Fri, 04/29/2011

ABC's Wide World of Sports debuted 50 years ago today

"Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports..  the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.." ABC's Wide World of Sports debuted on April 29, 1961 as a summer replacement show with host Jim McKay. The show featured a wide variety of sporting events, introducing surfing, gymnastics, rodeo, and more to the American audience. The introductory slogan was written by Stanley Ralph Ross. The theme music was composed by Charles Fox.

Sportscaster Al Michaels on what made Wide World of Sports a successful series:

"Roone Arledge was a brilliant man. He made you understand that sports are great and fun-- but there's a sameness to an event, and what makes that event unique is the human element."

Sportscaster Jim McKay on how WWS got people interested in watching previously obscure sports, women's sports and international events:

"The philosophy was very simple-- sports, like everything else in life, is about the human beings involved. The idea was to focus on the individual."

ABC Executive Thomas W. Moore on what got WWS on the air:

"Roone Arledge created the on-air show (but) that show would not have been on the air if not for Camel (cigarettes)."

Producer Chet Simmons on how WWS was the first to televise many sports that were never seen before:

"There was a big world out there of sports for television -- the big events got televised. And along came Wide World of Sports, and I'll give you Mexican cliff-divers or anything you want. There was something different all the time."

ESPN is celebrating the 50th Anniversary by having fans rank the top 50 moments in Wide World of Sports history. Take the poll, or leave a comment here with your vote!