Jim McKay has a theory about parenting that explains why he became so emotional four months ago when his son, Sean McManus, brokered a landmark deal in their family's business, sports television.
McKay, a star of ABC Sports for more than 30 years, believes the success a
child achieves says more about his parents than anything the parents achieve
on their own.
That's why when McManus, the president of CBS Sports, called McKay in
January to tell him that CBS had beaten fairly long odds to get back into
broadcasting NFL games, it meant more to the father than all the Emmy awards,
the Peabody and all the other accolades that McKay, 76, has earned.
"You're proud of yourself, but then you say, 'Doggone it. It's that little
kid that has grown up and had amazing success at a reasonably young age.' It's
tremendous pride," said McKay, who lives in Monkton with his wife, Margaret
McManus. "The odds were so much against it. People were saying they'd never
McManus recalled his father's reaction to the phone call.
"He was speechless when I said it to him and reacted very, very
emotionally. What he said was, 'I think you ought to talk to your mother for a
moment,' " said McManus, 42. "He was not able to speak. He was emotionally
affected by the fact that something that I had been talking about regularly
for a year might actually come to fruition. He was totally overwhelmed.
"You have to be really lucky to get those kind of moments in life, and I
think I was really lucky to be able to experience it and to be able to share
it with him. It was one of those watershed moments that you sort of remember
the rest of your life."
Celebrities and their offspring often do a "circle dance" trying to
balance love and notoriety. Singer Bonnie Raitt, the daughter of Broadway star
John Raitt, wrote a song with that title about her relationship with her
father. It includes the lyric:
"I'll be home soon
That's what you'd say
And a little kid believes
After a while I learned that love
Must be a thing that leaves."
McKay tried to stay off that dance floor by sharing as many moments as
possible with McManus, taking him on ABC road trips, for "Wide World of
Sports" or the Olympics or whatever else was on the itinerary.
As a kid, McManus, who grew up in Connecticut, spanned the globe with his
father, watching Lee Trevino win the 1968 U.S. Open in Rochester, N.Y.,
witnessing A.J. Foyt win three Indianapolis 500s.
Once on a golf trip to Jacksonville, Fla., Sean, who was 12 at the time,
went to work as a "go-fer," getting coffee and running errands. When the
broadcast was over, a unit manager saw McManus standing around and asked him
why he wasn't in the pay line with the other temporary help.
"Sean said, 'The pay line?' " said McKay. "He just assumed he was supposed
to do what he was doing. He went over and got his $25 a day."
They went to Kentucky Derbys, British Opens and all the rest, father and