Our country's president lay in the hospital, wounded by a bullet from a psychopath's gun. A sidewalk is blood stained outside a Washington D.C. hotel, where three others were shot down by the same weapon. And the game still goes on.
In The City of Brotherly Love, tragedy entered The Spectrum and seated itself among the 18,000 cheering fans. There, the Indiana Hoosiers and North Carolina Tar Heels squared off for the NCAA basketball championship. The discomfort could be felt through the television screen.
In the press box and in the Ovations Room, where guests gathered for dinner, televisions played over and over the tragedy of this young year.
There was a motionless picture of the surprised President Reagan being pushed into a limousine, then close up frames of Press Secretary James Brady on the sidewalk, blood gushing from the hole in his head, the fallen Secret Service agent and a wounded Washington D.C. policeman.
NCAA tournament directors debated on whether or not to cancel the contest. During the consolation game between Virginia and LSU, tournament directors, along with NBC decided to proceed with college basketball's most gala event.
When reports came from Washington that the president was out of surgery and danger, tournament director Wayne Duke directed that the game be played as scheduled.
The game ball was tossed, bands played and the arena became a scene of bedlam. It was a tough decision, one I wouldn't want the responsibility for. But still it is a very debatable one.
Here is the United States, a country going through another tragedy similar to those of recent years. This senseless act by John Hinkley is just as painful to the American people as was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, civil rights leader Martin Luther King and former Beatle John Lennon.
To some, like myself, it seemed like a good time for quiet reflection, not basketball games. Senator Ted Kennedy appeared on national television to ask for a national war against hate.
Where does violence come from? How can we correct it? Does it gain anything to dispense with our traditional fun and games? Coach Dale Brown, whose team fell to Virginia in the consolation game, acknowledged that he and his team entered The Spectrum with heavy hearts.
"I don't see any impact in not playing," he said in an AP interview. "Life goes on. The sun will come up. Our not doing something isn't going to solve the problems in America." If that were the case, he added, "we might as well not play out of deference to the black kids being killed in Atlanta."
Duke, then commissioner of the Big Eight Conference, recalled that he had been compelled to make a quite similar decision after the assassination of President Kennedy in November, 1963.
The traditional Nebraska-Oklahoma game came up three days after Kennedy's death and Duke wasn't sure what to do. After contemplation Duke consulted Bud Wilkinson, the director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, who then contacted Bobby Kennedy. The younger Kennedy told Wilkenson the president would have wanted the game to go on.
The game was played, even though most colleges, along with the old American Football League cancelled their games. Commissioner Pete Rozelle of the National Football League drew raps when he failed to declare a suspension in the NFL.
Martin Luther King was slain in April of 1968 at Memphis. Funeral services were held at his church in Atlanta while golfers were practicing for the Masters Tournament in Augusta, not many miles away. Many felt the Masters should have cancelled activities for just one day to express sympathy for a great American.
Television has brought wars, tragedies and death right into our homes and made them an instant part of our lives. The shooting of President Ronald Reagan in Washington is woven into our very consciousness by the lens that seems to have no limit to its scope.
That's why it's difficult to watch Isiah Thomas duel Al Wood on the court while the president lies in the hospital having come so close to death.
Hey there. I'm Rick Coe and thanks for stumbling on to my blog which contains columns I wrote while working for the now defunct Kellogg Evening News which was located in Kellogg, Idaho.