Maxie's Blog
Back in B.S.N. ( before sports networks) there was one weekly program that was all about sports. Oh, it didn't show a complete baseball or football game. It didn't air a full boxing match, golf or bowling, but once a week it gave the viewer a look at sports from around the world. It was called "ABC's Wide World of Sports." I'm sure most of you have heard the phrase, "The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat" but for those of you who would like to see the show's opening sequence from 1983, here it is. The show first aired in 1961 but, I was unable to find a youtube video from that year. However, who can ever forget the ski jumper who embodied 'the agony of defeat'. Turns out Vinko Bogataj, competing for Yugoslavia, suffered a mild concussion in that fall and went back home where he became a ski instructor, coaching the 1991 World Champion Slovenian ski jumper Franci Petek, and also painting and operating a forklift at a factory. I don't know exactly when Vinko went to the ABC Studios for his interview with Terry Gannon but he was involved in a minor car accident on his way to the interview. Said Vinko, "Every time I'm on ABC, I crash." LOL ABC's Wide World of Sports was supposed to be just a fill-in show over the summer until fall sports kicked in but it was so hugely popular with the American audience that it ran from 1961 to 1998. The show aired for 90 minutes on Saturday afternoons and introduced the American viewer a look at sports not normally shown on American TV. Sports like hurling (no, nothing like tossing your cookies), rodeo, curling, jai-lai, surfing, logger sports competitions, demolition derby's, even badminton. In 1963 Wide World of Sports announced its first Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year, track and fielder Jim Beatty, who was the first to run a sub-4 minute mile indoors. Also winning the award were Ali, Jim Ryun, Lance Armstrong, Mario Andretti, Wayne Gretzky, Carl Lewis and Tiger Woods. So, what essentially killed ABC's Wide World of Sports in 1998 was cable TV and on January 3rd, famed WWS announcer Jim McKay declared the program cancelled after a run of 37 years. There were many sports shows that owed their existence to WWS. The Professional Bowlers Tour for one. Another is The American Sportsman which premiered in 1965 one year after WWS aired the Oklahoma Rattlesnake Hunt Championships. American Sportsman stayed on the air for 20 years. In 1973 Superstars appeared in a segment of WWS and in 1974 it became a weekly winter series that lasted 10 years. ABC's Wide World of Sports is so embedded in the memory of the American people that it shows up where you least expect it. Any fan of 'Blazing Saddles' can tell you about Slim Pickins yelling, "What in the Wide, Wide World of Sports is agoin' on here?" Sports shows on cable, satellite and XM radio may be wonderful, but they'll never top the best, ABC's Wide World of Sports, "spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport...the thrill of victory....the agony of defeat...the human drama of competition...This is ABC's Wide World of Sports."


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