Janicaand Ivica on SHOWTIME Tonight
Bud Greenspan, famous for his Olympic retrospectives, has as oneof his stories the success ofJanica and Ivica Kostelic. It will be broadcast on Showtime.Jim McKay Recalls Thrills and Agony
"Salt Lake 2002: Bud Greenspan's Stories of Olympic Glory"
(Showtime, March 3, 9 p.m. Eastern)
P.S. Scroll down. The second half of the article talks aboutit.
February 24, 2003
By RICHARD SANDOMIR
In many cases, letting a sportscaster write and narrate adocumentary about himself would produce an exercise inegomania. Not Jim McKay. The modesty he projected incovering everything from the Olympics to logrolling to theIndianapolis 500 to target diving is demonstrated in HBO's"Jim McKay: My Life in My Words" (tonight, 10 p.m.Eastern). There is more wonder in his words at a careerthat took him from being a police reporter for TheBaltimore Evening Sun to serving as host of ABC's "WideWorld of Sports."
He describes the many events he covered "as if looking atone long police lineup."
There are things you may not know about McKay: he isreally James McManus; he is insecure; and he had a nervousbreakdown in 1960 that prevented him from being the host ofthe Winter Olympics for CBS.
In the 1950's, he was host of a morning show for CBS called"The Real McKay." He can be seen singing an Irish song inan old kinescope, and as the credits roll in thisdocumentary, he reprises the theme song, crooning, "We'regoing to chase all your blues away/Gonna make you feel justlike the real McKay."
The documentary moves in a sweet, easy rhythm that mimicsMcKay's style. There are no memories of scores orstatistics, but many well-told tales and awe at theaccomplishments of athletes like thoroughbreds: "Why dothese champions do such things? For an extra bucket offeed? What instincts lie inside to make them want to do sowell? What makes them care so much?"
He will be remembered best for how he anchored the coverageof the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 SummerGames in Munich. McKay reflects on that here, as he has inother places. But the focus is not on repeating theterrible details, but on how he viewed his role on that dayin September: the only conduit of news to the family ofDavid Berger, a weight lifter from Shaker Heights, Ohio,who emigrated to Israel in 1970 for a chance to experiencethe Olympics.
David Berger was "one of those helpless men, boundtogether, blindfolded, not knowing if or when he would beexecuted," McKay says.
"And I would be the person in the end who would tell theBerger family if their son was alive or dead," he adds. "Ihad better be sure when I told them."
When he looked into the camera lens - "the eyes of millionsof people" - he says that he only thought of the eyes ofthe Bergers upon him.
"I know my eyes were heavy with sorrow, and I knew what Imust say," he says. He pronounced the Israelis all dead,"They're gone." The Bergers turned off their TV, and yearslater, they thought of the role that McKay played that day."He's a mensch," Benjamin Berger says. "He's a realperson."
But for all his travels for sport, the destination inMcKay's documentary is home. For many years he traveled 45weeks a year, leaving behind his wife, Margaret; son, Sean;and daughter, Mary.
He loved his job, but he wanted to be home, in theprotective embrace of Margaret, a former newspapercolumnist who is as confident as McKay is self-doubting.
"And that smile," he says, "that incredible smile, is stilla thing of wonder to me."
What also remains a thing of wonder is Bud Greenspan'sstrict refusal to acknowledge Olympic perfidy. His newest,"Salt Lake 2002: Bud Greenspan's Stories of Olympic Glory"(Showtime, March 3, 9 p.m. Eastern), follows a formula thatblocks out corruption, bribery and ethics investigations tofocus on athletes who embody the Olympic ideal. Thestrategy is almost quaint, but as the United State OlympicCommittee tries to dig itself out of an ethical andorganizational hole, it is a welcome curative.
There are six stories, told with compelling cinematographyand footage from the Olympic world feed. They are all aboutovercoming obstacles, and the best one is about JanicaKostelic, the Croatian Alpine combined skier, and herbrother, Ivica, who were trained by their father.
Janica Kostelic is the perfect Greenspan subject: she haslittle money and little snow to train on, sustainsdevastating knee injuries and wins three gold medals. Sheprovides rich opportunities for Olympic rhetoric, firstfrom the narrator Will Lyman: "And so it was done. Whatbegan as the dream of a father those many years ago wasfulfilled by his daughter. And it is right and proper thatwe celebrate them, for they serve as an inspiration forthis generation and generations not born."
And then, from Kostelic's father, Ante: "Love for the sportis everything. There are no results without anunconditional love for the sport. This wasn't just memanipulating my children to become top-class athletes. Itis their love for the snow, the mountains and skiing."