Saturday was a sad day in the broadcasting world, when we learned that Jim McKay had passed away at age 86. Matt, Ann and Al discussed their memories of him this morning. WATCH VIDEO
McKay was the host of "Wide World of Sports" and the long-time face of the Olympics on American television for ABC Sports. The Olympics, of course, is an important subject around here, since NBC has broadcast every Games since 2000.
But even though he worked for a different network, his work had a dramatic impact on the way we cover the Olympics. The chairman of NBC Sports and Olympics, Dick Ebersol, was McKay's first Olympic researcher, at the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France.
And the impact that McKay had on Ebersol -- as well as Bob Costas, Jim Lampley and so many others around here -- has helped shape the way we watch and report on the Games.
In 2002, we at NBC were lucky enough to work with him at the Salt Lake Olympics, and after talking to him then, I remember thinking to myself what a nice, decent man he seemed to be. And by all accounts, that impression was accurate.
In reading comments about McKay, both from last weekend and from throughout his career, the word that keeps coming up is "humanity."
That quality, of course, is what came through in 1972, when he had the painful job of telling America that the 11 kidnapped Israeli athletes had been killed. Those three words -- "They're all gone" -- continue to haunt us today.
Those of us who have worked as Olympic researchers know that years of preparation go into being able to fill the anchors' heads with stories, facts and information about the athletes and sports.
But in a crisis situation like Munich, so much rides on the anchor's ability to improvise, digesting breaking news from the control room while on camera, and communicating information in as clear and concise a way as possible. It's a set of skills that most of us don't have (and won't ever have); Jim McKay's was as good as anyone's.
Those 16 hours he spent anchoring ABC's coverage of the emotional situation and eventual tragedy in Munich were just a small but defining part of his career. But that microcosm showed us a lot about Jim McKay the man: his professionalism, compassion, warmth, and, yes, humanity.