ESPN founder, former Springfield newsman visits Union

Nov 1, 2012

WAMC's Ian Pickus speaks with Bill Rasmussen, the founder of ESPN, who will speak at Union College in Schenectady tonight at 6.

For modern sports fans, it’s hard to imagine a time before you could get every score on your phone in real time or instantly watch endless highlights packages to dissect every aspect of a major sports moment.

But not that long ago, there wasn’t a single all-sports television network, let alone the dozens we have at our disposal now.

Perhaps that transition was inevitable considering our advanced technology and increasing passion for sports — but somebody had to be brave (and perhaps crazy) enough to be the first to put a 24-hour sports channel on the air.

That man was fired Hartford Whalers communications director Bill Rasmussen, who became the founder of ESPN in 1978 and somehow put the fledgling network on the air a year later. Since then, ESPN has become a global force in sports and the coverage of sports, a multi-billion dollar industry with near dominance on the airwaves, online, in print and even in its partnerships with major sports leagues themselves.

Rasmussen has several ties to the WAMC listening area, having begun his sports media career at UMass-Amherst in football and basketball and later spending a decade on the air in Springfield, Massachusetts. He is also the author of Sports Junkies Rejoice! The Birth of ESPN.