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How Monday Night Football Broke the News of John Lennon's Death to Millions

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Thirty years ago today, the producers of ABC's Monday Night Football were broadcasting a game from Miami when they received an urgent phone call. They were told that their colleagues in the network's news department were announcing the death of the singer and icon John Lennon, who had been shot. At the time, the sports producers were focused on a "very important game" between the Patriots and the Dolphins. For the Patriots, the play-offs were on the line. The news from New York raised two questions: Should they tell Howard Cosell, who had been friends with Lennon and was calling the game. And should Cosell pass the word on to the game's fans?

Watch ESPN's play-by-play of the evening here.


After Cosell's announcement, the game continued without a break. "Hard to go back to the game after that news flash," said Cosell, who was ahead of the official news conference by 20 minutes. Miami won in overtime and the players learned of Lennon's death in the locker room. 

Monday Night Football had been an ABC broadcast from 1970 to 2005. It now belongs to ESPN and is said to attract nearly 12 million viewers every week. 
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