Skip to content
Here's what members of the national media are saying about the late Jim McKay, who died Saturday at 86:
• ESPN.com's Jeremy Schaap remembers McKay as "a reporter with the soul of a poet":
McKay was special not just because he was a solid reporter in a field dominated by men who had been trained to call games. He was special because he was a reporter with the soul of a poet, his twin talents perfectly matched to his assignments.
Schaap goes on to say that McKay's career was defined by a respect for all the athletes he covered, even those from obscure sports.
As the host of "ABC's Wide World of Sports," McKay spent the 1960s and 1970s spanning the globe, calling everything from mainstream events, such as the Indianapolis 500, to the most obscure and seemingly silly sports, such as barrel jumping. Unfailingly, he treated the barrel jumpers and cliff divers and bicycle polo players with the same respect he afforded Mario Andretti and Mark Spitz and Bill Shoemaker. If there was a defining McKay characteristic, that was it. He respected his subjects. He never stripped them of their dignity. It would have been all too easy to play the small sports for laughs. McKay didn't. Sure, he would have fun -- he was by no means a stick in the mud -- but not at the expense of the athletes or their families.
• USA Today's Michael Hiestand also comments on McKay's genuine approach and discusses his signature broadcast during the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics:
McKay's pitch was perfect. Today, offbeat sports on TV become setups for announcers' punch lines. But McKay didn't talk down to competitors. In 2001, he told me why: "One time, half-kidding, I asked a guy who won the World Demolition Derby title about his 'achievement.' He said it was because he went to church a lot. And I thought, damn it, I'm not going to make that mistake again. It was the achievement of his life."
But kids today could never understand McKay's 14-hour marathon on ABC when 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were held hostage at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. Couldn't happen today -- and not just because Olympic athlete housing is no longer virtually unprotected. With today's many TV and online outlets, no one man will ever guide America through unfolding history.
• NBCSports.com's Alan Abrahamson writes that McKay was much more than just a journalist:
Jim was not only a great journalist. He was also a teacher, always willing to lend a hand to anyone who expressed an interest in learning about how to do what we do better, genuinely flattered to be asked.
More, McKay was a gentleman. He conducted himself with modesty. The respect he showed others was genuine. They call that class.
• Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post credits McKay with inventing sports broadcasting as we know it. Vaccaro says this about McKay's coverage of the hostage situation at the 1972 Munich Games:
He was calm. He was reassuring. He asked the right questions, allowed his ears -- and the world's -- to listen to the answers. And as a last valedictory, when the grimmest news conceivable was slipped into his earpiece, he offered a three-word summation that remains as eloquent today as it was on the terrible night it was uttered:
"They're all gone."
• Bob Costas of NBC Sports remembers the man he called a close friend in a video tribute.
• NBC Sports' Jimmy Roberts also pays tribute to McKay in a video.
• SI.com's Richard Deitsch shares comments on McKay's career from a 2006 interview with CBS executive Sean McManus, McKay's son, along with a collection of links and quotes about the broadcasting pioneer:
"The impact [of Munich] has been much greater in the ensuing years. To this day, probably 95 percent of the people who come up to my father do not mention all the Kentucky Derbies he did or the great sporting events he did. What they mention is Munich. It had such a visceral effect on so many people emotionally that it stuck with the people who were viewing that day for a lifetime."
[Compiled by Dan Morrison]