Television doesn't usually give you goose bumps. Friday night it did.
Certain pictures will frame the event long after the corners of your memories begin to wrinkle: Roberto Duran regally reclining in his corner before the 14th round, treating Ray Leonard to the royal we; beckoning him forth as a monarch would a handmaiden; Leonard, after the final bell, his face streaked and puffy, resting his head on Janks Morton's shoulder.
Sometimes the pictures say it all, which is a good thing especially when the announcers say nothing at all worthwhile. The din in Montreal, and at Capital Centre, made much of what Bill Mazer and Dr. Ferdie Pacheco had to say unintelligible.
When the noise abated, they were still unintelligible.
Assigning Mazer, a sportscaster at Metromedia Channel 5 in New York, to announce this fight was like asking Jimmy Olsen to cover Three Mile Island. Mazer is known for his facility with trivia. And it showed.
"Would you believe Leonard trying to match macho with macho?" he declared, trivializing the fight as it unfolded.
Pacheco, a castoff from the Ali entourage, was on hand to give second opinions. "It's beginning to sound like Ali-Frazier," he cried before the fight began.
"It's the Thrilla in Canada," he announced at the end of 13, giving the opinion a second time.
Diagnosis: terminal Mazer and Pacheco disdained a blow-by-blow description, preferring the cliche-by-cliche approach.
By the second round, Duran was "charging in like the Charge of the Light Brigade." By the third, he was "pushing Leonard into the corner, his happy hunting ground."
By the eighth, the fighters had "respect for one another, if they didn't before." And by the ninth, Leonard "had his hands full."
By the 10th, those in the crowd who could hear had had enough: "Shut up the announcers," someone cried.
Mazer was unable to get over the fact that Leonard was not dancing. As Sugar Ray took his first step toward the center of the ring in the first round, Mazer said, "I can't believe it. He's flat-footed."
Pacheco was unable to get over the fact that Duran was "an animal." "A brutal fight," he said.
Despite this inimitable one -- two combination, they were unable to turn the fight into a cliche. They made no attempt to keep track of the rounds, or which fighter was ahead on points.
The fighters spoke for themselves.
The 19,043 people at Capital Centre watched the fight on four giant screens perched in the center of the arena. The screens were in turn surrounded by 10 additional color televisions. The picture quality was uniformly good.
The only static thing about the entire fight was the camera work, the work of the Champlain Production Co. of Canada.
An inquiry early Friday as to the identity of the director of the broadcast received the following reply: "We have no director, this is closed circuit."
While that is a dubious conclusion, it may be fair to surmise that the director had few cameras to work with since there were few of the razzle dazzle close-ups, acute angle shots and pans of the crowd favored by the American network.
A wide-angle shot of the ring was the staple throughout the evening. Visually, and otherwise, the production added little dimension or perspective to an event that actually lived up to its billing.
But it did not matter. What if the announcers were superfluous? The images were clear. You and 1.5 million others across the country were there.
Capital Centre served prime ribs, "a special Leonard cut," in honor of the occasion. A prophetic choice, as it turned out.
At the end of the fight, Leonard's trainers dabbed blood from the once unblemished cheeks of the man with a once unblemished record. He winced. So did everyone else.
It would have hurt more to miss it.