Bone Daddy tells the story of how ESPN and his sport bar, Madison Square Garden, The Sports Place, at 302 E. 6th Street in Austin,TX grew up together….which was a result of Bone Daddy purchasing his 1st satellite dish….known as a satellite earth station back in late 1978….cuz the satellite dish was the catalyst for starting to record our 2300 hours of ImaSportsphile vintage video collection that we continue to post here on our site.
ESPN was originally an initialism for the newly created Entertainment and Sports Programming Network…which is a U.S.-based global cable and satellite sports television channel owned by ESPN Inc….which is a joint venture owned by The Walt Disney Company (80%) and Hearst Communications (20%)….as the company was originally founded in 1979 by Bill Rasmussen along with his son Scott.
Rasmussen conceived the concept of ESPN in late May 1978….after he and Scott had been fired from their jobs with the World Hockey Association’s New England Whalers. One of the first steps in Rasmussen’s process of building a company was finding land to build the channel’s broadcasting facilities….as they 1st rented office space in Plainville, Connecticut….however, the plan to base ESPN there was put on hold because a local ordinance prohibited buildings from bearing rooftop satellite dishes….so, available land area was quickly found in Bristol, Connecticut….where the channel remains headquartered to this day….with funding to buy the property provided by Getty Oil….which purchased 85% of the company from Bill Rasmussen on February 22, 1979….in an attempt to diversify the oil company’s holdings….which helped the credibility of the fledgling company….but there were still many doubters to the viability of their sports channel concept. Another event that helped build ESPN’s credibility was securing an advertising agreement with Anheuser-Busch in the spring of 1979….as “this Bud’s for you” invested $1 million to be the “exclusive beer advertised on the network.”
ESPN launched on September 7, 1979….beginning with the first telecast of what would become the channel’s flagship program, SportsCenter….which was taped in front of a small live audience inside the Bristol studios….whereby it was broadcast to 1.4 million cable subscribers throughout the United States. Another touch of brilliance to the ESPN concept was that they provided their satellite channel at NO CHARGE to the cable television operators around the country for the 1st three years of operation….so, by the time they began to charge for their service around 1982….they had developed over 7 million customers….and a huge built-in viewing audience.
The three sportscasters of George Grande, Greg Gumbel and Chris Berman featured on this 1984 SportsCenter video….were all outstanding….and are still working sportscasters in 2017….some 33 years later….which speaks to the caliber of these men. Grande and Lee Leonard were the first two people to be seen on ESPN upon its launch….for after Leonard gave an introduction to viewers concerning what the network was all about….he tossed to Grande who was sitting at a desk dubbed the “ESPN Sports Center” ….which became the name of the fledging network’s nightly news broadcast In the early years of the network, he served as host of the Inside Baseball weekly magazine program….which evolved into the current Baseball Tonight program on ESPN. Prior to his rising to prominence at CBS Sports….where today in 2017 is still a prominent member of the networks sportscasting crew….Gumbel worked for ESPN as he anchored the show SportsCenter and did “play-by-play” for early NBA games. Chris Berman, nicknamed Boomer, has been an anchor for SportsCenter on ESPN since 1979….after joining the network a month after its initial launch….and hosted the network’s Sunday NFL Countdown program from 1985 to 2016….as he has also anchored Monday Night Countdown, U.S. Open golf, the Stanley Cup Finals, and other programming on ESPN and ABC Sports….plus Berman calls play-by-play of select Major League Baseball games for ESPN….which included their Home Run Derby show until 2016. A six-time honoree of the National Sports Media Association’s “National Sportscaster of the Year” award….Berman was instrumental in establishing ESPN’s lasting popularity during the network’s formative years….and being well known for his various catchphrases and quirky demeanor.
Any way you cut the pie….ESPN SportCenter along with sportscasters George Grande, Greg Gumbel and Chris Berman are legendary in the world of sports broadcasting….and they all grew up at ESPN….along with their network and Bone Daddy as Sportsphiles in the universe of sports.