Behind the Broadcast: McKay never sought spotlight

When Jim McKay passed away last Saturday at age 86, broadcast journalism lost one of its pillars.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

When Jim McKay passed away last Saturday at age 86, broadcast journalism lost one of its pillars.

McKay never sought fame. He never interjected himself into the stories he reported, whether he was hosting “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” on those late Saturday afternoons or announcing the Olympics.

McKay always conducted himself on camera with class and dignity. He made sure the focus was on the subject he was reporting and not on himself, something that is lacking in this era.

In addition, McKay didn’t need any fancy bells and whistles to enhance his stories. Some of today’s sportscasters should look at the tapes of McKay’s reports and see the beauty in simply telling the story and letting it develop nat­urally.

There are two things for which McKay will best be remembered: his role as host of “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” and the Olympics.

With “Wide World,” McKay brought us to distant countries, like China and the Soviet Union, and gave us a chance to not only enjoy sports there, but also sample cultures far different from our own.

And the sports “Wide World” showed were often off-beat. Who can ever forget the barrel jumping competitions, or cliff diving from Acapulco?

McKay elevated sports journalism to more than just covering games when he anchored ABC’s reporting of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by Arab terrorists during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. On the air for nearly 16 hours, McKay was a source of calm reporting. He patiently waited for confirmation of everything that went on during that tragic day.

And when he uttered those three words — “They’re all gone” — you could feel not only your pain, but his pain, too.

Honestly, if something like that happened at the Olympics today, there wouldn’t be that calm, measured response. There would certainly be over-analysis of the sit­uation with other reporters or guest experts on terrorism, all talking over one another. And you would certainly see a constant ticker at the bottom of the screen.

McKay could have taken advantage of his fame after that, but he didn’t. He continued to be a solid pro.

An avid lover of horses, maybe it was fitting that McKay died the day of the Belmont Stakes. ABC did a nice tribute to McKay at the start of its Belmont Stakes broadcast, including using the “Wide World” opening.

It was a fitting way to celebrate McKay’s wonderful life.

belMont ratings

Big Brown may have been a bust in his bid to win the Triple Crown, but there was plenty of interest in the Belmont Stakes.

Overnight television ratings for the Belmont were up 169 percent from last year, ABC said this week. ABC got a 10.5 overnight rating, compared to a 3.9 rating in 2007.

The Belmont also topped the rating of this year’s Kentucky Derby (9.5) by 11 percent, and Preakness Stakes (6.4) by 64 percent. Big Brown finished last, making it 30 straight years without a Triple Crown winner.

The last time a horse went into the Belmont after winning the first two legs, NBC had a 15.6 rating for the 2004 race in which Birdstone denied Smarty Jones’ bid.

nba finals ratings

More good news for ABC.

Tuesday’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers earned ABC a 9.2 rating, the best so far. That is a 44 percent increase over the 6.4 last year for last year’s Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers.

It was the highest rating for a Game 3 since Lakers-Pistons in 2004 drew a 10.5. Game 1 last Thursday earned an 8.7, and Game 2 last Sunday had an 8.5.

Sportscaster Jones dies

Charlie Jones, the deep-voiced sportscaster whose career as a play-by-play announcer spanned 38 years for ABC and NBC, has died. He was 77.

Jones died of a heart attack Thursday at his home in the La Jolla district of San Diego, his longtime agent, Martin Mandel, told The Associated Press.

NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol called Jones “one of the great

pioneers of NBC Sports. His work in particular on the NFL, golf and the Olympics left a lasting leg­acy.”

parting shots

WOFX-AM (980) will have coverage of the final Major League Baseball Hall of Fame game on Monday at 1:45 p.m. from Coop­erstown. The game features the Chicago Cubs and San Diego

Padres. Rodger Wyland will call the action. He will also do his “Big Board Sportstalk” show from Coop­erstown at 9 a.m. . . .

The final two rounds of the U.S Open golf will be on NBC (WNYT Ch. 13 and WNYT HD) at 4 p.m. today and 3 p.m. Sunday. . . .

Categories: Sports

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