In this highly readable though lamentably uneven memoir, the famous sportscaster recalls an eventful 50 years in television. Like so many careers in his curious medium, Jim McKay's owes much to serendipity. He began his professional life after World War II as Jim McManus, news reporter for The Baltimore Evening Sun. But when the newspaper's publishers bought a local TV station, he was ticketed for broadcasting duty, solely because as an undergraduate at Baltimore's Loyola College he had been president of the dramatic society.
In 1950, CBS in New York hired him to host a new variety show, and the general manager of the station insisted that McManus change his surname to match the name in the program's title, The Real McKay. During McKay's 11 years at CBS his work, including stories about sports, impressed a young producer at rival ABC. Roone Arledge hired McKay in 1961 as host of Wide World of Sports.
McKay achieved a form of television immortality for his live reporting on the kidnapping and massacre of Israeli athletes by Arab terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. He earned that assignment after Arledge discovered that he had been a newspaper police reporter. McKay begins his book with a chilling hour-by-hour account of the Munich tragedy. Then he balances this with often hilarious recollections of his own misadventures in early television. Unfortunately, the final two thirds of his book, while maintaining a reasonably crisp pace, devolves into the sort of conventional sports memoir that renders discerning readers limp with ennui.
Occasionally, though, the eloquent McKay of Part 1 of the book reemerges, as in this description of the thoroughbred racehorse: "It is the most artistically conceived creature in the natural world...as lovely as a ballerina, as touching as a little child and game to the point of exhaustion."
Read Part 1 of The Real McKay with a pure delight; you can skim Part 2.