Jim McKay, 19 years plus one week at The Zephyr and Mr. Positive
By John Ring
The passing of Jim McKay meant a lot to those in my generation. By now, you know what he did as a broadcaster and what he meant to several generations of sports fans.
I canÕt add anything to the tributes spoken about him. On a personal note, I will always remember Jim McKay for the 1972 Olympics, when the brutal and senseless murders of Israeli athletes were carried out by Arab terrorists. McKay, through no intention of his own, was center stage because he hosted the Olympics on ABC. He was Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley by default.
When word came that an assault carried out by the German police had failed, he summed it all up. ŌTheyÕre all gone.Ķ
One simple, poignant sentence.
McKay, for millions of the viewers, was The Olympics.
We invited him into our front rooms. He was always welcome. He was one of us. He loved sports. He set the stage for some remarkable performances and it didnÕt matter which Nation they were from.
I missed the 19th anniversary of The Zephyr last week. I was a bit busy since I just got back from a military deployment so I thought I would add my two cents this week, one week late.
Working at The Zephyr has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. It has allowed me to meet people and cover events that I never would have been able to do. To credit those athletes I have been fortunate enough to cover wouldnÕt be fair, as I would omit someone. Most of them have been at the high school level and yes, I understand and realize that they are not professional athletes. But I have been able to promote and give credit to some kids who have went the extra mile to sacrifice for their school and community.
One of the best letters I ever received was from a Silver Streak quarterback fresh off an 0-9 season. He thanked me for covering his team and being fair in my coverage. He said he spoke for the entire team. That meant a lot to me.
I feel some pride and satisfaction if I got a great photo of a high school athlete that would grace the front page of our newspaper or a full page photo on Page 16 who was a soccer player or a swimmer or played track and field.
Like us or hate us, The Zephyr has accomplished quite a bit in 19 years, thanks mostly to Norm Winick. He gave us the freedom to do what we wanted to do, sometimes at a financial cost to him. IÕm sure he has put up with countless angry phone calls over things that Mike Kroll and I have done over the years.
My first article in 1989 was about renaming the GHS Gym after John Thiel and the GHS baseball field after Jim Sundberg. It seems like a no-brainer now but back then it was controversial.
Regardless of how you feel about us, Galesburg needs The Zephyr. It needs a voice that isnÕt silenced by special interests or sucking up to a power-to-be. ThatÕs just the way it is.
I see where Cobden beat out United for the Class 1A softball championship. That made me think of two things. ItÕs good to see Cobden back at State, where they upset the Silver Streaks in the 1964 basketball quarterfinals and went on to lose the state title to Pekin, which enrollment wise, was about 50 times bigger than little Cobden. I donÕt remember the Appleknockers complaining about that fact after they lost. In fact, I donÕt remember the Silver Streak girls or boys basketball teams complaining about that either, after they lost championship games in 1998 or 1999 to bigger schools. Mike Miller and Evan Massey never complained about it. Neither did John Thiel. I just wish the IHSA would increase the current four-class system in effect now to 8 or 16 so we can have more champions and make more children and parents happy. ItÕs not very nice of them to limit championships to just four teams.
I can imagine that the sports executives at ESPN/ABC were excited about NOT having to show the Spurs play the Pistons in the Finals. Instead, they got Boston and LA. The Boson Three Party, Kobe, Phil Jackson, Beat LA and Jack Nicholson. What more could a sports fan want? WeÕre excited for them, too. We want their ratings to be great and for them to make more money. Forget about the scoreboards that tell NBA fans want to cheer or chant and Public Address announcers who sound like they are on a sugar-high, this is just an NBA-Paradise.
IsnÕt it great to see inter-league play again? Aside from a few rivalries (Sox-Cubs, Yankees-Mets) many teams have none. Who is the main rival for the Twins? The Mariners? The Cardinals and Royals is a stretch--- so are the Indians-Reds. The only thing that has allowed the Cardinals to do is beat up on the Royals, who are perennially weak. Just end it and reconfigure the two leagues. Put the Cubs and Sox in the same division. Let them play each other 20 times a year. Make the DH universal. Eliminate the All-Star Game.