Roone Pinckney Arledge, the vice-president and executive producer of sports programs for the American Broadcasting Company, does not use his middle name. "Roone is weird enough," he explains. As far as he knows, there are only three Roones in existence: himself, his father and his 22-month-old son. Arledge has no idea of the etymology of Roone. "It seems to me the most ridiculous name imaginable," he says. "It doesn't seem to mean anything. It doesn't sound particularly nice." Muddled strangers occasionally address him as Roo Knowledge.
Arledge is 34, redheaded, uncommonly cheerful and somewhat elusive. "Roone doesn't have any bad habits," a friend says. "In fact, he has no habits." Arledge was born in Forest Hills, N.Y. and grew up in Merrick, farther out on Long Island. After graduating from Columbia, he became a program assistant for the old DuMont network. He next went to work at NBC, rising in time to producer-director. His last show at NBC prior to leaving for ABC in 1960 was Hi Mom, a children's program.
At ABC, Arledge created a new concept for covering sports ("Take the fan to the game, not the game to the fan" is the catchword), was responsible for such technical innovations as the instant rerun and dreamed up Wide World of Sports, which has presented 87 different sports, ranging from the U.S.- U.S.S.R. track meet to an Eiffel Tower climb.
Arledge readily defends Wide World against its detractors. "You'll find very little of the basket-weaving-type thing," he says. "But certain sports, although small, have a zany or compelling quality. It took me five years to locate a firemen's competition. However, some sports are just second-rate. For this reason we have never done jai alai, badminton, dog racing, squash, curling and archery."
Arledge is more intimately concerned with the physical production of shows than Bill MacPhail or Carl Lindemann, his counterparts at CBS and NBC. He has a direct line from his living room in Bedford Village, N.Y. to the ABC remote unit, and he has been known to use it while a live telecast is in progress, declaiming, "You're shooting too tight. You're blowing the story. Tell Dick Button to shut up."
Arledge's favorite hobby is cooking; in fact, while at NBC he produced and directed several cooking shows. He particularly enjoys preparing game. "Most people ruin game by trying to disguise its flavor," he says. "The greatest compliment they hope to receive is, 'It tastes just like steak.' In that case, why don't they serve steak?"
Arledge is also an avid hunter. His finest trophy is a cape buffalo he shot in Kenya that is believed to be a world record. Another treasured head is that of a jackelope, which is "found" in Wyoming and is a "cross" between a jackrabbit and an antelope. "He was so sincere about shooting one," recalls Sportscaster Curt Gowdy. " 'How much do you lead them?' he asked. 'Are they fast?' "
Arledge is married to the former Joan Heise. They have four children: Betsy, 7, Susan, 4, Patricia, 3, and Roone Jr.
He is especially proud of getting the 1968 Winter Olympics at Grenoble and the summer Olympics at Mexico City for ABC. "After we sewed up the Winter Olympics," Arledge says, "one of the French committeemen said to me, 'I must tell you that NBC was here, too, and told us about the very impressive list of events they carry. In this connection, there is one question I would like to ask you. What are all these bowel games they have the best of?' "