ABC marks its 50th consecutive year televising the Indianapolis 500 Sunday, a marriage between a sports event and an American TV network third only in length to CBS and The Masters and ABC and the Little League World Series.
It is difficult to convey to youngish people how big the event once was – so big that in 1971 I convinced my mother to leave a 10-year-old alone in an Elizabeth, N.J., theater for a live, closed circuit showing. (ABC did not carry the race live until 1986.)
Even now, though, it has its devotees, and the network takes the tradition seriously.
“Our team looks at it like it's a privilege to produce the Indy 500,’’ said Rich Feinberg, ESPN’s VP for motorsports production. “It always has been. It always will be. It's a cherished assignment that everybody embraces.
“Our goal is quite simple, and that's to uphold the tradition of excellence in coverage that's been established by our ABC colleagues over the past 49 years. That may sound a bit cliché, but it's a fact.’’