The great broadcaster Jim McKay, the face of ABC Sports for decades, which included "The Wide World of Sports" and 12 Olympics, passed away yesterday of natural causes at his home in Maryland at the age of 86. Mr. McKay leaves behind a towering legacy in television sports. My friend Eddie Dalder sent me a nice tribute to Mr. McKay, and I thought I would share Eddie's words with all of you.
A giant left us. Jim McKay was a man without flash. He had this sense of decency and restraint many could use today. McKay came of age when there was no Internet, 24 hour news channels and 8000 cable networks. Jim McKay had the news-he was it. There were no instant highlights and amazing computers graphics, so McKay had to fill the time. He set the scene and let the actions tell the tale.
Jim McKay had the ability to tell a great story. "Wide World of Sports" was his perfect vehicle. Lots of niche sports that seemed absurd filler. Whether it was barrel jumping or cliff diving McKay made you care about the people you were watching.
McKay was all those Olympics. The drama of competition on the highest stage. But it was also the moment of great darkness in Munich. McKay had started as a newspaper reporter and was pressed into service to anchor the coverage of the crisis. Terrorism making its first, but hardly last, interruption, on the world stage.
Jim summoned up all of his professionalism and skill to report the dread events. He thought of the family of David Berger from Shaker Heights, Ohio. He was one of the Israeli hostages. McKay later said that he would tell Berger's parents of their son were alive or dead.
Reports filtered in that the hostages had been saved. Jim and his crew held fast. McKay had to tell the world that the sum of our fears had been realized. Two had died that morning during the initial hostage taking and the remaining nine hostages had been killed at the airport.
"They're all gone" said Jim McKay.
McKay had said that he had wished to be network news anchor. More opportunities were in sports so that became his path. Jim McKay's reporting won him a special Emmy, praise from all quarters and respect. McKay later said that his newsman ambitions had been fulfilled on that day in Munich.
Gentleman Jim is now gone. But his fairness, honesty and decency will be hallmark for others to emulate.