Appreciations of Sportscaster Jim McKay (1921-2008)

ABC Sports met its death a couple of years ago (as the MediaLog remarked upon at the time). Now, the man who personified ABC Sports more than any other, Jim McKay, has also met his death at age 86.

For a couple of generations of viewers, McKay was the voice and face of ABC's pioneering Olympics coverage. The high point of McKay's Olympic hosting career (even if it was a low point for the Olympic movement itself) was the tragic massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Games in Munich, where McKay uttered the immortal words "They're all gone." He was probably equally well-known as the host of ABC's "Wide World of Sports" from its inception in 1961 until its end in 1998--his was the voice that intoned about "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." He was instrumental (second in importance only to Roone Arledge probably) in the longtime success of ABC Sports.

Appreciations of McKay and his contributions to TV sports that have appeared in the past few days include a blog post by Time Magazine TV critic James Poniewozik in which he comments upon having fond memories of watching McKay's Olympic coverage as a child--sentiments I share; USA Today sports television columnist Michael Hiestand trying to explain to today's kids why McKay was so important to TV sports; and on-air tributes from ESPN by fellow sportscasters Keith Jackson, Brent Musberger, and Don Ohlmeyer.

More meaty material on the career and legacy of McKay include an oral history interview with McKay at the Archive of American Television, a wonderful resource for anyone interested in any aspect of television history; the entry for McKay at the Museum of Broadcast Communication's online Encyclopedia of Television; and the Wikipedia entry on McKay. For a little more information on the history and demise of ABC Sports, see this earlier MediaLog post.

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