How 'Monday Night Football' told world John Lennon had died
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:
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
| December 8, 2010; 5:28 AM ET
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