Let’s go into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and turn the dial to “1987” to a simpler time in television. ESPN was still hoping to gain a foothold with fans. It got the rights to the America’s Cup sailing races. Now this was four years after the U.S. lost the Cup in Newport, RI. It marked the first time dating back to 1851 that the Cup went to another country.

With ESPN airing the America’s Cup races live from Australia in late night, the network gained a lot of respect, ratings and media buzz. One viewer who really enjoyed the coverage was David Letterman who was then hosting his 12:30 a.m. ET Late Night NBC show. To show his appreciation, Dave sent a telegram to ESPN’s team Down Under. A telegram? Yes, a telegram. Remember, we didn’t have e-mail in the 1980’s so a telegram was the quickest way to communicate.

1987 was a watershed year for ESPN as not only did the America’s Cup bring the network some prestige, it also gained the rights to the NFL which began its path to total worldwide dominance.

[ESPN Front Row]

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