Rick Davis' Story

February 1980, we're in the middle of the Winter Olympics. It's Friday, just after we've finished the 6 p.m. cast and I'm on my way to Huntsville High for a high school basketball game. While there, word spreads that the U.S. Olympic hockey team has just upset the Russians 4-3. People immediately start to leave, because Channel 31 is carrying that game on a tape-delay basis in prime time.

Well, I'm back at the station, editing tape, and we're doing live teases from the newsroom. The co-anchor that night is Luanne (spelling?) Kahn. The hockey game is in the third period, the Russians leading 3-2, and ABC takes a commercial break. In the game track, we're about 2 minutes away from the tying goal, and then another 8 minutes away from Mike Eruzione's game-winner. Luanne looks at me and says, "Anything you want to tease in sports?" And I say, "Well yeah (you idiot, I thought), tease the hockey game, the U.S. and the Russians."

A few seconds goes by. The photographer says, "Stand by." Then he points at Luanne. The first 5 to 10 seconds are uneventful, and then, almost as if in slow motion, Luanne says, "and in the Olympics, the U.S. upsets the Russians, 4-3." I just stared at her. Later, people told me my mouth dropped open, then my eyes narrowed. They began grabbing sharp objects to keep them away from me.

It seemed like a day or two, but it had to be only seconds, and I said, "Luanne! What are you doing?!? Do you know what you just did??"

Too late. The phones in the newsroom had the old push-buttons at the bottom of the hand-set, and there was room for four or five lines. For 45 minutes straight, all five lines were blinking. Calls ranged from "You stoopid idiot," to viewers in tears who said, "I can't believe you ruined this night for us."

The moral, of course, say exactly what you mean. I should have said, "Tease the fact that we'll have highlights of the U.S.-Russian hockey game, but for God's sake, don't tell them who won the game."

Anyway, that was an interesting night.

© 2003 Smith Broadcasting, Inc. [update 6-26-2003]