Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Unites Industry to Honor Eight Legends
The sports-broadcasting industry came together as family once again at the New York Hilton Midtown on Dec. 15, when the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame inducted eight icons who have each left an indelible mark on the business. Hosted by ESPN’s Mike Tirico, the ceremony elicited both laughter and tears, as peers, friends, and families honored the inductees. All table sales, totaling more than $150,000 this year, will once again be donated to the Sports Broadcasting Fund, which supports industry members in times of need.
It was a big night for Fox Sports in particular, with the induction of three industry legends who helped grow Fox into the sports-TV giant it is: audio guru Fred Aldous, groundbreaking director Sandy Grossman, and remote-operations legend Jerry Steinberg. However, the night was about much more than Fox. Imitable on-air voices Marv Albert and Dick Button, production maestro Mike Pearl, trailblazing Game Creek Video founder Pat Sullivan, and media mogul Ted Turner were also inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
The evening began with the induction of Mike Pearl, a 16-time Emmy winner who produced some of the most memorable sports telecasts of all time and became one of the most influential sports-production executives in four-plus decades at CBS Sports, ABC Sports, ESPN, and Turner Sports. With a keen eye for on-air talent and studio programming, he also helped launch two of the most successful sports studio shows ever: The NFL Today on CBS in the late 1970s and Inside the NBA on TNT two decades later.
“From production’s standpoint, how do you define a good broadcast? It’s not always the closest game or the quality of the event or even the size of the audience,” said Pearl in accepting the honor. “It’s everyone on the broadcast team doing their jobs to provide a broadcast to D.I.E. for … D-I-E, a formula that’s most times worked for me: D for Describe, I stands for Inform, and, finally, E, Entertain When Appropriate.”
Next up was Dick Button, the definitive voice of figure skating for more than 50 years. During ABC’s coverage of figure-skating events in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, he became the sport’s best-known analyst, mostly thanks to his frank, often caustic appraisal of skaters’ performances. Button was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, in 1948 and 1952, before entering the broadcast booth and changing the trajectory of figure skating on television.
“As an expert commentator, I have been called a loudmouth; Popeye on ice; a comfortable old chair; a dispenser of inane, insane brilliance; and, my favorite, a combination of pedagogic schoolmarm and wildly enthusiastic fan,” Button joked during his acceptance speech. “It has been a wild, exciting, absorbing, learning demanding, and fabulous ride. Thank you, sports broadcasting, for the opportunity of being a part of it, and thank you, too, for this great honor.”
When it comes to careers in sports, it is safe to say that few people have worked in as many aspects of the business as Pat Sullivan, president and founder of Game Creek Video, a company that, over the past 20 years, has become one of the industry’s leading production-services providers and innovators. He has grown Game Creek Video from a fledgling two-truck, six-employee operation into a 46-truck fleet with 149 employees that services the largest sports shows in the industry. Previously, he served as general manager of the New England Patriots, from 1983 to 1991, during which time the Patriots won the AFC Championship and appeared in Super Bowl XX.
“I am like Lou Gehrig: the luckiest guy on the face of the earth,” said Sullivan. “I am surrounded by multiple families, all of whom have helped to shape and mold Game Creek into what it is today. … To all of my families, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am honored and humbled to be accepting this award on your behalf. Each and every one of you should be standing up here, next to me, as you have been from the day we started this incredible journey 23 years ago.”
Sandy Grossman’s numbers as a live-sports director speak for themselves: 10 Super Bowls (a likely unbreakable record), 18 NBA Finals, five Stanley Cup Finals, eight Sports Emmy Awards, and two Olympics. However, he was perhaps best-known as the lead director for NFL games at both CBS Sports and Fox Sports during more than two decades with Hall of Famers Pat Summerall and John Madden and with producer Bob Stenner beside him at the front bench. Grossman, who died in 2014, was honored by his son Dean Grossman at the ceremony.
“My father loved this business and loved what he did,” said Dean Grossman. “He treated every event, whether it was a Super Bowl or a tractor pull, like it was the biggest event on television. His goal was to always give the viewer 90% of what they wanted to see and 10% of what they never expected to see. It was this attitude and this philosophy that made him who he was.”
A staple in network broadcast audio for two decades, Fred Aldous has garnered 23 Emmy awards while working for all the major networks and mixing practically every type of sports event there is. An audio mixer for Fox Sports since its inception in 1994 and the network’s senior mixer since 1998, he is an advocate and pioneer of discrete surround sound in sports and has drastically changed the way fans listen to live sports audio, especially NASCAR and the NFL.
“Tonight is a night of gratitude for me. I am grateful to so many of you for the opportunities you have afforded me both personally and professionally. I do realize one doesn’t get here by themselves,” said Aldous. “Being voted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame is quite an honor. It makes it an extraordinary honor being voted in by our peers.”
Few individuals have had a greater impact on television and how billions of individuals see the world than Ted Turner. Wildly ambitious and plainspoken, he is one of the most influential media moguls of the 20th century and has left an indelible mark on nearly every aspect of the sports-TV landscape, He took on the television establishment and led the charge that made cable TV the power it became, founding TBS and the nation’s first “superstation” and launching the first 24-hour cable news network. Atlanta Braves Chairman Emeritus Bill Bartholomay, a close friend of Turner’s, accepted on his behalf at the ceremony.
“Ted never asked anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself,” said Bartholomay. “We didn’t have any money with the Braves. He laid the groundwork and got Hank Aaron involved in our farm system. He felt baseball was well behind on social matters, and he changed that. He put the Braves on the superstation, and they became America’s team. That wouldn’t have been possible without Ted. He was an inspirational guy. He made an awful lot of money for a lot of people, but, more important, he made a ton of friends. I talked to him recently, and this is very meaningful for him.”
Referred to as “The Godfather” by his Fox Sports colleagues, Jerry Steinberg is an icon of remote sports production. Logging stints at ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, and Fox during his 35-plus–year career, he was an original member of two startup teams: the ones responsible for launching ESPN in 1979 and Fox Sports in 1994. At Fox Sports, he helped oversee a number of technical innovations, including the first-and-10 marker on NFL games, more-expansive coverage of NASCAR racing and MLB games, and the transition from SD to HD.
“For the last 30-something years, I have been living a dream,” said Steinberg. “From the shadow of Yankee stadium as a very young kid, [from] a passionate sports fan to a career in this business. You can’t make it up. We bring into people’s homes seminal moments that affect them for their entire lives. Munich, Red Sox break the curse, Rangers win the Cup, and on and on. We get to work in an industry that’s like a small town, a community, a place where we compete and look out for each other at the same time. I guess by now you understand this has never been a job for me. It’s a calling and a gift.”
The evening was capped off with the induction of Marv Albert, one of the most iconic voices ever to enter the broadcast booth. He has called eight Super Bowls, 12 NBA Finals, eight Stanley Cup Finals, and four Olympic Games on television and radio. His more than four decades behind the mic include 20-plus years at NBC Sports (1977-97 and 2000-02), 37 years calling New York Knicks and Ranger games, 17 years (and counting) calling NBA games for TNT, and plenty of baseball, boxing, and NFL work. In addition to the NBA on TNT, he now calls NCAA Tournament action for Turner Sports and CBS as well as play-by-play for the NFL on CBS. To put it simply, as host Tirico put it regarding his idol, “Nobody brings an event to life like Marv Albert does.”
“What a huge honor it is to be a part of this group of 2015 inductees,” said Albert. “As I look around the room, I’m having almost an out-of-body experience as if I’m watching an episode of This Is Your Life. There are so many people here who have a had a major impact on my career with encouragement and advice. It’s just so unbelievable how many people actually get to do what they wanted to do since, in my case, I was in the third grade. Even to this day, moments before an event starts, I’m at that broadcast table thinking, ‘How great is this. There is no place I’d rather be.’”
The event was sponsored by Benefactors the Indianapolis Colts, Dolby, and Sony; Patrons Canon, NEP, and Verizon Digital Media Services; Supporters CBS Sports, Evertz, the NBA, NBC Sports Group, The Systems Group, PRG; and Event Sponsors Harmonic and ONE World Sports. The Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame also thanks Autoscript, Bexel, Christie Digital, HBO, LiveU, and NewTek for production services.
To watch the entire ceremony, CLICK HERE.
CLICK HERE for each inductee’s full profile and for more information on the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Brandon Costa, Dan Daley, Karen Hogan, and Ken Kerschbaumer contributed to this report.