Making It Matter

May 19, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The following excerpt is from the introduction to the book ABC Wide World of Sports: A Journal of the Best Programs of the Year 1964 by Robert Riger (American Broadcasting Co., 1965). At the time it was written, the late Mr. Arledge was VP, executive producer, ABC-TV Sports Programs.
All sports are equal in their potential for dramatic impact on those people who know and care and are involved in the spirit of the contest, so that the atmosphere in Hayward, Wisconsin, on the day of the Lumberjack Championships is really not unlike the atmosphere in London on the day of the F.A. Cup Championships or in Baltimore when the Colts are playing the Chicago Bears. There is an air of electricity and everybody is talking about the athletes, and this atmosphere pervades any sporting event.
What we have to do is to make people, in a very brief period of time, know enough about an athlete: whether he’s likely to succeed or not; whether what he’s doing is particularly difficult; how he has to do it; and then whether he did it and his reaction. We try on Wide World of Sports to forget our own environment. If you live in Westport, Connecticut, or Van Nuys, California, the All-Ireland Football Championship is of academic interest to you, but if you live in Dublin, it’s life or death. Our reporters-producers, directors and announcers-must put themselves in the position of the people in Dublin, which means they must take the game very seriously. They can’t do as many sportswriters do-look on it condescendingly. We treat all events on Wide World as important sports, because to the people who are participating in them, they are. It is basically the same elements in sports that excite the peoples of the world.
One of the things that you must do in televising sports is to relate. If you don’t show people what to look for, they cannot really enjoy the contest. When you come in and show with drawings what happens when a ski-jumper leaves the lip of a jump, or with our new Dual-Action camera explore the critical turn in the richest horse race in the world to see how the winning horse came within an inch of clipping the heel of the horse in front, the viewer understands what an event is all about.