It took me over 60 years of working in both the Sports/Entertainment Industries as well as a Kaleidoscope of others, all over the world, to truly realize how fortunate I have been. My work took me to more countries than I can care to remember. However, along the way, the people I worked and associated with, made all my experiences pleasant.
As I reflect, I have come to realize even more my good fortune. Where others learned of progressive developments, newsworthy occurrences, as well as outstanding sports events through the media over the years, I have had a ringside seat. In many cases, they have been to watching, as well as learning and working with the movers and shakers. The people , who behind the scenes, have made our lives a little better.
This includes many partnerships where I have been lucky enough to work with outstanding creative people. Actually, they are too many of them for me to mention in one single column.
However for this writing, I have selected two whom I wish to introduce you to. I am sure their names are not familiar to you. However, every single day, without realizing it, ( you and I)… benefit from what they created on a daily basis. We all meet a great many smart individuals without realizing. Many of us do not enjoy the privilege of working with such individuals. I have!
Bob Block and Clair Higgins are just two of those… WHO?
Let me introduce you.
Those who knew Bob Block when he was younger, (unfortunately, to my dismay, I didn’t know him then), could readily see he was something special. His thought process is different from you and me. After all, do you know anyone else who is in the Guinness Book of Records with his family?
As evidence of his “out-of-the-box” thinking , he rented an Underwater Science Lab. There, he and his twelve-year-old daughter Debbie, his ten-year-old son David and his wife Carole lived under the water for 24 hours… and they did!
Today, that seems mundane, but 48 years ago, it was unheard of.
Bob holds over 150 U.S. and International Patents in many fields with countless more pending. If you wish to know what they are you can look them up. For the purposes of this column, I shall deal only with Sports and Broadcasting.
We worked together on many things. Among a multitude of other accolades, he is considered the father of “Over-the-Air Pay Television”. His inventions paved the way for “Pay Cable and TV On Demand” as we know them today. This technology made systems like Netflix possible.
Bob brought about HDTV (High Definition TV). Working in conjunction with Select-TV, the company he founded which was the first Subscription TV System in America, he organized the first telecast of “High Definition TV”.
It was done in conjunction with Sony Electronics. Clair Higgins put together the transmission mechanism. The first broadcast was a Welterweight Fight out of the old Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. The test was an immediate success!
The late fight promoter Dan Goosen and myself handled the broadcasting chores. A clip of that fight was used as part of the Sony sales effort for the next few years at both International Trade shows and presentations.
As you sit back this weekend to watch Soccer from overseas, a Motor Race from Monaco, PGA Golf Tournaments, or for that matter any News happening from anywhere around the world, you now will know the name Clair Higgins. Our pleasure in viewing events immediately as they occur from anywhere is taken for granted is his doing. It was not always that way.
In 1959, Clair, along with his partner Jack Myers, developed a method of following young Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy as he toured the country, holding rallies in small hamlets and big cities in his quest to get the Democratic nomination for President.
Clair and Jack purchased a used school bus, which they converted into a mobile TV Studio on wheels. This had never been done before. It had tape machines, TV Cameras. There was a Dish on the roof for transmission from wherever the event was happening, to networks, stations and systems everywhere. .
That is exactly how the modern mobile unit then came about. Clair was the first to make the mobile unit, a studio on wheels. His company, VTE, expanded their fleet so that wherever there was an event to be covered, the viewer at home would miss nothing and have the full enjoyment. Today, mobile units and live transmission are taken for granted. Another first that Clair created was a special housing which allowed him to become the first man to shoot videotape underwater. This revolutionized and expanded areas that could never before be covered.
At Ali’s last fight in the Bahamas, where there was no possible capability of delivering a signal of the event, Claire led the way by putting a Satellite dish on a barge halfway between Tampa, Florida and Nassau, to deliver a signal to the roof of the highest hotel in Tampa where the signal was then beamed to a Satellite and the picture delivered world wide. The project was almost sabotaged when the barge and equipment capsized in rough water. Claire then immediately set up a portable micro link for line-of –sight transmission to deliver the signal to Tampa,.
Today, both men are older. As pioneers, they exemplify the creative ingenuity and entrepreneurship that has and continues to make America great.