True to form, 'Wide World' opts for people to tell a 35-year tale
By Milton Kent
ABC's "Wide World of Sports" has been, in the unforgettable words of Jim
McKay, "spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports," but
the truth is that the show has become the longest-running program in the
network's history because, for all its far-flung travel, it is about
"We've always focused on the human beings, rather than all the surrounding
things. It sounds simple, but it's true and that led to our Olympics
coverage," said McKay, the first host of "Wide World," which celebrates its
35th 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 the
World Wristwrestling Championships to barrel jumping to every unusual
competition in between, "Wide World" always has been about telling human
stories in a basic way, beating back knock-offs and challengers from the other
networks and then from cable.
"The most important thing when we found these sports was that the sport be
legitimate and that it not be hyped," said McKay. "You see things that are not
that important being hyped and that changes the legitimacy of the event. We've
never done that."
Sunday's program, which features two former hosts, McKay and Frank
Gifford, and current anchor Robin Roberts, is divided into three distinct
parts, 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" tribute
right where its loyal audience has found it all these years.
"We have not moved around the schedule in all those years. The basic "Wide
World" has been there from 4: 30 to 6 on Saturdays and Sundays, and the fact
that we've been there at that time has been good for our audience. They know
who 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 kept
him from his beloved Preakness.
He says he feels better than he has in years and intends to fulfill a
schedule this year that would tax a man 40 years younger, which includes being
host of ABC's Triple Crown coverage, making speeches in support of the
Olympics and doing commercials, one of which portrays him as a
near-100-year-old reporting on the Olympics of 2020.
The odds are pretty good that the commercial will prove to be dead-solid
The playoff picture
The Turner networks continue their coverage of the NBA playoffs with
doubleheaders of conference quarterfinal series openers tonight on both its
channels. TBS' lineup has Detroit-Orlando and Miami-Chicago, starting at 7
p.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 and
Portland-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 tripleheader
Sunday, all second games, with New-York-Cleveland and Houston-Los Angeles at 1
p.m. tomorrow, and Detroit-Orlando, Phoenix-San Antonio and Miami-Chicago at
12: 30 on Sunday.
On the chilled agua, Home Team Sports will have Game 5 of the
Washington-Pittsburgh NHL series tonight at 7: 30. Game 6 of the series will
air Sunday (Channel 45, 3 p.m.), as the Caps make their Fox season debut in
what might be their last game of the year.
ESPN will offer Game 5 of the Montreal-New York series tonight at 7: 30
and 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 to
Turnabout is fair play
Know how the Orioles' radio flagship station always is suggesting that you
turn 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 the
weekly CBS Radio Sunday night baseball package, with games carried by ESPN
that 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 with
tomorrow's boxing competition from Augusta, Ga., at 4 p.m.
Finally, more than 15,000 of the nation's best high school, college and
club track performers descend upon Philadelphia this weekend for the 102nd
Penn Relays, and CBS (Channel 13) will have a two-hour, taped wrap-up show
Sunday at 1 p.m.