Just realized what I owe to Jim McKay

Lat night we watched an HBO special on the recently departed sportscaster Jim McKay - Jim covered the Olympics and many other major sports for ABC, and hosted Wide World of Sports, etc. etc.. About 10 minutes into it I realized that I owe Jim McKay a huge debt of thanks. In my Cliff's Riffs column I like to tell student athlete's stories. While my column is not always about kids, (Lordamercy, them Putt-Tones is old geezers), there is a consistent theme in that I enjoy telling about the people involved in the sporting event much more than the event itself.
When I used to cover the local race tracks for the Advance, I never reported who won the race or gave a turn-by-turn rendering of it - I would just hone in on one racer or another and do my best to tell his or her story. Its great to tell the story of a winner, but I believe that just as much about life can be learned by losing - especially when you give it your best shot. Which is not to say that I am not competitive, because I am. Watching the way Jim McKay operated - especially on Wide World of Sports - I realized what a huge influence on my style of "reporting" that program was. Jim would tell us all about the barrel jumper and draw us into caring about jumping barrels on ice skates. His influence must have slipped into my psyche - laid dormant for 40 years and then burst into bloom.
I hardly consider myself a sports fan, but I am a fan of sports. While I almost never sit and watch an entire football or baseball game, I can remember watching Wide World of Sports every week as a kid and would do so again in a heartbeat. These days I am a big fan of Real Sports on HBO - especially when Frank Deford does his thing. I do not aspire to ever write about some superstar or another (well, I might like to meet Derek Jeter and do a story on him sometime), but I sure enjoy writing about people who are passionate about their sport or hobby. I love to listen to people talk about what fires their motors and then do my best to tell that story. Kind of like Jim McKay would.
Thanks a lot Jim - I really appreciate what you did for me, even if it took me awhile.
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