The scene is a typical neighborhood bar on a Monday night at this time of year. The NFL game is about to start. That's when a stranger wanders in. glances at the television set—and announces to all the patrons exactly how the game will turn out. Such a man could be called a clairvoyant. Now move the same scene to Hawaii. Such a man could be called a bum and thrown out on his ear.
The torment of Hawaii's Monday night fan merits special sympathy. He spends his Monday afternoons in a state of nervous suspense, anticipating a game at the same time that he is avoiding it, just so he can spend an evening watching it on television without already knowing the outcome. If Monday Night Football were telecast live in Hawaii it would be Monday Afternoon Football, which wouldn't do at all in terms of ratings and revenue. Similarly, World Series games played after dark in the eastern U.S. would appear in Honolulu shortly after lunch. Therefore, Hawaii's network affiliates tape and hold the evening games for almost four hours so they won't start on local TV until 6 p.m. So far, so good. The stinger is that radio stations carry the same games live. As a result, the addicted TV fan tries to seal himself into a vacuum of suspended animation. He devises elaborate schemes against leaks so that he can happily watch the delayed game as he would a live telecast.
In such a situation, sadism runs rampant. The viewer who makes it to quitting time without hearing the score, then dashes from office to home, can be demolished by the non-fan who casually remarks, "I hear the Cowboys win tonight." Neglected wives wreak their own kind of vengeance. There are sad stories of husbands who come home on Mondays eager to embrace the TV, only to find a message taped to the screen: Steelers 28, Dolphins 24.
Take a typical example. KHON-TV executive Raymond Sweeney was in the office, sweating out the World Series, anxious to hurry home to watch the delayed telecast. He went to the men's room. And there, scribbled at eye level on the mirror: "A's won today." University of Hawaii administrator Gardiner Jones was watching an NFL thriller from Minnesota when the phone rang and a voice shouted, "The Vikings did it again!" Gardiner's father-in-law in Minneapolis had just returned home after attending the game, and couldn't resist the long-distance call.
Harry Lyons, a cartoonist for the Honolulu Advertiser, a man deadly serious about sports, is legendary for his defenses against the premature spilling of scores. During World Series week Lyons plugged his ears with wet toilet paper so he wouldn't accidentally overhear someone shout, "Bench just tied it with another homer!"
There is a gentleman's rule in Honolulu bars, observed under threat of broken jaws, that one never reveals final scores during delayed telecasts. But Lyons made the mistake, during the suspenseful sixth game of the 1975 World Series, of remarking to a stranger, "It's sure tough to avoid hearing who won when you work at a newspaper." The stranger was sympathetic. "I know what you mean." he said. "Just as I was leaving my office some jerk yells. 'Hey, there's going to be a seventh game after all!' " Lyons threw up his hands and spent the rest of the game downing martinis.
If this report fills you with a sinister thought, forget it. Islanders are too satellitewise now to take sucker bets on Monday Night Football, although some fast bucks were made by Mainland hustlers during the early days of delayed play in Hawaii.
Television's delaying tactic also has produced complications for sportscasters on news shows. The CBS station in Honolulu once stubbornly announced the final score while the Monday Night Football game in question was just starting on the rival ABC station. After fans protested, KGMB Sports Director Joe Moore began warning viewers. "We're about to give the score of tonight's game. If you don't want to know, turn down your sound. Ready?"
But that strategy had its hazards. An angry fan accused Moore of causing him bodily harm. The viewer said he was eating dinner when the warning came and he had dropped his knife and fork and tried to race from the dinner table across the room to turn down the TV sound—and in his panicked scramble had tumbled over a chair and broken his arm.
Compassionate sportscasters now have adopted a peek-a-boo approach. They grin mischievously while announcing. "Here comes the score of tonight's game. If you don't want to know, hide your eyes. Ready?" The score flashes on the screen as the sportscaster covers his own eyes on camera. Presumably this eliminates the risk of broken bones in Honolulu homes.