One of the most exciting moments I’ve had in my career came when I met Jim McKay for the first time. To sports fans, ABC’s Wide World of Sports was a must-view piece of appointment viewing every week. That’s where one could watch everything from Muhammad Ali fights to the Lumberjack World Championship to NASCAR. In those pre-ESPN, pre-regional sports nets, pre-everything is ON RIGHT NOW, Wide World was your weekly sports lifeline.
In the center of Wide World was Jim McKay. While he’s probably best known as the man who told America that the Munich athletes were “all gone” in one of the greatest performances in broadcasting history, my favorite memories are of Jim and horse racing, specifically the Triple Crown. How ironic that Jim passed on Belmont Saturday.
Anyway, I was fortunate enough to work at ABC Sports late in the Wide World cycle and to walk into a room and meet someone who had meant so much to me over the years was moving. Despite his stature in the world of broadcasting and sports history, Jim was as nice a man as you’d ever meet (and that is NOT the case with many lesser lights with whom I’ve worked over the years – they just thought they were Jim!).
The first chapter of Jim’s book, The Real McKay, should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants to work in sports and the rest of it is a great read as well. ABC Sports was, and still is, a family, despite the demise of the ABC Sports brand. There is a very active alumni association and the moving mails that have been circulating over the last two days are an indicator of how special Jim was. I will always hear his voice in my head – the Wide World opening is indelibly burned in there: Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is “ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”
Thank you, Jim. You were one of a kind.