WHEN JIM MCKAY INTRO- duces millions to the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, he is not speaking to a wide world. He's addressing an audience of one: his wife, Margaret McManus.
That's the formula the ABC sportscaster has followed for the past 30 years. And judging from his reputation -- and the couple's Emmy-filled den -- it has worked.
"When we first went to New York, I met Arthur Godfrey," he recalls. "He said, 'The only advice I could give you about TV is . . . when somebody's watching you at home there may be 5 million people, but they're not watching like a crowd. They're watching one on one. At the most, I never talk to more than one person.'
"I remembered that and asked myself, 'Who would that one person be?' I decided it would be Margaret."
It may come as a surprise to viewers, but in person Mr. McKay (whose real surname is McManus) is a shy, quiet man, more comfortable talking about raising horses on the couple's 40-acre Monkton farm than his TV successes.
"Privately Margaret claims that I'm really Mr. Magoo. I've walked through this world of television with safes falling all around me, and thank God I didn't even know they were there," he says.
She laughs and nods her head. Ironically, Ms. McManus is what (( her husband appears to be on TV: poised, confident and gregarious. If he speaks too quickly or overdramatizes a story, she's the one who gently tells him.
More often, however, she plays the part of fan, marveling at how her husband has carved out an enviable career in a cutthroat business. His name is indeed synonymous with the best of sport, the Olympics, and his 12 Emmys attest to the caliber of his work.
Yet he still counts one accomplishment among his greatest: a happy marriage. The two got married in 1948.
"I don't think you can overemphasize the fact that you have to be as nice or nicer to the person you're married to as you are to anybody else. We still say . . . 'please' and 'thank you' to each other. And I open the car door for her," says Mr. McKay.
As they sit in their farmhouse -- their 10-year-old grandson, James Fontelieu, --ing in and out of the room -- one thing is certain: They make a good pair. The affection between them is obvious, as each humbly credits the other with making their marriage work.
They met in 1946 when Mr. McKay was hired as a reporter for The Evening Sun. Margaret Dempsey was already a star reporter, one of only a few women in the newsroom.
After a year of trying, he finally mustered the courage to ask her out. On their first date -- which appropriately enough took place at a Colts game -- he had an inkling this might turn into more than a casual relationship.
Riding to the stadium, Mr. McKay was explaining how unevenly the Baltimore and San Francisco teams were matched when Ms. McManus interrupted with her prediction for the outcome: The teams would wind up tied 28-28.
"And that was the score of the game," he says incredulously. "I knew then destiny had arrived."
His globe-trotting career has brought the couple challenges as well, particularly since Ms. McManus was forced to raise two children without her husband 46 weekends of the year. With pride, she admits to surviving fires, illness and children's squabbles alone.
"When the children were teen-agers, it was murder," she recalls. "It was the hardest thing in the world to sit on Friday and Saturday nights waiting for their cars to come home, chewing my fingernails with no one to moan and carry on to."
But the toughest experience by far was the time their house in Connecticut almost burned down while Mr. McKay was covering the Kentucky Derby.
"I called one Friday morning, and I said, 'Margaret, you don't sound exactly right. What's going on?' She said, 'Nothing . . . We had a little fire.' I said, 'We had a little fire? Wh-- wh-- what burned?' 'Well as a matter of fact,' she said, 'the whole garage burned down with our cars in it.' "
Yet it never occurred to Ms. McManus to summon her husband home. "Jim concentrated so hard when he was working that I never talked to him about what happened at home," she says. "I never felt there was much he could do at that distance, so I always saved those little surprises for when he returned."
After living together for so long, they also have come to know each other's faults. If Ms. McManus could, she would have her husband move faster, particularly in the morning when he dawdles over the paper. He, on the other hand, wishes he could find a way to make her slow down and relax more.
Mr. McKay, now 70, has cut his own work schedule in half. But he still produces TV segments that leave his younger counterparts envious. Before the Pan American games this year, he got a 4 1/2 -hour interview with Fidel Castro, during which the Cuban dictator discussed everything from sports to economics.
While Mr. McKay initially feared that returning to Maryland would lead to boredom, 10 years later he's found the opposite is true. When not working for ABC, he keeps busy organizing the Maryland Million, a day of races for horses sired by Maryland stallions. Ms. McManus is active in various benefits, especially those for her alma mater, the College of Notre Dame.
They owned 11 homes at one time but now have scaled that down to three -- the Monkton farm, a Harbor Court apartment and a winter home in Florida.
They've also made more time for their 38-year-old daughter, Mary Fontelieu, who recently moved to Baltimore with her husband, Charles, and their son, James. (Sean McManus, two years younger than his sister, lives in New York.)
One of the couple's greatest joys has been living near their only grandson, a youngster with the shy smile of his grandfather and the relentless energy of his grandmother.
Thanks to "Papa," as he calls Mr. McKay, James is already playing golf, soccer and baseball. And thanks to "Mong," his grandmother, he's developed a fondness for art.
As any youngster would know, there are definite advantages to having Jim McKay as your grandfather. One occurred last summer when the sportscaster was the host of the Orioles ceremony delivering home plate to the new stadium.
It's a little-known fact that a young athlete named James Fontelieu has already slid into home plate at Oriole Park.
But it's not baseball as much as the Olympics that drifts into Mr. McKay's mind these days. Having played host during 11 Olympics, it's bittersweet knowing that he -- and ABC -- will have no part in this year's events.
While he may feel a twinge of sadness, he's also anxious to finally watch the Games as a spectator.
"I think I'll enjoy it," he says. "We can sit there and be highly critical if we want, but only to each other."
Ms. McManus, recalling the countless hours of work, offers a different reaction to her husband's lack of participation: "What goes through my mind is, 'Thank God.' "
A CRITIC WHO LOVES HIM
TO MARGARET MCMANUS, Olympic memories are made of accommodations, not athletes.
That's because while her husband, Jim McKay, plays host during the games, she often remains at the hotel critiquing his performance on television.
It's seldom that she delivers a negative review. "Jim really feels his story -- the drama, the emotion, the people involved. The only things I've said are don't overdramatize it, and don't talk too much," she says.
Her recollections of the living quarters are more varied -- from the spacious suite at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles to the less-than- perfect accommodations during the 1976 Montreal games.
"It was right across from the bus station," she says with a laugh.
While she misses mingling with Olympic crowds, Ms. McManus has found a way to win over fans of the Games.
"I'm the most popular person there," she says, "because I always have tickets to give away."