Of course, we think of NBC when we think of the Olympic coverage today (the network continues to force feed us pre-packaged segments rather than live events).
It used to be ABC. How can we ever forget Jim McKay and Howard Cosell broadcasting the slaughter of Israeli athletes from Munich in 1972?
But it wasn't always NBC or ABC when it came to the Olympics.
It was CBS back in 1960, a fact I learned from Douglas Brinkley's new biography of Walter Cronkite.
In fact, Walter Cronkite was the Bob Costas of that year. He was the studio host of the 1960 games, but he never left the country to fill that role.
As related by Brinkley, Jim McKay was working for CBS at the time and was scheduled to do the winter games from Squaw Valley in 1960, but he apparently suffered a nervous breakdown, and the executives at CBS turned to Cronkite. He did a stellar job (didn't he always?) that they kept him aboard for the Rome games although he didn't go to Rome.
This was before coverage of the space lauches, before the death of Kennedy, before the CBS Evening News went from Douglas Edwards to Cronkite and from 15 to 30 minutes (1963).
I never knew Walter Cronkite hosted the Olympics 52 years ago.
It's just one of the fun facts from Brinkley's great book.
For example, as a 12 year old, I remember Cronkite being removed from covering the Democratic convenion in 1964--yes, I was a political junkie even back then.
Brinkley has the story, including how Cronkite just didn't like Barry Goldwater and was out of control for the Republican gathering in San Francisco earlier that summer. (Attempting to compare Goldwater with Hitler, CBS aired the line, "He's as American as apple strudel." Ouch. "Sieg Heil" indeed!).
I also used to watch the black and white "What's My Line" on CBS Sunday nights at 10:30 p.m., but until I read the Brinkley book, I never realized that Cronkite and other CBS reporters covering the 1956 convention in Chicago entered and signed in in an attempt to stump Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis, and Dorothy Kilgallen.
I know that 10 minute clip is googleable because I found it and use it on this week's Liberty Express (Manchester TV23 Thursday at 9 p.m., Sunday at 6 a.m. and noon and up now at vimeo.com/channels/libertyx).
Too bad we couldn't replace Costas and the NBC pre-packagers in London with someone like Walter. "That's the way it was" not from Rome, but for Rome in 1960.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6_RHxArgp8Sep 27, 2008 - 9 min - Uploaded by crepehanger47
Here, Walter Cronkite, Charles Collingwood, Douglas Edwards, Eric Sevareid, and Robert Trout were the ...