Daniel and I discussed many facets of the legendary 1992 Duke-Kentucky game in episode 7. However, there was one extremely important item we neglected to cover:
Christian Laettner’s mom.
Beginning in the second half, the CBS cameras broadcast multiple shots of Christian Laettner’s mom, who looks like pretty much every mom ever, except for the fact that she’s wearing an enormous neck brace. She also wears an impenetrable mask of icy stoicism. Now, I grant you that her demeanor may have been caused by whatever injury she was suffering from at the time. (The play-by-play guys do not explain the reason for the neck brace, or even mention it whatsoever.) However, the shots of Momma Laettner staring at the action unemotionally while everyone around her goes nuts is positively unnerving.
Especially unsettling/hilarious is her reaction at the end of the game. Let me set the scene: Her son has just sunk his improbable shot to win it for Duke. The team spills out onto the court. The crowd is going completely bonkers. But while everyone is jumping up and down, Mrs. Laettner does little more than rise from her seat very slowly (again, possibly an injury-induced reaction). A woman next to Christian Laettner’s mom gets caught up in the spirit of the moment and attempts to give her a big ol’ hug. Christian Laettner’s mom pushes her away as if she’s fighting off a bear.
If this game were broadcast on TV nowadays, this would destroy the internet for a week. This would be all the gifs.
In 1992, as now, the NCAA basketball tournament was largely broadcast on CBS. This being one of the premier events on the sporting calendar, one would assume it would receive video work respective of that stature, wouldn’t one? Well, yes and no.
First, check out the intro that aired before the Final Four games that year.
There are a few issues with this introduction, to wit:
- The shoehorned use of footage from Wayne’s World, which was both expensive (I’m sure) and tacitly a promotion of Saturday Night Live, a program on another network.
- The chyron SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDWEST even though the Duke-Kentucky game took place in Philadelphia.
- The abrupt switch to Blues Brothers-esque oldies covers.
- As “Good Golly Miss Molly” plays over footage of Michigan’s Fab Five, these words scrape across the screen: GOOD GOLLY FOUR FRESHMAN.
- Slo-mo footage of a player tossing a hat into the crowd for some reason.
- Pat O’Brien says “Well, if it’s a championship, we must be in Minneapolis, Minnesota!” Must we, Pat?
- In 1992, Pat O’Brien was still a thing.
Weird as this is, however, it pales in comparison to the weirdness of the intro that preceded the 1992 championship game between Duke and Michigan. Let’s take a look.
There are several things about this intro that I feel warrant further review.
- In a trope common to this era, the clip begins with old-timey black-and-white footage and old fashioned ideas of the product on hand (in this case, basketball). Pat O’Brien then informs us “that might have been okay for the first 100 years, but let’s play BASKETBALL!” But this is followed by a montage set to music from The Barber of Seville, which, apart from being the opposite of new and hip, I most associate with Bugs Bunny.
- Are we supposed to understand that the young man with the Super Nintendo is “playing” these highlights?
- The young man in question is actually Paul Rudd. No, for real. I’m not saying he looks like baby Paul Rudd. I’m saying he is the actual 1992 version of Paul Rudd.
- The reason I know this young man is Paul Rudd is because this footage is taken from one of the very first commercials for Super Nintendo. Keep in mind that when this game was played, that Super Nintendo commercial was so recent, it was probably still running on television. It’s possible this was a cross promotion with the brand-new SNES game NCAA Basketball, as we see some video game footage that vaguely resembles that title. It’s also possible CBS got really, really lazy and just didn’t feel like filming half of their own introduction.
- This intro lasts for 3 full minutes. Can you imagine if a championship game was preceded by a three minute intro like this nowadays? Three minutes is an eternity in the world of 21st century television. There would be murders.
- Pat O’Brien was still still a thing.
In this final clip, which aired immediately following Duke’s win, we get a rambling outro from O’Brien (still still still a thing) and a brief appearance from Mike Francesa, who looks a little lighter and lot more animated than he does lately. Then, lots of footage of Duke players cutting down the net. Lots and lots of it, over a languid, sentimental tune. Not “One Shining Moment,” but the tune does eventually transition into that, along with traditional tournament montage.