At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, when the only two Jewish members of the U.S. men's track team were denied the chance to compete, the decision wasn't Hitler's but that of American officials, among them a USC coach. One of those sprinters is the subject of a lively new tribute documentary, "Glickman," whose unfussy title suits him. Not just an affectionate portrait of a gifted athlete-turned-groundbreaking sportscaster, the film is also a fond remembrance of life in New York City from the 1930s through the '70s.
He might not be a household name, but for generations of New York sports fans, Marty Glickman was an indispensable part of the game, whether he was announcing for the Jets, Yonkers Raceway or high school athletics. Director James L. Freedman, one of those New Yorkers, has compiled a rich assortment of vintage material and the insightful accolades of a starry bunch, among them Jerry Stiller, Frank Gifford, Jim Brown, Marv Albert and Bob Costas.
For years on radio and then as the first on-air personality at HBO (which will debut the documentary Aug. 26, after its theatrical run), Glickman pioneered and perfected the art of sportscasting. He invented basketball terminology that's still in use, and his inflections, with their muscular music and plain-talking poetry, remain the gold standard. But even more impressive is that Jack Kerouac sang his praises in "On the Road."
Freedman includes key excerpts from an undated interview late in Glickman's life; it's no surprise that he's down to earth and thoughtful, but his emotional forthrightness is affecting. The onetime "Flatbush Flash" recalls the anger that rose to the surface decades after his Olympic experience, and he describes with deep feeling the gracious gesture of a teammate named Jesse Owens.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Playing: Laemmle's Town Center 5, EncinoCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun