Lennon 30 years ago today will always be inextricably linked to an NFL game, a "Monday Night Football" telecast on ABC and to the voices of Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford.

And yet the information that Dec. 8, 1980, night was almost not aired because broadcasters were divided about whether to tell viewers during a football game (as John Smith, the NFL's only Englishman and a Beatles fan, was attempting a field goal for the New England Patriots late in the game). ESPN's "Outside the Lines" has an audio clip of a brief in-game, off-camera conversation among Cosell, Gifford and ABC producers about just what they should do.

Cosell, who was not someone who suffered the opinions of former jocks gladly, differed with Gifford, who argued that Cosell had to broadcast the news. Gifford prevailed, saying: "If we know it, we've gotta do it. This is gonna shake up the whole world."

Cosell's task was made all the tougher because he had done a memorable interview with Lennon on "MNF" in 1974, one in which Lennon said that American football "makes rock concerts look like tea parties."

More, from "Outside the Lines" on the night the sports world covered the murder of Lennon by Marc Chapman:

MORE

Style: Death still hard to fathom

Photos: Lennon's legacy

Rolling Stone: Lennon's final interview, days before his death

More "MNF" news: Don Meredith dies

(Thanks to Dan Levy and David Alison.)

By Cindy Boren  | December 8, 2010; 5:28 AM ET
Categories:  NFL  
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Comments

Some cool memories in there, even if they are a bit sad. Thanks Cindy!

Posted by: dalison | December 6, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Agree, David. What a night.

Posted by: CindyBoren | December 6, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

I had just finished high school and was starting college at U-Md in College Park. Everyone was stunned. Of course, alot of people gathered for a vigil.

Posted by: rusty6 | December 8, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Rusty, so you were at MD when they still allowed kegs on campus. I heard MD was crazy wild in the early 80's.

Posted by: luvdc808 | December 8, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I can't remember a party in College Park that I've been to in the last dozen years that didn't have multiple kegs... Is that a rule for dorms only?

Posted by: alecw81 | December 8, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

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