There is no surer indication of a newborn league's survival prospects than a television contract guaranteeing weekly national exposure and extra dollars in the till. The best example these days is the tie that binds the World Football League to Eddie Einhorn's independent TVS network, a relationship examined on page 57 this week in William Leggett's first TV/Radio column. After 12 distinguished years as our baseball writer, Bill has hung up his spikes, so to speak, and taken on a significant new assignment. Often it will mean sitting at home to watch television or listen to radio or, in an expert display of audio-video dexterity, doing both simultaneously.
That Leggett is able to strike these McLuhanesque poses so naturally makes him the obvious choice to write this regular feature. "I have watched as many as three events at once," he says, "and on any night in the summer I might listen to seven or eight baseball games. Last pro football season I got so tired of watching that national barn dance on Monday night I turned off the sound and listened to the play-by-play on Mutual."
Leggett's column comes at a time when sports programs are burgeoning. On a recent Sunday in New York City, six different stations televised three half-hour shows of sports news and commentary, three baseball games, two tennis tournaments, basketball and ice hockey playoffs, golf, badminton, hunting, diving and ice skating. Here in our editorial offices—Sunday is always a busy day for sportswriters—every one of the nine TV sets on the floor was on active duty.
Leggett's previous explorations in the field of broadcasting resulted in a 1964 report on the NFL's network television package and a 1972 critique of sports news reporting. Some additional accounts of electronic journalism that have appeared in our pages are William Johnson's five-part series on television and sport in 1969-70 and, more recently, Frank Deford's Only You, Frank Darling (April 1) and Edwin Shrake's The Defection of Dandy Don (April 22).
There is plenty of fertile subject matter for Leggett, who says, "I want to tell the readers what to look for, what I think is good or bad reporting, what makes it that way." Leggett admires the journalistic merits of television—and radio, too—but with reservations. "Television has unique advantages, sophisticated techniques, that make its coverage of an event fun to watch," he says, "but too often the reporting lacks depth and perception. TV and radio sportscasters are showing more willingness lately to call a screwup a screwup, but the one factor they still seem incapable of determining is where reporting ends and show business begins."
Leggett, who rises every morning in time to catch the 6:38 sports roundup on CBS radio, says his favorite program over the years has been The American Sportsman, but that no telecast has impressed him more than ABC's coverage of the Munich Olympics. Looking ahead, he predicts that college sports will eventually overtake the professionals in the tight for audience appeal.
All of which suggests that Leggett on TV/Radio will be worth tuning in.