Originally published on the Directors Guild of America.
Some of the most unforgettable moments in the history of sports—Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 at the 1976 Summer Olympics, Torvill and Dean’s erotic ice ballet at the 1984 Winter Olympics, Evel Knievel’s double-decker bus jump at Wembley in 1975—all have one common denominator: ABC’s Wide World of Sports. From 1961 through 1998, the groundbreaking anthology show brought the sporting universe to American television sets with dramatic coverage of major events across the globe. Along with the show’s legendary producer, Roone Arledge, came an army of technical wizards and visionary directors including Doug Wilson, the 1993 DGA Lifetime Achievement in Sports Direction winner, who helped man the ship for the better part of three decades, and is responsible for capturing many of the sports moments forever etched in the public consciousness. Wilson’s new memoir, The World Was Our Stage: Spanning the Globe with ABC Sports, is a loving tribute to that halcyon, golden age of sports directing, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of what it was like to bring viewers “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat,” week in, week out.
Recruited by Arledge to the fledgling franchise in 1963, Wilson understood the immediacy of drama and the audience’s need to feel the atmosphere and flavor of, not just the event, but the athletes, their stories, and world around them. With that in mind, Wilson and the other directors of Wide World of Sports created the foundation of sports coverage that is seen to this day. Wilson stresses it wasn’t the technological ‘firsts’ that made the program so revolutionary, it was the approach to the material: treating sporting events as dramatic live theater.
Wilson leads us through his on-the-job training and how he drew on examples he’d seen on live TV drama. “Directing has its technical side, in which the fundamentals are based,” he says, “but more importantly it has an artistic side.” It is that artistry that allowed Wilson to bring some of the greatest moments in sports into our homes.
Review written by Carley Johnson