Amy and I started watching George Michael’s Sports Machine on Washington’s Channel 4 right after we moved to Arlington in 1981. At that time it was only shown locally on the NBC affiliate in the nation’s capital.
Michael, in a half-hour each Sunday night, wrapped up the weekend’s sports activities. Unlike other Washington sportscasters, he gave us info on NASCAR events.
Michael also loved rodeo and the carnival called professional wrestling. He anchored the sports on Channel 4 as well but it was Sports Machine that we watched most.
In 1981, Sports Machine was ahead of its time with features on athletes, highlights of games and witty commentary from Michael. ESPN still hadn’t hits its stride.
The show went national, distributed by NBC out of New York. As a sports reporter, Michael could be infuriating, telling us who won games without ever giving you the score and even showing highlights without ever saying who won.
But he was entertaining. He came from Missouri, not far from Amy’s home in suburban St. Lous. Like Amy, he was a die-hard baseball Cardinals fan. Before sports, he was a rock DJ, replacing the legendary “Cousin Brucie” Morrow on WABC in New York. We liked him and admired his talent and when we moved here in 2004 we were glad to find that Channel 10 carried “The Sports Machine.”
On Sunday night, we watched the last broadcast of The Sports Machine. Even though the show still had a strong following through national syndication, NBC, in a cost-cutting move, wanted Michael to cut his staff. He refused, saying that if anyone went it would be him. He did and 22 staff members lost their jobs as well.
Michael will spend more time with his 30 horses on a farm in Maryland but he’s not retiring. He will work with former NASCAR champion Darrel Waltrip on DirecTV broadcasts of races this summer and says he has other plans in the works.
Take care George. We’ll catch you on the flip side.