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41 Years Ago Today, The Idea Of 24-Hour Sports Was Born

Ride with ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen as he hits the road - I-84, specifically - to recreate how the idea of ESPN came to him in 1978

On Aug. 16, 1978, Bill Rasmussen was stuck in traffic on a sweltering I-84 in Waterbury, Conn, and stuck for an idea on how to fully utilize the satellite transponder he had just secured from RCA.

He and his son Scott were en route to his daughter Lynn’s 16th birthday celebration in his air-conditioning-free Mazda GLC when Scott quipped “play football all day, for all I care.” With that spark, a day-long father-and-son brainstorm formed the idea of 24-hours-a-day sports television, which a year later launched as ESPN in Bristol, Conn.

Bill, now 86 years old, vividly recalls that day 41 years ago today. He remembers details, such as the location of the McDonald’s outlet on his left at the time the big idea came to him; by the way, that McDonald’s still is in business in that location.

On a recent trip to Connecticut, we asked Bill to recreate history. With Vice President, ESPNPR, Josh Krulewitz driving and Rich Arden, ESPNPR’s director of visual communications shooting, we jumped into I-84 traffic and let Bill tell his story.

Rich Arden and Mike Soltys produced the video.

ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen poses by a sign on Interstate 84 near Waterbury, Conn. (Rich Arden/ESPN)
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