Marc Daniels: "E.T." And Sports, The Summer Of '82 Were Different Times

The Open Championship

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In the summer of 1982, I was 15 and worked at Eckerd's Drug Store in south Florida and also bagged groceries at Publix when we still used paper bags and offered S&H Green Stamps that shoppers collected in hopes of landing a set of encyclopedias or a new blender(look it up).

Times were different then. Gas was $1,19 a gallon, a Big Mac was $1.60 and "Dallas" and "Mash" were the biggest TV shows. 

June 11, 1982 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the movie "ET". Steven Speilberg's masterpiece about a boy who discovers and befriends an extraterrestrial swept the nation and became a cultural buzz that made the 80s the greatest decade ever(I will fight you on this!). The movie also advanced the world of marketing and the movies with many promotional campaigns to highlight the movie, ET, Reese's Pieces and much more.

The summer of 82' was also a unique time in sports. 

MLB was coming off a season in 1981 where there was a player's strike, the summer of 82' gave us the unexpected run of the Atlanta Braves who went from dormats in the NL West(yes, the west) to division champs under manager Joe Torre. It was a big deal because it changed baseball on TV. The Braves had their games air on WTBS(TBS as you know today) and for years America got Braves' games and saw a bad baseball team. But this summer, Dale Murphy and Bob Horner led a group of young players and aging veterans to a division title. Phil Niekro, at age 43, won 17 games and Fulton County Stadium rocked all summer. The Braves lost to the Cardinals in the league championship series but the Braves were fun to watch every night. On June 11, 1982, the Braves beat the Giants and Dale Murphy hit his 18th homer and Bob Walk got the win.

The NBA just crowned a new champion a few days before the release of "ET". Three days earlier, Magic Johnson and the Lakers beat Julius Erving and Moses Malone and Pat Riley won his first title as a coach after replacing Paul Westhead. Riley took over "Showtime" and was off to building a Hall of Fame career as a coach and still is at it today as one of the leading executives in the league.

In the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to win a third straight Stanley Cup. If they do, they will be compared to the team that won the second of three straight titles in 1982. A month before the release of "ET", the New York Islanders swept the Vancouver Canucks to win the Cup. That season a 21-year old Wayne Gretsky set an NHL record that still stands today by scoring 92 goals in a season.

The summer of 82' was filled with labor issues in the NFL. Players and owners battled over money, free agency, roster sizes and TV contract revenue. The battle continued through the summer and after week 2, the players went on strike and the season was cut to just nine games and divisions were done away with and only conference standings were used. The 1982 season also saw Al Davis win his lawsuit against the NFL that allowed him to move the Raiders to Los Angeles.

The US Open saw Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus for the title, the only US Open won by Watson. The purse was $375,000 and Watson earned $60,000 for the win.

June 11, 1982 saw one of boxing's biggest heavyweight fights, based on fan interest. Larry Holmes fought Gerry Cooney. Promoter Don King used a racially toned campaign to hype the fight and it became one of the biggest events of the calendar year. Holmes was 39-0 and Cooney was 25-0, although his list of opponents did not include many well known names. Holmes stopped Rooney in round 13 and Holmes retained the title.

The week of the release of the movie, Paul McCartney and Steve Wonder had the number one single on the Billboard chart with "Ebony and Ivory" and Rick Springfield's "Don't Talk to Strangers" was number two. The biggest toy was the "My Little Pony" collection. The Ford Escort was the top selling car in the summer of 82' and the cost for a one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot was $15 and $12 for children.

Times have changed since the world was introduced to that things from outer space on the big screen June 11, 1982. So as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of "ET", take a moment and look back yourself. I bagged groceries and stocked shelves at two jobs in the summer of 82' and likely paid $3 to go to the theatre and hear that voice say "phone home"...

Final thought: "ET" was the number one movie the week of its release and stay atop the charts for its first six weeks.

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