History has a funny sense of timing sometimes, and this weekend was one of those times. Walter Cronkite's death on Friday coincided with the 40th anniversary celebration of the moon landing, an event that wouldn't have been the same without Cronkite's voice attached to it.
Imagine, if you will, if ESPN's Chris Berman had been the broadcaster of record on the big day? Buzz Aldrin would have been Edwin "And Justice For" Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. The first, of course, was Neil "A Farewell to" Armstrong who piloted the lunar module "down, down, down" to the Budweiser Sea of Tranquility.
Berman wouldn't have been the only thing different if the moon landing was covered like a sporting event. The cameras would have missed Armstrong's first step onto the lunar surface because they'd switched to a crowd shot in the NASA control room. Nothing like watching people react to something rather than giving the viewers a chance to react to something for themselves.
Of course, if the space race was sports we may not have ever made it to the moon. After Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died in the Apollo 1 fire, there would have been an outcry from writers and commentators about how big-budget spacecraft would never get the job done in the clutch. In response to the criticism, NASA would have gone for a gutty, gritty spacecraft that wasn't afraid to get its shell dirty.
And yet, to the shock of the press, those scrappy hustling spacecraft didn't do any better than the big budget rockets. It turns out that a ship can't make it to the moon based purely on hot air.
Let's say NASA went the Yankees route, though. The subsequent Armstrong and Aldrin team make it to the moon and back, and are celebrated as heroes across the land. Then, one day, news breaks that Aldrin had taken an over the counter supplement with him on the flight, and that supplement contained a substance banned by NASA. Hearts break across America, Congress holds hearings to get to the bottom of this and a photographer snaps a picture of a teary-eyed child holding up a sign that reads "John Glenn did it on Tang!"
All things considered, it's probably a lot better that things went down the way they did in the first place.