Main menu


Dick Ebersol uses his storytelling chops to elevate sports TV –

featured image

A memoir is an act of self-preservation accomplished through public vivisection. By baring the vitals, the writers agree to dip into a kind of hagiographic formaldehyde solution. Documenting one’s work and days is about forever anchoring oneself behind glass while maintaining the illusion of brash vitality. It’s a maneuver that reminds me of Damien Hirst’s Furiously Dead Tiger Shark.

with new book Saturday night through Sunday night, Dick Ebersol gives Shark Tank a slip with an almost dizzying series of stories culled from his 40-plus years on television. It was a vehicle and served as a guiding principle throughout his career at NBC, where he nearly reinvented sports broadcasting. (Given his role in the launch of one late-night comedy show, Ebersol’s entertainment influence is perhaps less monumental.)

talk to Sportico From his home in Litchfield, Connecticut, he says he dragged himself on his heels writing the book until his wife Susan and son Charlie intervened at his meal. “I knew I had to get these stories out there before I forgot them, but frankly, the first effort was a little tiring,” he recalls Ebersol. “I thought we were just having a nice lunch until Susie and Charlie said, ‘Look, we gotta finish this.'”

When Ebersol began to catalog his vast anecdotal warehouse, a throughline began to emerge. From the moment an exchange student from a Normandy high school was able to vie for a job from an ABC crew member at Le Mans, a veteran executive conspired for the cloak and dagger “Sunset Project” to secure the film rights. By the time we secured the Olympics in Sydney and Salt Lake City, Ebersol’s life was an object lesson in hustle.

“If you don’t have the right, you don’t have the opportunity to tell the story,” says Ebersol, reflecting on his achievements at the 1995 Olympics. The deal was something from Robert His Ludlum featuring a secret flight to Sweden on GE’s Gulfstream IV. Fox and ABC were still sleeping. Before the year rolled around, Ebersol added three more Olympics to his NBC roster, and the first contract he extended through 2008 for another $2.3 billion.

Just because Ebersol’s deadly cool is hard to convey doesn’t do the story justice here. spy vs spy it was an act. Other than a sober retelling of his own story, perhaps the best way to characterize Ebersol’s masterpiece is to throw in phrases like “cutthroat sanfroid” and “assassination in casual dress.”

When Ebersol is willing to talk about his past accomplishments, looking back at the human element really brings him to life. Hearing him talk about his efforts to light the Great Torch with Muhammad Ali at the 1996 Atlanta Games gave me the same goosebumps I had the moment The Greatest appeared on screen with the torch. will stand up. The absolute secrecy surrounding Ali’s participation was that even NBC’s broadcast crew had no earthly idea of ​​what was going on inside the Centennial Olympic stadium. A testament to how Ebersol gets things done.

However, when we talk about Ali, it’s not about the sports icon, it’s about himself. Ebersol had received backlash from Atlanta organizer Billy Payne, who objected to Ali’s possible ceremonial role. was

Even today, Ebersol remains committed to addressing this misconception. He was willing to take legal action, but in doing so he risked losing everything.

“He was heading to jail when a very conservative court dismissed the case. We lost two of our biggest money-making years,” says Ebersol. In the end, it was Ebersol’s own principles that won out, and it’s unlikely that anyone who saw an ant light a wick will forget that moment.

Ebersol said he happily retired from NBC in 2011. He’s also an investor in Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s Indoor He Golf Series and technology company TMRW Sports, but that’s about the extent of his business involvement in current sports. Having lost Bill Russell just a few weeks ago, he can be pensive at times, but the Ebersol smile sneaks back into his face as soon as he starts talking about his best friend. (In one of his many highlights of our conversation, Ebersol tells the story of his VW Bug piloted by Russell, where he was overtaken by his Porsche on the I-5. Russell I retrofitted a small car so I could drive it) seat. )

“I miss him, but I am blessed to have so many really great friends with whom I can share my memories,” he says.

Even depressing moments are beneficial. When talking about the plane crash that claimed his youngest son’s life, Ebersol says he would catch up with Teddy leaning against the gravestone every half mile from his home to the cemetery. of another old friend.

“I speak to Teddy, but I know he won’t reply. “It took me a while to get to this place. All credit goes to Susie for allowing none of us to feel sorry for ourselves. With us alive. That way.” is to talk about them and tell our story.”