Man Who Invented TV Sports, The


This article originally appeared in Issue# 36

From 1968 to 1986, Roone Arledge headed sports for ABC Television. Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times describes Arledge's influence on TV sports, which extends far beyond the boundaries of any one network.

Arledge practically invented the big-time televised sport. He dragged it single-handedly into the big bucks with his aggressive pursuit of the sports attraction that he well recognized as almost the only spontaneous, unplanned, unpredictable entertainment for sale today.

Before Arledge, network sports were just another Saturday afternoon serial, an Army-Navy game, the Yankees beating somebody in the World Series, a bowl game here and there. No big deal.

He made it a big deal.

Before Arledge, the Olympics were just that funny little track meet that took place in a vacuum at some funny place in the world. He made the Games into World War III.

He took pro football out of its Sunday afternoon ghetto and put it on prime time and Broadway. He made a downhill race on a glorified bed slat or barrel stave into a patriotic adventure on the order of the battle of Gettysburg. He hired the slickest tonsils he could find to hype this glorified exaggeration of games people play and made a sport into a happening.