Sherman Says: Memorable TV moments are not confined to breaking news events
Sept. 11, 2001 ranked as the most memorable moment on TV during the past 50 years. Nothing else came close, except for the Kennedy assassination Nov. 22, 1963 and its aftermath. However, the Associated Press reported that the assassination was only a strong contender in the eyes of people aged 55 and above who witnessed the drama unfold, firsthand.
I wish these scholars had talked to me about this. While I fit the demographic of those who would rank the assassination first, I would place Sept. 11 at a close second. Yet, I have some personal favorites.
Without regard to any order, here are some memorable moments I have watched on television.
I remember when we acquired our first television that did not require a warm-up period of several minutes. The set had the ground-breaking feature known as “instant on,” so that when you pushed the button to activate it, the picture immediately arrived.
On our family’s first color TV, we watched a World War II Navy movie with actual blue water, not a blend of black and white.
John Glenn’s 1962 trip into space was a big deal. None of my school’s classrooms were equipped with a TV, so a different parent took turns delivering one to my second grade teacher day after day, so we could witness history. Several flight postponements meant a seemingly endless number of academic interruptions.
The 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. While anti-war protestors tormented the Chicago Police Department outside, old-school Democrats were in the process of nominating Hubert Humphrey for president. Network officials were torn between showing the violence in the street and the drama atop the rostrum. The frosting on the political cake came when Sen. Abraham Ribicoff screamed into the microphone while nominating Sen. George McGovern.
“With George McGovern as president, we wouldn’t need Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago,” he declared. That sure beats Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during a famous football game’s halftime, ranked 26th on the Nielsen survey.
There are many significant sporting events worthy of a place on the list. Who can forget the night in 1995 when Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played? Ripken trotted around the field at Camden Yards, helping disillusioned fans feel good about the national pastime again.
On the downside, we remember watching the Buffalo Bills’ first encounter with football’s impossible dream go wide right.
The shared nature of television makes it memorable. During the Civil War, news arrived via letters or telegrams designed for single-use recipients.
Walt Whitman wrote about how he and his wife silently shared copies of numerous newspapers to learn details of the Lincoln assassination. When The New York Times published a review of a public showing of photos taken by Matthew Brady after the battle of Antietam, it recognized the shock value of documentary photography.
The mass media of the last half-century has been crafted for much broader audiences, but what we have seen has been no less dramatic. When we watched the Twin Towers fall, we were connected with millions of other viewers, witnessing the event at the same terrifying moment. There was nothing private about it.
Television is part journalism, part farce and part an escape from reality. Thank goodness for Tim Russert and Ed Sullivan. And Captain Kangaroo.
David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.