CONGRATULATING ESPN ON ITS 25TH ANNIVERSARY -- (Extensions of Remarks - September 08, 2004)
Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate ESPN on its 25th anniversary. At 7 p.m. on September 7, 1979, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network began broadcasting SportsCenter from Bristol, CT in my district. Bill Rasmussen had the crazy idea that a 24-hour sports cable network might be a success. It started with a single building with no running water and a control truck on cinderblocks showing such odd sports as Australian rules football and darts. Twenty-five years later, he has proven to be right. That single building has grown into nine control rooms, 31 edit suites, more than 2,000 television monitors, and a library of over a million tapes.
ESPN is now one of the most widely known brand names in the world and more than 90 million people are exposed to ESPN each week. It has expanded its networks to include ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Today, and ESPN Radio. ESPN.com receives over 2.3 million page views during peak hours with its instant score updates. Meanwhile, workers stuck in their cubicles from 9 to 5 can find a diversion for a few minutes reading Page 2, Page 3, and the Sports Guy's insight on what it means to be a Red Sox fan. ESPN the Magazine has reached a circulation of 1.7 million in just five years and won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2003. ESPN Zone restaurants in eight cities serve as the ideal place to grab a bite and watch the game.
ESPN's signature program, SportsCenter, has developed a cult following and many viewers will admit to watching multiple episodes of the same sports report back-to-back-to-back. It has touched all corners of the globe with locally produced episodes in Canada and Brazil, a Spanish version for the rest of Latin America, China, India, and Taiwan. SportsCenter has not only helped create sports superstars, its personalities have become stars in their own right. Chris Berman, Keith Olbermann, Bob Ley, Greg Gumbel, Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott, and Craig Kilborn have become celebrities and their vernacular has become the language of the sports fan.
Not to be forgotten is the major role ESPN has played in the expansion of women's sports. Who would have thought in 1979 that the NCAA women's lacrosse national championship game would be shown in front of a national television audience? Or that the highest rated basketball telecast ever on ESPN would be the 2004 NCAA women's basketball championship, won by the University of Connecticut. That includes more than 6,000 men's and women's basketball games. Where else can young girls aspiring to become the next Mia Hamm watch their heroes?
Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me today in congratulating Bill Rasmussen for his crazy idea and thanking ESPN President George Bodenheimer and all the folks at Bristol U. for their passion and dedication to bringing the wonderful world of sports into living rooms 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am proud to say that ESPN is in the First Congressional District and I wish you 25 more years of success.