On the evening of September 10th, 2001, I gathered with some seminary classmates in the basement of our dorm to watch two things on television: The Weakest Link and Monday Night Football.
Our classmate Matt was on The Weakest Link. Sometime in the middle of our summer session he had flown to Los Angeles for the taping, and the only thing he could tell us about it when he came back was the date it would air. We’d been looking forward to it for weeks. Matt wasn’t there when it aired, though. He’d gone home to Michigan for the week-long break between the summer session and the start of the fall term.
He got in some zingers on the famously abusive English host. Reading bits of his bio off a cue card she noted that he had met Margaret Thatcher. “How was that?” she asked, but then continued before he could answer: “for her?” The studio audience “Ooh’d” in anticipation of his reply, which was swift and decisive: “Let’s just say she’s the smartest British woman I’ve ever met.” Point Matt. The audience erupted.
Matt didn’t win. A Rabbi from Denver won.
Monday Night Football was the Broncos vs. The Giants, which was why I watched. I don’t remember who won, but I vividly remember that Broncos’ Wide Receiver Ed McCaffrey had his leg broken on a hit over the middle.
I would probably retain some memory of these events had they happened on any other date, but I certainly would not remember the actual date of their occurrence. It’s a weird feature of memory that it not only retains the details of major emotional events but also the details of what came right before.