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12/08/1980 - Lennon's death announced on MNF


On December 8, 1980, John Lennon, the universally famous member of The Beatles, was gunned down on the streets of New York City.

Lennon was walking back to his Dakota apartment building at 10:50 PM when the attack occurred. Mark David Chapman, who had been stalking him for days and had just purchased a copy of The Catcher in the Rye, stepped out of the corners of darkness. Chapman called Lennon's name and at the sight of him turning around fired five bullets from his revolver. Lennon was hit with four of them and lumbered several feet before collapsing to the ground. Chapman remained at the scene, reading The Catcher in the Rye until the police showed up.

When rushed to the hospital, Lennon was announced dead on arrival, having lost over 80% of his blood. He was only 40.

The motive of Mark David Chapman is indiscernible to some. Chapman claimed that he was infested by demons that ordered him to kill Lennon. He was not well mentally; he had been placed in a mental institute as a young adult. He would later admit that his perception of Lennon as a phony, ala Holden Caulfield, pushed him over the edge, and that he was completely obsessed with the J.D. Salinger book.

Yet oddly enough, he was a huge Beatles fan. So much so that the image above shows him getting Lennon's autograph just hours before murdering him. In the scarce number of interviews Chapman has done from his Attica prison cell, he says regrets the incident. Chapman will never be released on parole, half from the fear that he would harm someone else he loved and half out of the fear that someone would instantly hunt him down.

And where does sports tie into this? Back in 1980, there were only three major TV channels and the one commanding the most attention at the time was ABC with Monday Night Football. The tip of Lennon's fate came through and the decision to announce it was confirmed. Howard Cosell of all people broke the news to the world:

"This, we have to say it, remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. 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 The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead... on... arrival."

Further reading:

Crime Library: The Man Who Killed John Lennon [TruTv]

WBBM Channel 2 - 10 O'Clock News - Lennon Death [YouTube]