It was a remarkable weekend for those of us of a certain age. It was as if we had been transported back to the 1970s, watching Walter Cronkite deliver the news on tape and watching Tom Watson lead the British Open in real time.
It all began as I was working much too late on a Friday night. The phone rang. It was my wife, and I figured she was about to inquire if I planned on coming home before midnight.
Instead, she said: “Walter Cronkite died tonight.”
The news was not unexpected. Still, it was one of those passages that remove you further from your youth.
I was only 4 years of age when John Kennedy was assassinated. I have little recollection of those events.
By 1968, though, I was a young news junkie, addicted to the big stories that took hours of network time. I have vivid memories of watching the coverage of the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, the Robert Kennedy assassination and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. And while the coverage we watched was sometimes that of NBC and ABC, more often than not, it was Walter Cronkite and his CBS correspondents who guided my family through those events.
The memories are even more vivid of this week in July 1969. Like Cronkite, I was entranced by the space program. I was allowed to stay up late into the night to watch Apollo 11 coverage.
And, for some reason, I have clear memories of staring at the small rabbit-ear television in my room on the final night of the 1972 Democratic National Convention. That last night of the convention went into the wee hours of the next morning. I can remember staying up to watch Cronkite discuss the convention with his floor reporters long after George McGovern’s acceptance speech had ended and the balloons had dropped. I can recall thinking how much fun it would be to be one of those floor reporters wearing a bulky headset and talking to Walter up in the booth.
When I began attending national political conventions in 1984, the thing that excited me most on entering the convention hall was looking up at the network skybooths with their lighted logos.
My mother still has framed a drawing I did in the first grade with the caption: “I want to be a reporter.”
Be careful what you wish for since I indeed would become a newspaper reporter after college. The first-grade drawing, though, is not of a newspaper reporter. It’s of a network anchor sitting behind a desk.
It was a nice trip back in time to watch the extensive CNN coverage on Cronkite after getting home Friday night. I was glad that John King (not Larry King) was anchoring. John King is a former wire service reporter (AP). Cronkite was also a former wire service reporter (UP). Larry King is, well, Larry King.
The CBS special on Cronkite that aired Sunday night was also good, though we could have done without Robin Williams and George Clooney.
Then, there was Tom Watson’s four-day run at the British Open that made us all feel younger for 71 holes.
One putt. Just one successful putt away from one of the greatest sports stories of our lifetimes.
When the putt didn’t go down, it was the same sick feeling I had when Smarty Jones was edged out in the Belmont Stakes.
We were all so close to something special. Sports can lift us high, only to drop us quickly.
I was going to tell my boys: “Remember this day. You have witnessed history.”
In retrospect on a Monday morning, however, maybe we did witness history.
It was a special weekend.