Having served as a minesweeper in the U.S. Navy and then cut his chops as a cops reporter at the Baltimore Evening Sun, Jim McKay became the nation’s first sports broadcasting star.
McKay started his television career on the local news in Baltimore, then moved to the New York City market. A decade later, at the Rome 1960 Olympic Games, McKay began his run covering the Olympic Games, one of the two roles for which he was most associated, along with hosting ABC’s Wide World of Sports, where he was known for the famous line, “The thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat.”
McKay solidified his standing as an elite anchor at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games. On his only day off during The Games, McKay had just gone to his hotel swimming pool when he learned that Palestinian terrorists had kidnapped 11 Israeli athletes. McKay hurried to the set and went on air for the next 16 hours.
Only when McKay signed off and returned to his hotel room, did he realize that he was still wearing his swimsuit under his television clothes. McKay would be lauded for his poise and composure in a most trying circumstance; he became the first sportscaster to win an Emmy Award for news coverage.
McKay went on to broadcast 10 Olympic Games for ABC before completing his Olympic career for the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games aired by NBC.
McKay passed away in 2008. He was 86.
“He was a talented and eloquent newsman and storyteller whose special gift was his ability to make the viewers at home genuinely care about more than just who won or lost,” President George W. Bush said in a statement.