The way it was – new information on “The NFL Today” reminds of a golden age on CBS


AS THE SOUND OF THE MASKED SLEDGE BELLS gets louder and louder, the hardest part of being invited to a Bears Watch Party is the possibility that a guest is supposed to be watching a Bears game.

Some people still take the team’s 2021 season seriously.

This is madness. The only really bad possibility is that the Muffins could somehow hide in the NFL playoffs.

This irregular result could make all the enemies of success come together again to keep Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy and their “Groundhog Day” manners.

BUT FOR A COOL HOLIDAY, A Safe Fireplace Anecdote is a captivating book titled “Looking Live!” “

Written by former CBS Sports staffer Rich Podolsky, this is an informed, well-paced story from “The NFL Today” on The Fisheye Network (Lyons Press, $ 29.95).

With studio football shows and other empty-calorie televised sports speeches now a dime gross, Podolsky takes a respectful and chatty look at the talents, executives and key support staff who have driven the landmark show forward. match day.

“THE NFL TODAY” ON CBS debuted in 1975 and 46 years later he’s still got some weight and some muscle.

Its original crew was the strongest and this quartet provides a wonderful backbone to Podolsky’s book: Brent Musburger, Phyllis George, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder and Irv Cross.

Musburger – the lone survivor of the four – continues to chatter as the 82-year-old voice of the Las Vegas Raiders and the household name at the head of the group Vegas Stats and Info ( in Tin Sin City.

It is his talent, his ego and his ambition that provide much of the narrative tension in “You Are Looking Live!”

Musburger has had all three in abundance from his debut as a 22-year-old beat reporter at the Chicago American (he covered the 1963 Bears Championship) until his flash-up days at WBBM-AM (780) and WBBM. -Channel 2

PODOLSKY SAYS it was Musburger’s remarkable talent for handling television on the fly that got the engine of the pioneering CBS / NFL show going.

During the 1990 NCAA Men’s Final Four weekend, it was, according to Podolsky, Musburger’s undisputed dominance over so many major network events that prompted a new regime of CBS executives to quit their contract. expire.

All the indomitable Musburger did after that was pick up and create a 27-year run at ESPN / ABC that ended in 2017.

He appears to be motivated, sure of himself beyond all expectations and a hard worker.

Ultimately, Jim Nantz calls him “the greatest studio host in the history of network televised sports.”

GEORGE IS A MAJOR PLAYER in the book. The former Miss America was 26 when the classic era of “The NFL Today” began.

Podolsky describes her as a Texas sweetheart who was the first woman to handle a major role in a live, fame-related sports program.

That it can make the main players faint is indisputable. One great story involves her first meeting with John Y. Brown, the future governor of Kentucky and descendant of fried chicken who would become her second husband.

She was attending a party with movie mogul Robert Evans when Brown first saw her. They had a very brief conversation and she married shortly after Evans. Four years later he was out of the question and she was Governor Brown’s first lady of Kentucky.

CROSS, ACCORDING TO PODOLSKY, was so straightforward, professional and personable that his status as the first black to ensure a regular presence on a weekly live sports broadcast on the network almost became incidental.

The former Northwestern DB – and longtime Philadelphia Eagle – died aged 81 earlier this year from an assortment of ailments, including CTE.

As an example of class, talent and consistency, according to the associates, Cross has never been sung.

AS TO “THE GREEK,” Podolsky’s admirable talent for compelling revelation makes Snyder a prime candidate for some sort of biopic.

CBS basically paid him to be “a wise guy with an opinion.” He filled that role with Academy Award-level momentum.

It’s impossible to note that no one – absolutely no one – in today’s national sports games landscape comes close to having Snyder’s theatricality and post-time appeal.

Even though he chose the NFL winners with all the skill of a hearing-impaired man who programs an audio output of new-wave music.

HIS SUDDEN FALL OF GRACE and his shooting at racist remarks made on Martin Luther King Jr.’s day in 1988 are also detailed with a new preview in “You Are Looking Live!”

The book’s highlight comes when Podolsky cites a 1971 Sports Illustrated article – “An Assessment of Why Black Is Better” – as a food source for much of what cooked “The Greek.”

In this landmark article, writer Martin Kane quotes Lee Evans – a black man and then 400-meter world record holder – highlighting all of the fundamental historical elements that beset Snyder 17 years later.

“YOU ARE WATCHING LIVE!” IS a passionate yet authoritative work by Podolsky.

He has a currency that resonates. It tells the story of a mythical and evolving era of networked sports and an iconic television franchise that spawned much of what was to come in Sports Mass America.

The book gives the impression that somewhere later – say around 2053 or so – a carefree ball-headed man will write a similar work about the years of rise of modern mojos like Adam Amin and Jason Benetti.

And isn’t this thought encouraging?

• Jim O’Donnell’s Sports and Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Contact him at [email protected]