Four weekends ago the American Broadcasting Company, in cooperation with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, began a series of weekend broadcasts inspired by SI's new techniques of sports journalism. Called Speaking of Sports, each broadcast—six on Saturday, four on Sunday—is, in effect, a 5-minute "Conversation Piece" surrounded by and related to the important sport news of the moment.
The idea for Speaking of Sports came to Howard Cosell, its producer and announcer, from careful study of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and a conviction that its reporting of sports through leading personalities offered a unique and exciting inside-the-news pattern for sports broadcasts.
Almost more than a fair share of the excitement comes Cosell's way each week as he gathers the 10 outstanding sports figures whom he interviews. During his 40 broadcasts so far he has, for example, talked with Hal Jeffcoat after his pitch sent Don Zimmer to the hospital; with Sam Snead on the eve of the Open; with Red Schoendienst immediately after his assignment to the Giants; with Floyd Patterson and his manager, Cus D'Amato, within minutes after the cast went on the heavyweight contender's broken right hand.
Cosell interviewed Fred Haney by telephone a half hour after his appointment as manager of the Braves. "How did you reach me so fast?" Haney said in amazement. "I only just found out myself and I'm still talking with Mr. Perini. Or I was."
Cosell's "Conversation Pieces," although transcribed, are absolutely unedited. This weekend there will be 10 more. Seven interviews depend on the weekend's sport developments. But three Cosell is counting on already: SI's Bill Talbert on Wimbledon, Branch Rickey on the astonishing Pirates and Yogi Berra on next Tuesday's All-Star Game.
Cosell and SI, as usual, have no idea what they'll say. But I'm sure, in speaking of sports, whatever they say will, like SI itself, add meaning to events that have happened and understanding to events that will come.