During my first week of college freshman year at Ohio Wesleyan I sat in the common room of my suite with my three roommates. One of my roommates, Mark, from Ohio, was flipping through the channels late one night until Colin, from Massachusetts, stopped him.
“Wait, go back,” Colin said. “There, it’s The Sports Machine.”
I rubbed my eyes and gave it a double-look. But my eyes didn’t deceive me, still in 2005, Michael was being syndicated across the country. I was hundreds of miles away from Washington, and there on my T.V. was a little bit of home, George Michael’s infectious personality and electric broadcast. As we sat and kindly mocked his old school approach, we appreciated the importance of his career, and for the first time we all bonded and grew a little bit closer.
For me, that will always be my memory of George Michael. For countless others it will be something similar, whether it be sitting on their father’s lap watching The Sports Machine when they were a boy, or learning something new when watching his weekly weekend sports panels. Michael’s influence spread far and wide over his illustrious career, and impacted all of us in some sort of way.
One can’t help but notice how that influence spread to the creators of ESPN. The Sports Machine simply showed the highlights, without any overbearing commentary, and brought sports video to the masses across the country. Nearly 30 years after his first broadcast, ESPN makes it’s living off of Sports Center, which revolves around highlights from across the Nation with energetic commentary from its personable hosts. Sound familiar?
In the end, however, Michael’s impact on sports broadcasting fails in comparison to the impact of his character. In 2006 Michael’s contract was up for renewal. Due to station-wide budget cuts Michael was offered a raise, but as a result others in the sports department would be laid off. In the end the legend chose to resign in order to spare the jobs of others. Character over money, integrity over career.
Michael signed off after 27 years in 2007 with these parting words:
“I close every show every Sunday by saying ‘Thank you for letting us be a part of your weekend.’ Well tonight, for the final time, we say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for letting us be a part of your life’. From everyone at the Sports Machine, have a great weekend everybody. We hope to see you somewhere down the road of life. Thank you.”
Thank you, George, for everything you have done for this aspiring sports writer. We’ll see you sometime down the road…