Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now



Wide World of Sports Changed the Sports Landscape Forever 2

Posted on April 24, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Wide World of Sports made its debut on April 29, 1961.

Sometimes things happen that at the time seem innocent enough, but in hind sight have a far greater impact than could ever have been predicted. Such was the case on April 29, 1961 when ABC aired portions of the Drake Relays from Des Moines, Iowa and the Penn Relays from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania under the title “Wide World of Sports.”

Over the next 37 years, Wide World of Sports “spanned the globe” to showcase the many unique sporting events that people participated in across the world. In an age when most people hadn’t traveled even outside their own state or geographic region, Wide World of Sports gave viewers a weekly trip to an exotic or previously unexplored location.

At a time when these places were generally unavailable for most Americans to travel to, Wide World of Sports showed sporting events from places such as Moscow, China and Cuba.

It also introduced us to sports, individuals and events that eventually became a common part of the American sports landscape.

Today, the Indianapolis 500, Wimbledon, the Daytona 500, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships and the Little League World Series all are stand alone sports programs that attract millions of viewers and weeks of coverage. However, all received their first significant national television exposure as part of Wide World of Sports.

As did other events such as barrel jumping, platform (and cliff) diving, professional bowling, demolition derby, gymnastics and body building. The Superstars program, which ran for 10 years, started as a feature on Wide World of Sports.

Such well known sports figures as Muhammad Ali, Evil Knievel, Pele, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Arnold Schwarzenegger owe a portion of their fame to regular appearances on Wide World of Sports. Read the rest of this entry →

40 Years Ago: The Fight of the Century 6

Posted on March 08, 2011 by Dean Hybl
Frazier knocked Ali down for only the third time in his career in the final round of their first meeting.

Frazier knocked Ali down for only the third time in his career in the final round of their first meeting.

Considering that the sport of boxing is known for using hype to try and turn the most mundane match into a “must see moment”, you might question the validity of a fight dubbed the “Fight of the Century.” However, when undefeated heavyweights Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali met in the ring for the first time at Madison Square Garden 40 years ago today, on March 8, 1971, there was little question that this was a special night and an important moment in the history of boxing.

Perhaps not since the second Louis-Schmeling fight more than 30 years earlier had a heavyweight fight been as anticipated.

The fight matched the controversial Ali, who had been stripped of the Heavyweight Title after refusing induction into the military, against the man who had ultimately taken his place as the Heavyweight Champion.

The 29-year-old Ali entered the fight with a career record of 31-0 (25 knockouts), including two victories in tune-ups since being reinstated after a three and a half year layoff from the sport.

The 27-year-old Frazier was in his prime with a 26-0 record, including 23 wins by knockout.

This battle of titans brought out many of the stars of the day, including Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Dustin Hoffman, Diana Ross and Woody Allen. Just to ensure they were close to the action, Sinatra served as a photographer for Life magazine and Lancaster served as a “color commentator” on the television broadcast. Read the rest of this entry →

35 Years Ago: The Thrilla in Manila 0

Posted on October 01, 2010 by Dean Hybl

The Thrilla in Manila marked the completion of boxing's greatest trilogy.

It was 35 years ago, October 1, 1975, that one of the great rivalries in sports history reached its climax with the third and final meeting between two of the great heavyweight boxers of their era. For both Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, the “Thrilla in Manila” was a defining moment in their careers.

For Ali, the victory secured his place as one of the great boxers of all-time. While for Frazier, the loss ensured that he would never be recognized as the top fighter of his era. Another loss a year later to George Foreman ended his tenure among the boxing champions.

Whether it was hype or real, the two men didn’t seem to like each other very much. Ali was constantly needling Frazier, an obvious attempt to get into his head. The two men once fought on the set of ABC’s Wide World of Sports and represented vast differences in African American society of the 1970s.

But in the ring, they were both warriors and their three fights were among the greatest in boxing history.

Below are some great YouTube videos that capture the buildup and the boxing from the “Thrilla in Manila.”

Read the rest of this entry →

Ali vs. Frazier, Part I: The Fight of the Century 13

Posted on March 08, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Frazier knocked Ali down for only the third time in his career in the final round of their first meeting.

Frazier knocked Ali down for only the third time in his career in the final round of their first meeting.

Considering that the sport of boxing is known for using hype to try and turn the most mundane match into a “must see moment”, you might question the validity of a fight dubbed the “Fight of the Century.” However, when undefeated heavyweights Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali met in the ring for the first time at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971 there was little question that this was a special night and an important moment in the history of boxing.

Perhaps not since the second Louis-Schmeling fight more than 30 years earlier had a heavyweight fight been as anticipated.

The fight matched the controversial Ali, who had been stripped of the Heavyweight Title after refusing induction into the military, against the man who had ultimately taken his place as the Heavyweight Champion.

The 29-year-old Ali entered the fight with a career record of 31-0 (25 knockouts), including two victories in tune-ups since being reinstated after a three and a half year layoff from the sport.

The 27-year-old Frazier was in his prime with a 26-0 record, including 23 wins by knockout.

This battle of titans brought out many of the stars of the day, including Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Dustin Hoffman, Diana Ross and Woody Allen. Just to ensure they were close to the action, Sinatra served as a photographer for Life magazine and Lancaster served as a “color commentator” on the television broadcast. Read the rest of this entry →

Happy 68th Birthday Muhammad Ali! 4

Posted on January 17, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Muhammad Ali

Happy 68th Birthday to three-time Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali.

In honor of the 68th birthday of one of the great sports personalities of the 20th Century, Sports Then and Now has selected some YouTube moments to remember the remarkable career of the self-proclaimed “Greatest of All-Time.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942 with the name Cassius Marcellus Clay, Muhammad Ali emerged on the boxing scene in 1960 when he won Light Heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympics.

He defeated Sonny Liston to win the Heavyweight Title on February 25, 1964 and held it for more than three years with nine title defenses before he was stripped of the title after refusing induction into the U.S. Army.

Ali returned to the ring in 1970 and claimed the WBA and/or WBC Heavyweight Championship two more times during his career. Overall, he went 56-5 in his career, including 22 wins where he either won or regained the WBA and/or WBC Heavyweight title.

Below are some videos featuring the greatness of Muhammad Ali:

Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting For The Weekend: Did You Say Playoffs? 0

Posted on October 02, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers are are looking to complete the 2009 playoff picture.

Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers are are looking to complete the 2009 playoff picture.

The first few weeks of October are always great sports weeks as between the Major League Baseball playoffs, college and pro football, the NASCAR Chase and the starts of hockey and basketball seasons there is more than enough to keep every sports nut happy.

Did You Say Playoffs?
While we have known most of the teams participating in the playoffs for several weeks. The Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers have kept things interesting in the AL Central.

Even if Minnesota doesn’t make the playoffs, they should get credit for doing more with less than any other team in baseball. Now that the Oakland A’s have hit the skids the last couple years, the Twins have emerged as the most consistent contender among the teams generally seen as the “have-nots” in baseball.

Remember at the start of this decade when the buzzword was contraction and many thought the Twins should go?

With their new park scheduled to open next year, look for the Twins to remain competitive. Of course, a new stadium doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will be competitive on the field (just ask fans of the Pirates and Reds), but for a management team that is among the best in the league, the potential of having more resources could make them really dangerous.
Read the rest of this entry →

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