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Remembering Roone Arledge

December 9, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


TERENCE SMITH: Hundreds of broadcasting colleagues, celebrities, and relatives filled St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan today to pay final tribute to a broadcasting pioneer, Roone Arledge.

A former president of ABC Sports and News, Arledge died last week from cancer. Arledge built ABC’s Wide World of Sports into a powerhouse, and ushered in the era of prime- time sports with Monday Night Football. He was an innovator [in the use of] instant replay, slow motion, and hand-held cameras.

Moving on to the news division, Arledge attracted major talent to the network, and created a roster of shows, including Nightline, 20-20, and This Week.

Sportscaster Frank Gifford hosted Monday Night Football from its early days.

FRANK GIFFORD, Sportscaster: Roone would absolutely love this gathering. He really would. Look at the demographics here. It’s a sellout. He would love that, too.

Mine was the first Super Bowl that ABC did, and Roone was actively producing it at the time as he did Monday Night Football, but he was in the truck, and just before the game was schedule to begin, he started the countdown, “Ten, nine, eight, there are 150 million people, Frank, be great, go!” That was my countdown. And I started to think that maybe that was part of the genius of Roone also, because he had a way of impacting on you. You were alert and ready, no matter what happened.

TERENCE SMITH: ABC News Nightline Anchor Ted Koppel:

TED KOPPEL, Anchor, Nightline: Roone was not a man to leave his talents under a bushel unspent. At times, there just wasn’t enough of him to go around.

Still, there are so many of us here this morning who became so much more than we ever would have been without him.

TERENCE SMITH: 20/20 co-host Barbara Walters said the impact of Arledge will be felt for a long time to come.

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-Host, 20/20: Roone didn’t just change ABC Sports and ABC News.

He changed each of us. When Roone was the head of ABC News, there was a phone in every control room only for calls from Roone, and it was called the “Roone Phone.” And the greatest thrill for any of us was when that phone rang, and it was Roone saying, “Great job.” And the biggest disappointment for any of us was when that phone range and Roone said, “Not such a good job.” And now Roone is gone, and that phone will never ring again.

TERENCE SMITH: World News Tonight Anchor Peter Jennings:

PETER JENNINGS: He made life and work so exciting, and he made everything seem so possible. I was once quoted in an article accurately saying that he was a good boss, as in an okay boss, but a great leader.

And he sent me a note which said tersely that he would appreciate it if I never discussed him in public again. I hate doing so under these circumstances. He was impossible, but he was wonderful.

TERENCE SMITH: Roone Arledge was 71.