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NATAS makes the right call

Sep 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in New York City will present Roone Arledge with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award.
We cannot think of a more worthy recipient of this prestigious honor.
If Mr. Arledge had accomplished only what he did in either TV sports or TV news he would be a marvelous choice for this tribute. But when one realizes his enormous impact in both of these disciplines, his achievement is all the more stunning.
In sports, Mr. Arledge came up with the idea of storytelling as a way to involve viewers. Modern Olympics TV coverage was invented by him. He started “Monday Night Football” and “Wide World of Sports.”
On the news side, Mr. Arledge not only put ABC on the map, he also made it one of the most respected news organizations in the world. He has given us myriad news shows, from “20/20” and “This Week With David Brinkley” to the program Mr. Arledge himself has said is his most important achievement: “Nightline.”
With this week marking the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, we thought it fitting to quote Mr. Arledge telling about the most important, transcendent image he ever broadcast. It came during the 1963 U.S.-Soviet Union track meet, Mr. Arledge told Playboy in 1976. It was the height of the Cold War, and the two countries were trying to agree on the first meaningful arms limitation agreement.
The two negotiators, “[Soviet Premier Nikita] Khrushchev and [Averell] Harriman, were negotiating day and night,” Mr. Arledge recalled. “But at the very end of the meet, the two of them came out to Lenin Stadium to watch Valery Brumel, the great Russian high jumper, try for the world’s record. It was getting dark and a light rain had begun falling. Brumel was down to his last attempt. He sprinted toward the bar, leaped up and made it. There was a momentary lull as 90,000 people waited to see if the bar would topple. It didn’t, and the crowd exploded. I turned our cameras on the chairman’s box and Khrushchev and Harriman were jumping up and down, screaming, hugging each other. Two old men. Enemies who spoke different languages and couldn’t even agree on a way to prevent the world from blowing itself up. Yet there they were, embracing like brothers on world television at the simple act of a man jumping over a bar.”