Jim McKay passed away today. A commentator on the Wide World of Sports, an ABC Network Saturday tradition (when there was only ABC, NBC and CBS), I remember him for his coverage of the 1972 Munich Olympics. After an ordeal that ended horrifically, Jim McKay, with tears in his eyes and an almost imperceptible incredulous shake to his head, told America “They’re dead. They’re all dead.” I remember this as clearly as I remember Walter Cronkite pulling off his glasses to inform Americans, with a clutch in his voice, that President Kennedy was dead. Both newscasters were elegant and respectful in the face of tragedy.
Jim McKay, like the professionals of the time who were tasked with an impossible duty, did nothing those days during the 1972 Olympics but serve as conduit to the unthinkable. I remember how his bright yellow jacket (it was yellow, wasn’t it?) with the ABC logo on it, was oddly cheery for the terrorism present.
As I remember, it was live and one of the saddest things I’ve witnessed on television. Try as I might, though, I cannot seem to remember if the horror was replayed over and over so that everyone everywhere got to feel the inhumanity a thousand times over. I do remember that Mr. McKay never screeched hysterical narration over what played out, parsing opinion and conjecture.
He won an Emmy for his reporting.