This past December 8th marked the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination. Back then, there was no World Wide Web, no Internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, no crawls on the bottom of the screen on ESPN and CNN that draw your attention almost as much as what’s actually being broadcast.
Which is why when Howard Cosell, who had actually been a friend of Lennon, announced the news during a Monday Night Football game between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, many people actually heard the news of Lennon’s death for the first time because they were watching that game.
The only reason Cosell was able to relay the news what was then a “mere” couple of hours after the event is because, in an unbelievable coincidence, a local ABC News producer was hurt in a motorcycle accident earlier that same day, was admitted to the exact same hospital as Lennon, overheard the news of Lennon’s death and was able to find his way to a pay phone to forward the news to his bosses, who then sent the scoop on to the MNF announcers.
The reason I’ve been thinking so much about this ultimate truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story is because of the announcement last night that Osama bin Laden has been killed. I personally found out the news on Facebook. I could just as easily have found out via Twitter, Google News, Skype or some other example of “New Media” that didn’t exist at the beginning of the current millenium.
The last place I would have thought to look would be a televised sports game, though to be fair, the only such game I probably would have had access to at that hour was the New York Mets-Philadelphia Phillies game on ESPN and even that was because the game had gone into extra innings.
Instead, the big sports connection to this news-making death was the crowd at Citizens Bank Park breaking into chants of “USA! USA!” as some of them discovered the news of bin Laden’s death on their phones.
I’m actually a little curious if the spontaneous crowd reaction was how some of the players found out the news. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that for at least some of the players, the answer is “no, they found out the same way that the fans did.”
Crazy world, huh? Or is the crazy part the fact that it doesn’t seem that crazy anymore?