There’s a beautiful scene in the movie “Heaven Can Wait” where the Warren Beatty character tries to convince his best friend that he didn’t really die. He explains and explains, sounding crazier with every sentence, until finally Mr. Jordan, his guardian angel, makes a suggestion.
“Try a little music,” Mr. Jordan says as he points to the saxophone that Warren Beatty’s character used to play. “That’s a great persuader.”
It is when I heard the music for the old Saturday Afternoon show NBC’s “SportsWorld” that everything rushed back. I loved everything about “SportsWorld.”
Sports television was different then … mostly because there just wasn’t very much of it. The baseball game of the week was exactly what it claimed to be – the only baseball game on television that week. There was no Sunday night NFL game, no 18-hole coverage of golf events, and even NBA playoff games were sometimes tape delayed.
And so we craved anything that resembled sports. And that’s precisely what “SportsWorld” was: Anything that resembled sports. Bowling? Yes. Pro wrestling? Yes. Horse races you had never heard of? Yes. Two guys racing down the side of a mountain? Yes.
That music would kick in, and this amazing feeling of expectation bubbled over. You had absolutely no idea what kind of athletic event you were about to see. I vividly remember one “SportsWorld” that featured the Bucketeers – a basketball team that Meadowlark Lemon had formed after he left the Harlem Globetrotters. I remember they played outside, on the beach, and it was brilliantly sunny, and a 44-year-old Wilt Chamberlain played for the Bucketeers. It was absolutely fantastic.
That feeling is what we’re hoping to recreate here as we reach into the past and revive NBC’s “SportsWorld.” The world has changed, and the media landscape has changed, and there are a lot of ways to tell a good sports story. We want to tell those stories in every way we can.
The guts of the new SportsWorld will be the writing. We will feature in-depth stories from the great writers we have throughout NBC – writers from the SportsTalks and the Golf Channel and Rotoworld and the regional sports networks.
Beyond that, SportsWorld will feature piercing and innovative video content from across the NBC Sports family. And, yes, we will have a few surprises lined up too because surprises were the essence of the old show.
There has never been a better time to be a sports fan. In the old “SportsWorld” days, you simply had to wait until the announcer said, “Let’s go to New York for an update,” to find out how your favorite NFL team was doing. You had to wait until the next morning’s newspaper to see your team’s box score. There were few live games, few highlights, few ways to connect with your favorite teams and athletes.
Now, it’s all in high definition, it’s all streaming, it’s all on-demand and it’s all live, and it’s spectacular.
To that, we’d like to add a place to go a little deeper, to sit down and talk about growing older with Dale Earnhardt Jr., to figure out the absurd wonder of Royals manager Ned Yost, to reminisce with Bobby Bowden. Some of what you will find on SportsWorld will be on the hot story, but some of it will take you away, perhaps to Burnley, a small town in Northern England that finds itself with a team in the world’s biggest league.
When I was a kid, Saturday afternoons in winter seemed to go so slowly. The morning cartoons carried us until almost noon, and then time stopped. Boring old black and white movies filled the television. Snow piled to the windowsill. Friends had to go shopping with their parents. My own parents would respond to “nothing to do” whining with that parental trump card: “Read a book.” It was like time stopped.
Only then, finally, that music – that glorious music – began.
“This,” the announcer would say, “is NBC’s ‘SportsWorld!’”
That music would bring me back to life. Our hope is that NBC’s SportsWorld can do something like that for you.