SBD/Issue 141/Sports Media

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy: Martzke Retires From USA Today Column

Martzke Pens Final
Sports TV Column
USA TODAY’s Rudy Martzke pens his final sports TV column for the paper today and writes, “While some at times have blistered me with complaints –- Gary Bender, Howard Cosell and even [Pat] Summerall –- my experiences have largely been positive while covering the TV sports business during a period of its greatest growth.” Martzke adds, “The plaudits have come as the Sports on TV column became recognized. There have been features on me in Sports Illustrated and other magazines, a charity Rudy Roast in 2000 [in Biloxi, Mississippi] and a proclamation read to me at the men’s Final Four in St. Louis by NCAA President Myles Brand, who described me as an icon. Can’t do any better than that, I guess.” Martzke, who took over the column a few months after the paper launched in ’82, writes he will “slip into semiretirement” (USA TODAY, 4/15).

SPEAKING OF PLAUDITS: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar wrote Martzke influenced “major decisions in the sports departments of America’s biggest television networks.” Some execs “would fear his words, and ... some would say sportscasters’ careers could rise or fall based merely on his opinions.” Caesar: “As USA Today grew, so did the impact of Martzke’s column. By the early ‘90s, the Sporting News included him on its list of the 100 most powerful people in sports for four consecutive years.” CBS’ Jim Nantz: “He has certainly wielded a lot of power in network television. He got people’s attention.” CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer said, “Every network executive will say he paid no attention to him. But I think he’s had an incredible effect on decisions that were made, on people’s careers both positively and negatively” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/12). ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale: “His Monday column, though a lot of guys will not admit it, they all ran to it to read his evaluation.” NBC and HBO’s Bob Costas: “He works stories with sports television executives and producers and announcers. He works it like a beat. A lot of other guys who do it just write reviews off what they see on television” (Andy Bernstein, SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/11 issue).

FROM HIS COLLEAGUES: In Tampa, Rick Harmon writes Martzke “changed the way newspapers cover sports media” (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 4/15). In Baltimore, Ray Frager writes Martzke was not “the first to write a TV sports column and wasn’t the best at it, but he certainly became the most well-known and –- by some accounts –- wielded great influence in sports television” (Baltimore SUN, 4/15).

FROM THE ARCHIVES: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley writes, “Martzke’s tenacity as a reporter were the qualities that made his column a success. His clout was undeniable. But his style, his ability with words, didn’t overwhelm some observers.” The late Dick Schaap once said, “Martzke is one of the most influential reporters in America, and the fact that he has reached this prestigious position without displaying taste, judgment or grace in the use of the English language is some tribute to Rudy Martzke” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/15). In October ’03, Fox Sports President Ed Goren told THE DAILY that while he reads USA Today everyday, he waits until the evening to do so “because, at times, I find it gets me upset to the point where it's a lousy way to start the day.” Goren said of what upsets him about USA Today: “Some things that are written about the fine art of television sports. I hate to read anyone knocking our competitors, or whatever. I just can't read it in the morning” (THE DAILY).

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