by John Walters

Tweet Me Right

Starting Five

Narrow World Of Sports

Long before ABC Sports found itself under the umbrella of Disney and Bob Iger, it was the fiefdom of a true sports visionary, Roone Arledge. My former SI colleague, Steve Rushin, once wrote an outstanding profile of Arledge as part of SI’s celebration of its 40 years in print.

Arledge, not unlike Christopher Columbus, shrunk the world by traveling far and wide across the globe. Whereas Columbus brought Europe to North America (with catastrophic effects, we might add), Arledge brought Europe and Asia and even Acapulco into the living rooms of North Americans in the 1970s via ABC’s iconic Saturday afternoon TV show Wide World of Sports.

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport…” announcer Jim McKay intoned by way of the show’s introduction, accompanied by a majestic score, and we were off. Evel Knievel making some bizarre leap on his motorcycle. Muhammad Ali or some other boxer fighting in a place we’d never heard of. Figure skating from San Moritz. And yes, cliff diving in Acapulco.

What a wonderful and humanistic venture. No one at the United Nations may have ever done more to promote, well, globalism, than Arledge. Sure, we loved the NFL (the league’s apotheosis was the 1970s and you’ll never persuade us otherwise), but we also looked forward to expanding our sports horizons as ABC’s cameras traveled across other horizons.

Sadly, for reasons of budget, of tail-chasing and, yes, of rights fees, ESPN/ABC now has a distinctly antithetical approach to sports coverage than Arledge did. Just last weekend for instance, the Tour de France concluded (with the youngest champion in more than a century), and Olympic tuneups the World Swimming Championships and USA Track & Field Championships also concluded. Athletes who should’ve become household names this week such as Egan Bernal, Caleb Dressel and Simone Manuel, and those who should already be, such as Sandi Morris (above), Jenny Simpson and Emma Coburn, were completely ignored by both ESPN and

Yes, part of the equation is that these events were televised by NBC/NBC Sports, but why should that matter to a network/brand that promotes itself as “the worldwide leader in sports?” And sure, ESPN did provide nominal coverage of the Women’s World Cup and Megan Rapine (which aired on Fox), but it too was largely muted.

Instead, we get a daily diet of Screamin’ A and others projecting on what the Lakers will do this season (it’s July) and hot training camp updates from the NFL. Future historians and/or sociologists will note the parallel paths of nationalism taking place in the U.S.A. and ESPN’s coverage of sports and ruminate on how one impacted the other, and vice-versa.

Now I’m sure Jamie Horowitz would never pitch this, and I’d probably be laughed out of Jimmy Pitaro’s secretary’s office, but given how much easier it is to “span the globe” these days electronically and digitally, I have to wonder if there’s an appetite out there for fans who want more. For those who’d be entertained by a program, even if it were a weekly, that brought the world of sport to our laptops and televisions. I’d watch. We might even call it “The Worldwide World of Sports.”


In the late Seventies, Alabama and USC were two of the sport’s premier perennial powers, and yet they played one another without anyone putting guns to their heads

Might there really be good news in college football, much less on the planet? People doing the right thing because it’s the right thing? Well, blow me down, Olive.

Yesterday the University of Alabama and the University of Wisconsin, two Power 5 schools that wear big boy pants but are not in the same conference, announced 1) that they will play each other in the years 2024 and 2025 and 2) that they will do so not inside Jerry World on at the Mercedes Benz Dome but in Madison and Tuscaloosa.

If you’re wondering, Does this mean that Nick Saban is hanging it up after the 2023 season, well I am, too. Seriously, though, could this be the inception of an encouraging new trend in college football, one that has largely been absent since the late 1970s (with apologies to the University of Miami, which continued doing so through the mid-1990s)? That is, the resurrection of the much-loved intersectional matchup, and on campus? In the words of Oliver (but not erstwhile Tide defensive coordinator Bill Oliver), “Sir, I want more, please!”

Meanwhile, CBS Sports provided its preseason Top 10 yesterday and if you’re curious, it goes a little something like this: Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Notre Dame.

From that list, LSU is the only one that will face three other Top 10 schools. The Tigers get Texas, Florida and Alabama. Meanwhile, Auburn gets four—Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama—and that’s not even counting their games versus Oregon and Texas A&M, while the Aggies also get four as well: Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and LSU.

Manitoba Manhunt (Cont.)

It’s a grisly story, of course, but we are daily fascinated by the ongoing freedom of Canadian teenagers Kam Mcleod and Breyer Schmegelsky, who have now been on the run somewhere in Canada for nearly two weeks.

Think about it: they’re missing and they have not contacted a soul to declare their innocence, so they’re either dead or more likely, guilty. And if you understand how vast and underpopulated Canada is, once you take Toronto and Montreal out of the equation, then factor in that both boys are 6’4″ (difficult to disguise that), it’s downright bizarre that the RCMP, using drones and dogs and infrared cameras and who knows what else, have yet been unable to find them.

They started on Vancouver Island, trekked to northern B.C., and then apparently made it to northeastern Manitoba. Where are they now?

Fact: Canada ranks second overall in geographical size but 222nd in terms of population density. Which, to our way of thinking, should make these two fugitives easier to find. One wonders if the trail has gone cold, if the RCMP is simply guessing as to where they are. If they’ve been able to make it to Toronto, Canada’s largest city, they’re going to be much more difficult to nab. And you have to wonder how much heat the people in charge of this manhunt are taking, being outwitted to this point by a pair of high school-educated, ex-Walmart dropouts. It’s as if Beavis and Butthead are up against Tommy Lee Jones’ character from The Fugitive and winning.

One telling fact: they apparently haven’t killed anyone in more than ten days, which tells me they’re more interested in remaining on the lam than in a killing spree. Or they’ve been claimed by the wild and no one has found their corpses yet (and may never).

This story from the Toronto Globe and Mail provides a pretty good update of how the teens have thus far eluded capture and how the RCMP appears to be basically lost in terms of narrowing the search area.

The Bowel-ry Boy

A mad pooper is on the loose in Staten Island. The serial pooper has twice gone No. 2 outside the same home in New York City’s most quasi-borough this month and cops have told the residents of the house that there isn’t much they can do about it. Now, if he happens to be attempting to be selling cigarettes on the sidewalk…

Golden Taint

So everyone’s favorite ex-Notre Dame wide receiver this side of Tim Brown and Rocket Ismail (and maybe Jeff Samardzija), New York Giant Golden Tate, has been suspended four games for taking a banned substance: a fertility drug.

Where does this rank on his career misdeeds? Less or more serious than his break-in at Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle? And aren’t both less grievous than former Irish teammate Michael Floyd’s DUIs? When did the Irish get so gangsta? Tate, whom Irish fans have always found appealing, is himself appealing the NFL’s suspension.

Music 101

Dog & Butterfly

Alright, we were inspired by our friend’s moon fraud piece to go back and listen to this Heart tune from 1978. It only peaked at No. 34 on the charts, but sisters and Ann and Nancy Wilson have fared well, critically, as the decades have passed. Vocalist Ann is as talented as any female singer post-Carly/Carol/Joni as far as we’re concerned. And Nancy married Cameron Crowe.

Remote Patrol

Democratic Debates

8 p.m. CNN

The Democratic presidential race in one GIF

Live from the FOX Theatre. You got owned, Dems!

3 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. You are of course, completely correct about the narrowing of ESPN’s sports “coverage” & it has incensed me for years. However, I’ve given up on ESPN ever doing anything to change their STULTIFYING focus unless they win the rights to the Olympics. Since NBC has that locked up at least thru 2028, I’m not holding my breath.

    Thank goodness the Olympic sports now have their OWN TV CHANNEL – the Olympic Channel. Which I watch at least 3-4 times a week, usually more. This year we got to see not just the Semi-Finals & Finals of the Swimming World Championships but also the Heats (however, this coverage was from the “world feed” & thus, no Rowdy Gaines & Dan Hicks). Some additions to the channel that I would like to see include a nightly wrap-up/results/interview show, ala Sports Center & “Up Close & Personal” visits with various American Olympic athletes at home/training/competing throughout their year & especially in the year leading up to the Olympics.

    Alas, NBC has dropped almost all road cycling except the Tour de France & the Tour of CA. The little bit they show of a handful of other races airs between 1-3AM Eastern time! !&*$!@^%. God forbid they don’t show yet another REPEAT of that car auction show.

    A little more on the Swimming World Championships. I meant to talk about Katie yesterday but I guess my Tour Rant could not be contained. 😉 Anyhoo, as mentioned last week, Katie Ledecky got very sick when she arrived in S.Korea & eventually had to pull out of 2 of her events. She was finally able to swim a leg of the 4X200 Free Relay & the 800 Free, the latter for which she won the Gold. However, she was still not herself & how she was able to win that race just revealed her true superpower – Strength of WILL. My heart just hurts for her – she has said that the past year was the best training she was able to do since Rio so she was READY for these championships. To put in ALL that work & not even be able to compete (or barely) must have been gutting. Plus, she must have been scared. To get that sick is no fun anywhere but in a foreign country? At one point, she spent 7 hours in a hospital having tests run. Argh!

    Also, I failed to highlight a new female American swim star has emerged – 17 year old Regan Smith. Who didn’t just break, she slaughtered the 200 Back World Record & then went on to win the Gold in that event. She then was quickly swapped onto the Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay for Team USA & set a new World Record in the lead-off leg, the 100 Back. And apparently, she swims more than just Backstroke, so there will probably be at least FIVE American swimming stars in Tokyo : Ledecky, Dressel, Manuel, Smith, & Lilly King (she just won both the 100 & 50 Breaststrokes & won a Gold & a Silver in 2 relays). Of course, all must first either win or get 2nd in their events in next year’s Olympic Trials which is never a given.

  2. And a little bit more about Caeleb Dressel. (Oh, stop yer whining! 🙂 ). Unless he adds a new stroke event or extends his endurance a bit to be able to swim in the 4X200 Relay, he will only swim 6 events in Tokyo. So all those in the media already foaming at the mouth with Michael comparisons need to dial it back. And I wish they would anyway, the HYPE that rains down on certain American Olympians who are EXPECTED to win multiple events just RUINS these athletes’ achievements if they fall a bit short! Example – the MEDIA, not Michaela Shiffrin blasted nonstop how she could/should win multiple Golds in Alpine Skiing in 2018. She’d never even said she was going to ENTER all the events & the damn sports media machine had her as the “favorite” in all which was ludicrous! When she did not win multiple Golds, she was considered a loser! The woman who is well on the way to becoming the greatest female skier of ALL TIME labeled a “loser”! WTF! The same could happen with Dressel – even if he wins ALL his individual events, if one or more of the relays in which he swims, “only” wins Silver, the media will lead social media, etc to think he has “failed”. And that is utter bullshit.

    One more thing – Michael Phelps is The Greatest Swimmer of All Time, not just because he went 8 for 8 in Beijing. It’s because he achieved that AND was THE most dominant swimmer in 4 straight Olympics, each time winning multiple medals including multiple Golds. His excellence, consistency & longevity was astounding & may never be seen again. To EXPECT this of any other swimmer is unfair & it lessens their own great achievements. Basically, every swimmer for the past 15 & for at least the next 25 years will be compared to Michael & no matter how great they are (like a LeBron) they will be found wanting. To all those critics, I say “STFU!”

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