Monday, December 28, 2009

The Media Machine Honors The Sports Machine

I was saddened last week to learn of the passing of George Michael (the sportscaster, not that dimwit singer) from leukemia at the age of 70. (I could make a cheap joke about the wrong George Michael dying last week, but I'll pass on that.)

He is best known for "The George Michael Sports Machine," a late-night Sunday night sports wrapup show that ran for an amazing 27 years on NBC, from 1980-2007. I was always a big fan of the show, in an era when I didn't have cable (I didn't get it until 1993), so ESPN wasn't available to me.

I have to admit I loved George's sometime over-the-top style, and he could make things like NASCAR and Rodeo from Wyoming seem like the greatest sports in the world. His show had a really catchy theme with a ton of highlights from all around the sports landscape.

My earliest memories of George was as a disk jockey on WABC here in New York, and he had the 6-10 PM shift during the mid-to-late 1970s. He was on the air the night of the infamous blackout, on July 13, 1977. (I missed the whole thing, as I was in Florida with my family on vacation and didn't get back home until two days later.) He moved over to the TV side in the late 1970s, doing sports on WABC-TV, before going to Washington and launching The Machine. (I have to admit that when I named this blog, his show crossed my mind, having a similar name.)

I never knew that George was offered a gig with the Mets as a broadcaster, when the great Lindsey Nelson left the team following the 1978 season. He ultimately turned it down and left New York. Here is a story about his life from The New York Times.

My deepest sympathies to the friends and family of George Michael on his passing. To honor his memory, here is a clip from his Sports Machine, and it is from August 26, 1990. And for this blog, it's quite appropriate, as he leads with the Red Sox shutting out the Blue Jays in Toronto, 1-0, a third straight shutout by the Sox, in a division race they would ultimately go on to win. (I love his line, "This Red Sox team has no fold in their vocabulary. It doesn't exist." And they held on and won the East that year.)

Thanks for the memories, George.

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