Before the internet and social media, the news didn’t travel as fast as it does today. However, many Americans found out about the tragic death of John Lennon on December 8, 1980 the same way: From Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football.
“Remember: This is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses,” began Cosell. “An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City. John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the west side of New York City, the most famous perhaps of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back. Rushed to Roosevelt Hospital. Dead on arrival.”
Below is an ESPN “Outside The Lines” story that ran on the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s death that detailed the behind-the-scenes goings-on of Cosell’s now-infamous announcement and how the legendary sportscaster almost didn’t deliver the earth-shattering news.
The piece below features off-the-air audio of Cosell and announcer Frank Gifford discussing whether or not to break the news during the game. While Cosell was on the fence about breaking the news, Gifford tells him, “You’ve got to. If we know it, we’ve got to do it…Don’t hang on it. It’s a tragic moment and this is going to shake up the whole world.”