Our Favorite Scripted Sports Shows – The Athletic


If you were one of the lucky 400 who owned a television set in the New York City area on May 17, 1939, you could have tapped into a station called W2XBS to see Princeton and Columbia go head to head on the diamond. Or you might not have been able to see much.

“First seen baseball television,” was the headline of the New York Times the next day, with the caption revealing a little more about the quality of what those few, if any, people saw: “Start with a blur, but the images in the Columbia-Princeton game are clear later.”

While what was clear from the start was that television and sports seemed meant to be together. And in the beginning, what sports were shown on TV – often boxing, baseball, bowling, and occasionally Esther Williams Aquatic Goggles – were either live sporting events or films of these events.

What you didn’t find on television at the time were series written on sports or sports themes. Who wanted a scripted sports show when there were “real” live events to cheer on? Who needed a sports show when you could love Lucy, laugh at Uncle Miltie or listen to music on Lawrence Welk’s Dodge Dance Party?

Hollywood, who had sought out athletes for cameos back to the era of silence, began to recognize that sports stars could be good for a scene or two to help raise ratings, especially on sitcoms.

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