SBD/Issue 72/Sports Media

Longtime Sportscaster George Michael Passes Away At Age 70

"The George Michael Sports Machine" Ended
Its 27-Year Run In '07
George Michael, a "high-rated and hyperanimated Washington sportscaster whose extensive use of game highlights from across the country on his nationally syndicated show has now become the norm in the industry," died Thursday from chronic lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 70, according to Adam Bernstein of the WASHINGTON POST. Michael's "boisterous style and unremitting hustle made him one of the dominant personalities in Washington for years." He "represented sports as entertainment, with what some regarded as a team-friendly approach, especially to the hometown Redskins." Michael in '80 began hosting "The George Michael Sports Machine," a "trendsetting show that made liberal use of action highlights from games in addition to interviews and other reports." Syndicated columnist Norman Chad: "George wasn't the first to make videotape the king --  Warner Wolf did it before him -- but his rise at Channel 4 coincided with better technology to provide the highlights, the greatest sports boom in U.S. history and a profitable local news operation willing to spend time and money on its sports segments. It's amazing to think 'The George Michael Sports Machine' somehow survived ESPN. It was like the corner mini-mart continuing to sell milk, bread and eggs after Wal-Mart moved into town." Bernstein noted the show, which was syndicated to "almost 200 stations at its peak," was "one of the first to recognize the growing appeal of NASCAR." WTOP radio anchor Frank Herzog: "He brought NASCAR to Washington, where it had been ignored. Rodeo, bull riding, even the terrier races at the International Horse Show. He changed the way we looked at sports" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/25).

SPORTS INNOVATOR: In DC, Lipscomb & Weber wrote Michael's death ended a "larger-than-life career marked by groundbreaking innovations and an outsized personality that loomed over a no-non sense sports town brimming with characters." Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder called Michael a "consummate reporter and a valuable friend." Snyder: "I doubt we'll ever again see a sports reporter who was so admired by the people he covered." Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis said Michael "always was well-prepared for any topic, fair in his commentary, opinionated in his comments and entertaining in his delivery." Leonsis: "He was a role model for sportscasters in D.C. and around the country." ESPN's Len Elmore said Michael was "never full of himself despite being the man around town." PBR CEO Randy Bernard said Michael was "one of the greatest friends the PBR could ever ask for." Bernard: "He was one of the first mainstream sportscasters to recognize and promote the competition of bull riding, and much of the PBR's success was due to his support early on" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/25).

REMEMBERING MICHAEL: In DC, Mike Wise wrote before he was a "good person to know in influence-heavy Washington, George Michael was simply a good person, whom we all should have had the privilege of genuinely getting to know" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/25). The WASHINGTON EXAMINER’s Jim Williams wrote Michael, a "former big-time disc jockey," knew "how to make sports entertaining no matter what the sport was." Michael, "in many ways, sparked the creation" of ESPN's "PTI," by pairing hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon "together and giving them a chance to spar on air" on two of his weekly shows (, 12/24). In DC, Leonard Shapiro wrote under the header, "Michael Leaves Legacy In All The Lives He Touched." But Shapiro noted Michael "had his critics, present company included, particularly in his earlier days on the air." In the beginning, he had an "annoying tendency to shy away from tough questions and too often got far too close to some of the athletes, coaches and owners he was supposed to be covering, a habit he never was able to break" (, 12/24).

PIONEER IN THE FIELD: In DC, Michael Wilbon wrote, "Before cable TV was in millions of homes George Michael brought us the world weekly." Michael was "an American original," and he "outworked just about everybody, never conceded stories to newspapers like just about every other TV sportscaster." Wilbon: "By will and force of personality as much as anything, George Michael made himself must-see TV" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/25).'s Jim Caple wrote Michael "delivered sports highlights to famished fans who didn't even realize their stomachs were empty." Caple: "We're so inundated with this sort of thing now that it's difficult to remember how captivating his 'Sports Machine' was at the time. ... 'Sports Machine' was better than owning your own satellite dish" (, 12/25). In N.Y., Bruce Weber writes Michael was "known as a hard-working reporter," but also a "large personality, a bravado interviewer and an irreverent commentator" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/25). NBC’s Bob Costas noted Michael’s passing during “Football Night in America” (NBC, 12/27).

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