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July 1, 2021 10:21 am  #1

What Was The First Sporting Event Ever Broadcast? It Wasn't Baseball

What was the very first sporting event ever "broadcast" in the sense we know it today? I would have said baseball. And I would have been wrong. Turns out it was a boxing match, a competition that launched the idea of sports of the radio, way back on July 2, 1921 - a hundred years ago Friday!

This terrific story from Sports Illustrated outlines how it came to be, the struggles to get it on the air and who was actually listening. A great bit of radio and sports history that - despite some unfortunate associated racism - has been long forgotten until now. 

"As the action started, White—who had practiced the nascent art of play-by-play by shadowboxing in the mirror and describing the action—relayed his descriptions over the phone to a clerk at the train station, who typed up his reports and handed them to Smith, an RCA employee and amateur radio enthusiast, who read the descriptions into the transmitter. To broadcast the action, a temporary longwave radio station, which was given the call letters WJY, was set up..."

"One man who wasn’t upset to see the fight end was Smith. Being positioned so close to the glowing radio tubes, he was temporarily blinded for days. In the final round, one overheating tube exploded. Smith grabbed the base and pulled it out of its socket—searing his hands— before inserting a new one. As the fight ended, the transmitter was smoking and, according to an account in the 1930 book 
This Thing Called Broadcasting
, had “resolved itself into a molten mass.”

How Boxing Launched Radio