This is my favorite picture to run in Variety this year: A shot of future CBS News and Sports topper Sean McManus by the side of his father, Jim McKay — at the World Barrel Jumping Championships in Grossingers, N.Y., no less. The hand on the shoulder as Dad calls the action is what slays me.
The picture accompanies my feature on McManus, which can be found here. After nearly six years running both CBS’ news and sports divisions, McManus last month began focusing entirely on sports as the division’s chairman. An excerpt:
“I miss not being very involved in the news and knowing exactly what is happening,” he says, “When something big happens in the world, my first reaction is to call the newsroom and get an update.”
Though it was long before his career began, McManus’ news baptism came that unthinkable day, four decades ago in Germany at the 1972 Olympics, when McKay served as the voice of a horrified world.
“I remember vividly that I was supposed to spend the day with my father, because it was his one off day,” McManus recalls. “I was going to spend (time) with him sightseeing or just relaxing in Munich, and he called me and said, ‘I’ve got to go to the broadcast center. (ABC Sports president Roone Arledge) just called, and there’s something happening at the Olympic Village. You want to ride over with me?’ “
As McKay (who changed his name from McManus in 1950 at the behest of a CBS producer who wanted to title his show “The Real McKay”) began 16 consecutive hours anchoring the nightmare of Israeli athletes held hostage and ultimately killed by Arab terrorists, McManus stood off to the side with Arledge and his team, witnessing a broadcast that Walter Cronkite would later say made his profession proud.
“It was just a horribly tragic day,” McManus says. “It had an enormous impact on me. … In some tiny way, if through osmosis, I learned some lessons about journalism and reporting that served me very well my entire career.
“I walked away with an enormous sense of pride of what my father accomplished under the most grueling circumstances.”
McManus’ bond with his father, who passed away in 2008, is unmistakable — he takes pride in pointing out that because of McKay’s weekend-tilted schedule, he was always at McManus’ weekday youth football and baseball games. (“On away games, it was four mothers and Jim McKay driving the station wagon,” McManus says.) …