NBC Sports has gained an unlikely but familiar presence for its broadcastof the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City: Jim McKay, the Baltimore-basedcommentator known best for leading a dozen Olympic broadcasts on ABC datingback four decades.
McKay, 79, said he's excited at the thought of joining NBC's Bob Costasnext year to narrate profiles of Olympic athletes and offer commentary on theday's events. But it will be quite a change to see himself on the PeacockNetwork, he acknowledged.
"I look at the headline on the press release every couple of hours, and itstill looks strange to me," McKay said in an interview yesterday, after thearrangement was announced. "Working with Bob Costas is a pleasure. I'm lookingforward to it."
NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol, who drew widespread criticism for hisnetwork's coverage of the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, sounded delighted to beable to offer viewers a strong link to the Games' past.
"Beginning back in the '60s, Jim, along with [former ABC Sports president]Roone Arledge forever defined the power and majesty of the Olympic Games forthe American television audience," Ebersol said in remarks to reporters."Jim's ability to bring a perspective to our telecast, particularly the WinterOlympics, which Bob and I have not done in recent memory, is a great comfort."
Asked whether McKay might also offer commentary for NBC on other sportingevents, Ebersol demurred. "This deal is just for the Olympics," he said. "Iobviously would love to have Jim involved in the Triple Crown. On the otherhand, I dare not push ABC."
The mechanics of the deal reflect the simultaneously competitive and cozyworld of network sports.
At the Wimbledon tennis tournament and a charity event, Ebersol beseechedABC Sports chief Howard Katz to allowed McKay to appear on the rival network,even though he is in the middle of a three-year contract. Both networkexecutives had worked as assistants to McKay in Olympic coverage severaldecades ago.
McKay's son, CBS Sports president Sean McManus, helped to negotiate theterms of the agreement after running into his counterparts at the same charityfunction, McKay and Ebersol said. (McKay's given name is James McManus.)
"When David Brinkley left NBC for ABC, Jim McKay was the player to be namedlater," joked Dick Schaap, a longtime colleague at ABC. "Both of them areinstitutions at their original networks."
NBC's pursuit of McKay, Schaap said, reflected "his credibility - a largepart of which is based on his coverage of the massacre at the [Munich]Olympics in 1972. He did it so remarkably well."
Originally, Ebersol had sought McKay for the Sydney Games. But afterconsulting with his wife, Susan McManus, McKay declined, saying it was too faraway.
"Roone Arledge and I went to cover Australian Rules Football years ago,"McKay recalled. "We went to Australia on a Thursday night and we got backMonday afternoon. I didn't know who I was or where I was by the time I gotback."
Earlier in the day, Ebersol went out of his way to compliment and thankABC's Katz for his cooperation. "There's been some sharing between networks oftalent, but never of this magnitude," Ebersol said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun