True to form, 'Wide World' opts for people to tell a 35-year tale

Sun Staff

ABC's "Wide World of Sports" has been, in the unforgettable words of JimMcKay, "spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports," butthe truth is that the show has become the longest-running program in thenetwork's history because, for all its far-flung travel, it is aboutsimplicity.

"We've always focused on the human beings, rather than all the surroundingthings. It sounds simple, but it's true and that led to our Olympicscoverage," said McKay, the first host of "Wide World," which celebrates its35th anniversary with a two-hour retrospective Sunday (Channel 2, 4 p.m.).

Indeed, from that poor skier taking a fall in the opening montage to theWorld Wristwrestling Championships to barrel jumping to every unusualcompetition in between, "Wide World" always has been about telling humanstories in a basic way, beating back knock-offs and challengers from the othernetworks and then from cable.

"The most important thing when we found these sports was that the sport belegitimate and that it not be hyped," said McKay. "You see things that are notthat important being hyped and that changes the legitimacy of the event. We'venever done that."

Sunday's program, which features two former hosts, McKay and Frank Gifford, and current anchor Robin Roberts, is divided into three distinctparts, two taken from McKay's opening voice-over, "the thrill of victory" and"the agony of defeat," and a tribute to Muhammad Ali.

Symbolically, ABC, rather than turn the anniversary into some splashy,all-star overblown May sweeps party, wisely has left the "Wide World" tributeright where its loyal audience has found it all these years.

"We have not moved around the schedule in all those years. The basic "WideWorld" has been there from 4: 30 to 6 on Saturdays and Sundays, and the factthat we've been there at that time has been good for our audience. They knowwho we are and what we are and where they can find us," said McKay.

By the way, McKay, 74, a former Evening Sun reporter who lives in Monkton,reports that he is feeling fine after heart bypass surgery last May that kepthim from his beloved Preakness.

He says he feels better than he has in years and intends to fulfill aschedule this year that would tax a man 40 years younger, which includes beinghost of ABC's Triple Crown coverage, making speeches in support of theOlympics and doing commercials, one of which portrays him as anear-100-year-old reporting on the Olympics of 2020.

The odds are pretty good that the commercial will prove to be dead-solidaccurate.

The playoff picture

The Turner networks continue their coverage of the NBA playoffs withdoubleheaders of conference quarterfinal series openers tonight on both itschannels. TBS' lineup has Detroit-Orlando and Miami-Chicago, starting at 7p.m., with TNT sending Phoenix-San Antonio and Sacramento-Seattle along,beginning at 8 p.m. TNT will also have a doubleheader of Atlanta-Indiana andPortland-Utah tomorrow at 8 p.m., and a single game, Sacramento-Seattle,Sunday at 9 p.m.

NBC (Channel 11) will have a doubleheader tomorrow and a tripleheaderSunday, all second games, with New-York-Cleveland and Houston-Los Angeles at 1p.m. tomorrow, and Detroit-Orlando, Phoenix-San Antonio and Miami-Chicago at12: 30 on Sunday.

On the chilled agua, Home Team Sports will have Game 5 of theWashington-Pittsburgh NHL series tonight at 7: 30. Game 6 of the series willair Sunday (Channel 45, 3 p.m.), as the Caps make their Fox season debut inwhat might be their last game of the year.

ESPN will offer Game 5 of the Montreal-New York series tonight at 7: 30and Game 6 of the Philadelphia-Tampa Bay dust-up tomorrow at the same time.ESPN2 will also have a game tomorrow at 7: 30, but will wait until today toannounce it.

Turnabout is fair play

Know how the Orioles' radio flagship station always is suggesting that youturn down the television sound to hear Jon Miller's radio call?

Well, you can try the reverse now that WWLG (1360 AM) has picked up theweekly CBS Radio Sunday night baseball package, with games carried by ESPNthat are called by Miller. This week's offering is the Atlanta-St. Louis game.

Tuning up for Atlanta

ESPN launches its schedule of 74 hours of telecasts of Olympic trials withtomorrow's boxing competition from Augusta, Ga., at 4 p.m.

Finally, more than 15,000 of the nation's best high school, college andclub track performers descend upon Philadelphia this weekend for the 102ndPenn Relays, and CBS (Channel 13) will have a two-hour, taped wrap-up showSunday at 1 p.m.

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