George Michael passed away from cancer today at the age of 70.
Most people outside of the Washington area knew George as the host of successful weekend show "The Sports Machine",but locally the area resident were able to see Michael in his realm.
Michael and his NBC affiliate battled Glenn Brenner at the CBS station for local TV dominance at a time when the local sports guy had so much more influence than anyone could have today.
Without the internet and ESPN being a far cry from what it has become,the local sportscaster was often your major source of news along with the newspaper of your choice.
Michael became the choice over the affable Brenner in our house for one reason-he showed wrestling highlights from the Capital Centre in Washington and Madison Square Garden,allowing the wrestling fan to see endings of matches that we could never see without him.
Michael's interest in fringe sports like wrestling,rodeo,NASCAR (can you believe that 25+ years later?) and the odd things like the Skins dirt band (a review of the Redskin game set to music and words describing the game) to catch Brenner and make the monster a two headed one in Washington sports.
Michael's interaction with WRC anchor Jim Vance was funny as well.
Vance either hated wrestling (or acted like it) in banter with Michael every time that Michael would show wrestling,which made Vance less than popular with the grappling crowd.
The irony was that Vance was doing to them exactly what wrestling was doing-working the crowd.
Michael was a fan and like most local guys,he was an unabashed rooter of the local teams and it sometimes was over the top,but he was fair on the overall and I have seen far worse as far as bias goes.
The Sports Machine was ahead of its time with ESPN in its infancy and no one else having the highlights that Michael did made the show a success.
As more and more sports channels arrived and technology grew,the show was on borrowed time and finally was brushed aside after losing much of its relevance in 2007.
Michael was known for his principles as well.
In 2007,WRC (as most local affiliates still are) were cutting jobs to stay under budget.
Michael left WRC (with the exception of hosting a Redskins show) instead of firing employees,saving their jobs since he was in a position of not needing the money.
His final move was setting up to have his chair filled by Lindsay Czarniak,who became the first female sports anchor in the region.
Czarniak is pretty good in the role as well,which shows the eye for talent that George Michael has.
Czarniak is good enough to go national,if she desires and is far superior to many that ESPN and Fox Sports uses in those positions.
I am not sure that anyone younger than 30 can truly understand the prominence that the local station of your choice for news has in the pre 1990 era and I doubt that another George Michael is on the horizon,but for those of us of a certain age,the local icon will never be forgotten....
Photo Credit-NBC Universal