ESPN Turns The Clock Back To Black and White Television: Stick To Sports! By Harold Bell


Legends of Inside Sports (1972): When politics and Inside Sports collide without accident. Richard Nixon and Muhammad Ali two of the most controversial personalities in American sports history.

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro just sold his entire staff of broadcasters and writers out to pro sports owners with his latest ultimatum “Stick to Sports”!  It is going to be very interesting to watch and hear ESPN broadcasters and writers walk the high wire trying to keep their balance while trying to talk sports and not mix politics.  Most of these guys cannot chew bubble gum and walk a straight line.

Talking sports and politics were unheard before Inside Sports.  The Inside Sports talk show format made its debut on W-O-O-K radio in 1972 in Washington, DC.  Sports talk radio, television and print media has never been the same.  Inside Sports changed the way we talk sports in America and around the world.  The Original Inside Sports was the first sports media format to successfully blend sports and politics.  Every radio and television sports talk show heard and seen in the world today is a copy of the Original Inside Sports. The format has often been imitated but never duplicated! 

First, the Washington Post newspaper and owners Katherine Graham and her son Donald kidnapped the tag Inside Sports, it was much like Christopher Columbus discovering America.  In 1978 the mother and son carried the tag to New York City and published “Inside Sports Magazine”.  They then copyrighted the tag making it officially their very own.  The magazine failed losing several million dollars before the Grahams closed shop saying, “No Mas”!

ESPN was the first broadcast media to copy the Inside Sports format.  A fired Community Relations Manager  from the NHL Scott Rasmussen watched as the Inside Sports Magazine failed and decided to try the format in television.  Sports Center was the original format, Out Side the Lines, 30-30 and East 60, etc all followed. 

Inside Sports was Out Side the Lines and Real Sports long before Bob Levy/ESPN and Bryant Gumble/HBO Real Sports.  It was unheard of to play message music or have media round-tables with different journalist participating.   In 2019 forty-Seven years later new ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro has send out a memo to the entire ESPN staff saying, “Stick to Sports”!  This will make the ESPN format the leader in “FAKE NEWS”!  ESPN has made the decision to make sports talk a dictatorship. 

The bottom-line, I sit the table for sports talk in America.  My talk show format was unique because I was a community legend long before I became a sports talk show legend.  My work in the inner-city with at-risk children got its start with the self-help community organization UPO (United Planning Organization). 

In 1965, UPO Director/CEO Jim Banks hired three Neighborhood Workers to patrol the Shaw/Cardozo corridor of NW DC.  Their assignment, to assist and enhance the lives of inner-city youth.  I learned politics from the ground up watching the first Black Mayor Walter Washington and Mr. Banks maneuver and play a game of chess with politicians on The Hill who controlled our budget.  They were trying to get our fair share  from a group of politicians who could have cared less–sound familiar!

Mr. Banks hired the late Petey Greene, H Rap Brown and Harold Bell.  Petey Greene would later become a legendary radio and television talk show host (telling it to the young and telling it to the old), H Rap Brown would become a Civil Rights icon when he became the 5th chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinator Committee.  He moved on to become the Minister of Justice for The Black Panther Party (his story is still on-going).  I parlayed my UPO experience into a winner when I met Muhammad Ali on the campus of Howard University in 1967.  UPO later gave a grant to the DC Department of Recreation and Parks to hire additional Roving Leaders for their elite youth gang task force.  I was made a part of the grant package. 

In 1967 against all odds ex-con Petey Greene became a radio talk show host on W-O-L Radio.  Every Sunday afternoon Petey Greene’s Washington became must listen to radio in the black community.  He gave me 5 minutes to talk sports (Redskins).  I was hanging out in the U Street corridor one afternoon and I encountered Petey.  He said, “Your man is down on 7th street touring the riot area”!  My response, “My Man”?  He laughed and said, “The President of the United States Richard Nixon”.

Petey and I both were caddies at the Burning Tree Golf Course in suburban, Maryland in the late 50s.  Nixon was then Vice-President and he was a member of the exclusive all-white golf course.  There were no blacks or women allowed membership.  I became a Caddy on the weekends for Nixon and William Rogers who was then the Secretary of State.  In 1969 thanks to Petey I was able to parlay that 7th street encounter into a lunch at the White House and a Presidential appointment. 

In 1972 I parlayed my 5 minutes on his talk show into my own sports talk radio show “Inside Sports” aired on W-O-O-K radio.  


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