by Travis Vogan
University of California Press, 2018 288 pp.; paper, $29.95
WITH ABC SPORTS: THE RISE AND FALL OF Network Sports Television, Travis Vogan offers a valuable perspective on the supposed "bad objects" of television, specifically network television and sports television, illuminating the intricacies of their relationships as well as the enduring cultural narratives that these industries negotiate and produce. Critics and scholars initially dismissed television due to its mass appeal and overt reliance on commercial structures, while sport has been similarly marginalized in the academy as either a meaningless diversion or, worse, a loaded reflection of hegemonic ideologies and capitalist formations. To ignore these fields and their ultimate interdependence, of course, elides particularly crucial spaces where cultural norms and values are articulated, contested, and reinforced. In an era in which sport has been directly constructed by and understood through its mediatized representations, Vogan is wise to identify that the evolution of sports in the latter half of the twentieth century is a vital arena not only for those interested in sport but for media and cultural studies scholars as well.
Building on his previous institutional histories of formative sports media entities in Keepers of the Flame: NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media and ESPN: The Making of a Sports Media Empire, Vogan effectively demonstrates ABC Sports' influence on the future of televised sport as well as the trajectory of television itself. Launched in 1961 and led to prominence by Roone Arledge, the long-running sports division of a once-lagging broadcast network left an imprint on genres, production practices, and aesthetic principles beyond just the world of sports. From rendering ABC the "network of the Olympics" to pioneering...