There's a legend that has grown up around the notion that the person who broadcast the news of the murder of John Lennon to the American public was Howard Cosell, who was announcing a Patriots-Dolphins game on that fateful Monday evening in December 1980. Last year, ESPN devoted an entire special to the role played by Monday Night Football on that terrible night.
But by the time Cosell got around to telling the nation what had happened, many people already had a pretty solid inkling. I can say this because I just watched a videotape of that MNF telecast, taped off the air from the ABC affiliate in Baltimore. With three minutes left in the game, there was a special news bulletin reported via crawl, noting that "Former Beattle [sic] John Lennon" had been shot. The crawl appeared just as the Dolphins were connecting on a deflected touchdown pass that tied up the game at 13-13.
It wasn't until the Patriots were lined up for a potential game-winning field goal, with just three seconds left in the game, that Cosell made his fateful announcement. That was about 12 minutes in real time after the crawl had appeared in Baltimore. Clearly, many football fans in Charm City - and presumably elsewhere around the country - knew Lennon had been shot or even killed before Cosell said anything about it.
The Dolphins blocked that kick, by the way, sending the game into overtime, to the obvious dismay of Cosell and Frank Gifford, who clearly could not fathom how they were going to shift gears back into the excitement of professional football. Fran Tarkenton, the third man in the booth, just seemed oblivious.
Part of this may be due to the lag between the initial reports, that Lennon had been shot, and word of his death. On the other hand, there couldn't have been too much time in between, since he was reported DOA at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital. One wonders if the shooting of a Beatle would have been enough to disrupt Monday Night Football, as opposed to the death of one. I really don't know.