Wendell Smith and Sam Lacey of the Pittsburgh Courier and Afro-American newspapers respectively are considered the greatest black American sportswriters of the 21st century. They now have to move over and make room for Harold Bell.
He was always first, in 1972 he became the first black radio sports talk show host to produce a talk show in his hometown of Washington DC. He was the first to use the
INSIDE SPORTS tag to ID his radio sports talk show. “Inside Sports” is now global. The format was unique to sports talk radio, it dominated the Washington market. The tag would be later hijacked by the Washington Post. In 1978, the paper published “INSIDE SPORTS MAGAZINE” in New York City. They failed to the tune of several million dollars and two years later packed their bags and headed back to DC. The copyrights are now owned by the paper.
Bell was the first sports media personality to mix sports and politics successfully. He was the first to play message music long before
NWA (What’s Going On?, Who Shot the Sheriff & Wake Up Everybody). He was the first to write sports media commentaries, first to establish media round tables, first to convene police and youth forums, first to encourage pro athletes, politicians, law enforcement, judges, and media personalities to reach back into the community. He was the first to host celebrity fashion shows and tennis tournaments, the first sports media personality to be named “ Washingtonian of the Year” by Washingtonian Magazine. He was the first DC sports media personality to be cited in the Congressional Record (Lou Stokes, Bob Dole, and Eleanor Holmes Norton). He was the first sports media personality to buy time from a radio station (unheard of).
In 1969, he became the first Youth Advocate/Sports Talk Show Host to receive a
Presidential Appointment from (Richard Nixon). He was the first sports media personality Muhammad Ali contacted on his arrival back in the U. S. after his historic beat-down of George Foreman in Zaire, Africa in 1974. In 1975, he became the first black to host and produce his own television sports special in prime-time on NBC affiliate WRC TV 4, his special guest was Muhammad Ali.
When Georgetown University basketball icon the late John Thompson could not win a game in his first year and the media completely ignored his struggles, Harold Bell gave him five minutes on Inside Sports every Monday to promote Georgetown basketball. He reached out to Sugar Ray Leonard and gave him a platform to help him to regain his lost self-esteem after the 1976 Olympic Games. Leonard won a Gold Medal and returned home expecting a ticker-taped parade in his honor, the media blindsided him by exposing him of having a baby out of wedlock with his girlfriend Juanita. He hid in the house in Palmer park and refused to come out.
Janks Morton, Ray’s trainer would travel to Anacostia Park in Southeast DC to plead with Bell to go and talk with Ray. He did and became Leonard’s mentor. Ray would go on to become one of the greatest boxers of all time and the first pro boxer to earn over one-hundred million dollars. Leonard went from being an introvert to being a pathetic liar.
Bell was also the first media personality to provide platforms on Inside Sports for
James Brown (CBS/NFL), Michael Wilbon (ESPN), Dave Aldridge (TNT), Bill Rhoden (NY Times), Kevin Blackistone (Washington Post). The late legendary sports writer Dick Heller of the Washington Times newspaper said, “Harold Bell is the God Father of sports talk the good kind”.