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McKay-Costas 'is a great treat'

By SHARON GINN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2001


It took no fewer than three of the most powerful men in sports to broker the deal that will bring ABC's Jim McKay to NBC for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

First, NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol had to persuade ABC Sports president Howard Katz, which Ebersol said wasn't too difficult. Then CBS Sports president Sean McManus -- who happens to be McKay's son -- helped his dad negotiate with NBC.

The original offer was for the Sydney Games, but those were "too far," said McKay, 79. So he will join host Bob Costas in Salt Lake City.

"To anybody in the United States over the age of 25 or 30, Jim is the first person who brought the power and majesty of the Olympic Games to them," said Ebersol, whose first job in television was as a researcher for McKay at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.

"To join him with Bob, who has clearly become the best Olympic broadcaster of his generation, is a great treat for us."

McKay, a 40-year veteran of ABC, also is noted for hosting Wide World of Sports and calling Triple Crown races. But it is his work in 11 Olympics -- particularly his award-winning coverage of the 1972 Games in Munich, when 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists -- that has marked his career.

"That combination of journalism mixed with humanity that he brought to that situation ... was one of the finest uses of television or one of the finest displays of broadcasting anyone has ever seen," Costas said.

Ebersol said preliminary plans call for McKay "on a nightly basis to drop by to talk to Bob about his perspective, give us a commentary." He also will narrate important features.

Although NBC recently acquired the rights to the Triple Crown, Ebersol said McKay's association will end with the Olympics.

"I'd love to have Jim involved for the Triple Crown, but I can't emphasize enough how unbelievably gracious (ABC has) been in this," he said. "There's been sharing between networks of talent, but never to this magnitude. I don't want to push the envelope."

FINE TUNING: The 2001 ESPY Awards nominees include: Valrico resident Brooke Bennett (female U.S. Olympic athlete of the year), the Mutiny's Mamadou Diallo (soccer player of the year) and Florida State's Chris Weinke (college football player of the year). ... ESPN Radio host and St. Petersburg resident Todd Wright called into GameNight on ESPN Radio at 7:10 Monday to break news of the three-team, nine-player trade that sent Roberto Hernandez from Tampa Bay to Kansas City, Ben Grieve from Oakland to Tampa Bay and Johnny Damon from Kansas City to Oakland. On Wright's 2-6 a.m. program (heard locally on WDAE-AM 620), Oakland general manager Bill Beane credited Wright with the scoop, saying, "We finally got (the deal) done late in the afternoon (Pacific Time), probably after you announced it." ... TNT has a film in the works titled Monday Night Mayhem, about the launch of Monday Night Football. It stars John Turturro (Quiz Show) as Howard Cosell.

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