First televised sporting event happened 80 years ago today

In the grand scheme of things, television is still a new phenomenon. The phenomenon of sports on television turns 80 years old today.

As noted by NBC Sports Group President Pete Bevacqua in an email to the NBC Sports Group Team, W2BXS (an experimental station owned by NBC) televised the second game of a doubleheader between Princeton and Columbia on this day in 1939. It was the first sporting event ever to be shown on TV.

According to, only one camera was used, and fewer than 400 TV sets existed at the time. Anyone who tuned in saw Columbia win the game in 10 innings, 2-1.

In the eight decades since that first televised sporting event, television has brought major sporting events into many millions of homes. Even now, with so many entertainment options available every hour of every day, few things on TV can bring and hold a live audience together like sports.

I mention this because football remains the king when it comes to creating and maintaining a massive crowd of viewers, and NFL football unites many millions every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday in the fall — along with plenty of Saturdays and Sundays in the winter. No matter how much the world of broadcasting and technology will change in the coming years (and it surely will), pro football will continue to be the one thing that will induce extremely large portions of the populace to block out specific chunks of their evenings and weekends whenever and wherever NFL games are played.

That will likely be the case for the next 80 years, and beyond.

8 responses to “First televised sporting event happened 80 years ago today

  1. Ever notice how there are 2 ways they show old footage? It can be either grainy and looking like it were ancient, or as originally broadcast and could pass for being live. How and why do they do that?

  2. I can vividly recall watching pro wrestling with my dad on a tiny black and white set in 1952. The picture was so grainly, it was hard to even distinguish the wrestlers at times. And my old man would get up and cuss like a drunken sailor as he repeatedly adjusted the rabbit ears to try to get a clearer image on the little screen.

    Fifty some year later I can watch football on a huge screen with a picture so sharp I can see hangnails on the hands of defensive lineman.

    Times, at least as far as TV sets go, have changed for the better.

  3. I remember as a kid holding the Bunny Ears on the tv because it got better reception then if I wasn’t holding them. It was early 80’s and I was watching my Great Orioles.

    Times have clearly changed all around.

  4. Amen….There is nothing better than a lazy fall weekend. stormy outside, the smell of supper cooking all day, booze and football on a ginormous hdtv. best time of year.

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