By Dave Wischnowsky-
(CBS) On Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in my apartment simultaneously watching sports, writing and surfing the Internet – as a multi-tasker, I’m All-Pro – when an alert popped up on my Facebook page.
My buddy Jason, living out in Raleigh, N.C., had commented on the status update that I had posted in Chicago just minutes earlier – it read: “Japantsed” – after the U.S. women’s soccer team had misfired in the dramatic final moments of the World Cup.
“So much for DVR delay?!?,” Jason wrote, lamenting the fact that a simple glance at Facebook had completely spoiled his plans to later watch America’s championship bout against Japan without knowing the game’s end result.
I responded to Jason, “You gotta go Facebook dark if you’re doing that!”
But our online exchange got me thinking, here in the Age of Social Media, relentless text messaging and 24/7 news channels, is it even possible to keep yourself from learning the outcome of a sporting event if you don’t want to learn it until later on?
Have you tried to do it yourself any time recently?
On Sunday, the social media blog Mashable reported that the World Cup set a new record for most tweets per second “with 7,196 per second at the end of the game. [Sunday’s Copa America] Paraguay vs. Brazil game is the new number-two spot with 7,166 tweets per second, according to a tweet sent by @Twitter.”
That’s a lot of online chirping. So, if Jason had also been hoping to later watch Paraguay vs. Brazil on his DVR in ignorance, it’s likely he would have been out of luck if he had logged on to Twitter for, well, even a nanosecond.
I think social media is wonderful technology and I enjoy much of what it offers. It’s only going to continue to offer more. But it’s also true that Facebook and Twitter can take some things from us, too – whether that’s the surprise of a ballgame score or the result of a TV series finale that you really didn’t want to know until you really wanted to know it.
Several years ago, my buddy Murph in Ottawa, Ill., told me a story about how in 1980, when he was a student at Northern Illinois University, he and a couple of friends successfully avoided hearing the outcome of the U.S. men’s hockey team’s “Miracle on Ice” upset of the Soviet Union in Lake Placid, N.Y. until after the game was shown on tape delay in DeKalb.
It really wasn’t that difficult, he said.
“I was a freshman in college,” Murph recalled on Monday evening when I gave him a call to chat about his memories. “And you have to consider the landscape back then. ESPN might have just started up, but nobody had it. They had basic cable in the dorms, but not a lot of people had TVs. And nobody had a VCR.”
There, of course, was no Facebook, no Twitter and no text messaging. But there was radio, TV news and phone calls, so Murph and his pals still had some work cut out for them.
“My roommate had a black-and-white TV that he had brought in after the first semester,” he explained. “And the hockey game started about 4 or 5 p.m. in Lake Placid, but it wasn’t set to be televised nationally until primetime. So, we said, let’s see if we can watch it without knowing the score.”
The friends then holed up in their dorm room, kept the TV station glued to the Olympic coverage on ABC – which wasn’t going to spoil the news before broadcasting the tape-delay game – and bided their time.
Once the U.S.-USSR game began, Murph recalled how “in between periods, ABC would cut to Jim McKay at the anchor desk with a live feed of the streets of Lake Placid in the background.”
At one point, he said, a couple of young men zipped past the background behind McKay’s desk, looking very happy.
“But McKay didn’t say a word,” Murph said.
As the epic hockey game wore on, Murph left his room at one point to use the bathroom, running into the guy from across the hall on the way.
“I asked him, are you watching the game?” Murph recalled. “He said he was and I told him, “If you know the outcome, don’t tell me.’ He had a little smile and I think he knew, but he didn’t say anything.”
As a result of their cone of silence, Murph and his friends accomplished their missions alongside the Americans: They were able to enjoy the final moments of one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history – and U.S. sports – in ignorant bliss.
“I’ve watched a lot of sporting events on TV, but I’ve never had more fun than that,” Murph said. “Of course, today, I don’t think I’d be able to hold back. I’d probably want to find out what happened.”
With Facebook, Twitter and text messaging, it’s very likely that, today, he wouldn’t have a choice.
Just ask my buddy Jason.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.