Saturday, April 28, 2001

'Wide World' celebrates 40 years

Sports on TV-Radio

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When I was a kid, Wide World of Sports was one of my favorite shows. I loved the barrel jumping, cliff diving and arm wrestling and all the other goofy, offbeat sports.

        It was America's window to sports around the globe, a break from the ball-and-scoreboard sports Americans love.

        ABC will celebrate 40 years of Wide World of Sports today with an hour special at 4 p.m. Jim McKay, the original host of Wide World of Sports, hosts today's special.

        WWOS gets lost these days in hours upon hours of sports programming up and down the dial.

        But in the 1960s and '70s, it stood out. It made “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” one of the most recognizable phrases in sports.

        “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport” was more than a slogan.

        “What we could do was take the events that take place all around the world, that hundreds of thousands of people go to, that in many cases, the United States audience didn't know anything about,” said Roone Arledge, who helped launch WWOS, in an interview on ABC's Web site.“Some cases, the Indy 500 or something like that, they knew about. But they didn't know anything about the 24 hours of LeMans, and they didn't know much about the Japanese all-star baseball game ... ”

        WWOS introduced us to athletes such as Jim Ryun, Jean-Claude Killy, Mark Spitz and Peggy Fleming.

        Wide World of Sports was more than offbeat stuff. Muhammad Ali fought 19 times on WWOS. He won the title against Sonny Liston on WWOS. It broadcast the NCAA basketball championship for the first time — Ohio State vs. Cincinnati — in 1962.

        But today, it will be offbeat stuff that carries the special. That has been the case with WWOS for 40 years.

        NERVOUS AT 9: Sports staffers at Channel 9 were a bit nervous when Bob Morford was named news director. Morford eliminated sports entirely from the newscast at KNXV-TV in Phoenix, where he was news director before taking the job at 9.

        Morford assured Channel 9 staffers that sports is safe.

        Morford was at WLWT-TV (Channel 5) from 1994-97. He did some cutting back on sports there, so stayed tuned.

        THE RATINGS GAME: Fox Sports Net has seen a significant bump in the ratings in Regional Sports Report since it has been moved from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. Ratings have gone from 0.1 to 0.4. Not big numbers, obviously. But on nights when Regional follows a Reds game, it's drawing well.

        Following the April 17 Reds-Milwaukee game, which drew a 7.1, the Regional got a 1.6. Following the April 24 Reds-New York Mets, which drew a 5.2, the Regional pulled a 1.3.

        THE RATINGS GAME II: The NBA continues to sink. This year's regular-season ratings were down 35 percent on both NBC and TBS from the 1997-98 season.

        So some people (TV executives) are all for Michael Jordan coming back.

        NEW GIG: Olympic gold medalist Amanda Borden will be a commentator for CBS today on the broadcast of the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championship. The program airs from 1 to 3 p.m. It's a taped broadcast of the championships, which took place April 19-21.

        COMING UP: Fox Sports Net will air Breaking the Ice, an hour special on the first season of the Columbus Blue Jackets at 8 p.m Monday. ... Channel 9 will air Pig Tails, an hour special about the Flying Pig Marathon at 7 p.m. Saturday. The station also will air the race for the third straight year.



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