Jim McKay was a hero of mine.
I can't count the number of Saturday and Sunday afternoons I spent watching "Wide World of Sports," or golf, football, you name it, drawn in by his elegant grace and unpredictable, what-the-hell-I'll-try-it style.
Like so many of my generation, I heard McKay before I ever saw him, and it was the words that drew me in. He didn't so much tell stories as paint pictures.
It was a strong, clear, eloquent voice, one that when you finally "met" seemed to match the man.
Over much of the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s, I followed that voice all over the world, spanning the globe, spinning stories for ABC Sports, bringing all manner of odd athletic endeavors (Luge! Barrel jumping! Demolition derby!) to "Wide World of Sports," while remaining cool, calm and collected as TV host of ten Olympic Games.
Nobody who lived through the Black September attack in Munich during the 1972 Summer Olympics will forget what McKay meant to a nation. How hour after endless hour - under the enormous pressure of live television - he never once strayed into hype or hysteria, holding our collective hands as we pondered the fate of 11 Israeli athletes.
And when he finally found out, and told us they were gone, all gone, well, you never forget words like that, or the man who carried them into your home.
Upon learning I had written an appreciation for tonight's Evening News, more than a few people walked up and offered sympathies believing I was close to McKay. The fact is, I'd only met him a couple of times in passing.
But I was a dear friend, a lover one might say, of his words, and the path they blazed for several generations of broadcast journalists.
Today, there are far more screamers than commentators, a trend I trust he'd find regrettable. Perhaps the stories surrounding the death of this legend, at age 86, will serve to do what all those Saturday and Sunday afternoons did for me - inspire the next generation of broadcast journalists to model at least some of their ways after Jim McKay.