Those who wanted to know, did. Those who didn't know, didn't want to. But those who didn't know they didn't want to, forced them to.
Confused? Not if you were watching Channel 7 last night during the Olympic hockey game between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.
The game, which had been played at Lake Placid earlier in the evening, was taped rather than shown live. It aired locally on WJLA-TV, starting at 8:30. In an effort to preserve the suspense for those fans who had not yet heard the news of the U.S. upset over the Russians, ABC's sports commentator Jim McKay announced he would not give away the outcome of the game while it was in progress.
The score was tied 3-3 with about 10 minutes left to play when ABC took a station break. Channel 7's Renee Poussaint, apparently unaware of ABC's attempts to keep the secret, announced that the U.S. had scored a major upset over the Russians by winning the hockey game 4-3.
WJLA's switchboard lit up with calls from over 200 irate viewers who had avoided news and sports reports all evening so they could experience the drama of the game on TV. The ABC bureau in Washington also logged over 200 calls.
Some viewers who couldn't get through to Channel 7 called The Washington Post.
"I'm sorry I'm yelling at you," one furious woman told a reporter, "but this is the worst piece of planning I've seen in years. I'd tell those guys myself but the phone's been busy -- boy, I bet they're really getting it."
"The most boorish, goddam insensitive thing I've ever heard," was the assessment of another woman caller.
"Devastating," said a third.
Poussaint apologized as she began the 11 o'clock news, saying she was sorry she had "let the cat out of the bag."
It was unfortunate, said a co-anchor, but "these things happen."