R.I.P. George Michael (Sportscaster, Not The Singer)

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12/24/09 12:15:06PM
If you don't live in the Washington, DC area you've likely never heard of or seen this one outside of his syndicated show "The George Michael Sports Machine" that ran from 1980-2007. If you have, he lost a 2-year battle with cancer today. The news broke minutes ago.

WASHINGTON - Legendary NBC 4 sportscaster George Michael has died after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 70.

Michael's daughter, Michelle Allen, said Michael died Thursday morning from complications of chronic lymphocytic leukemia at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Michael revolutionized local sportscasting with the use of brand new satellite technology that produced highlights from all over the country.

Known to be competitive, demanding and aggressive, Michael built a sports dynasty at Channel 4 that not only turned out local sportscasts on Channel 4 but produced a nationally syndicated Sunday night sports show.

"He had a tremendous, loyal following," says WTOP's Frank Herzog, who used to be a TV sportscaster on Channel 9.

"George fought it all the way to the end," Herzog says of Michael's cancer.

WRC released the following statement about Michael:

"George Michael was our friend and colleague for more than 25 years. He was a dynamic force around our newsroom and in the entire Washington area. George was a pioneer in sports broadcasting. He was a gifted interviewer, a master storyteller, and one of the hardest working journalists out there. Our hearts go out to his wife Pat and his daughter Michelle, both of whom also worked with us for many years, as well as the rest of his family. ?"

Herzog says when Michael convinced WRC's management to commit to satellite technology in its infancy, he changed how sports would be covered in the news.

"The George Michael Sports Machine," which began as a late-night local feature, ran from 1980 to 2007.

The trendsetting program became the first nationally syndicated sports highlights show in 1984 and was eventually broadcast in 194 markets across the United States and in 10 foreign countries.

"When he went with Sports Machine, he went nationwide. He had cart blanche. He went everywhere. He went to Cheyenne, Wyo. for the Frontier Days Rodeo, the bull-riding, the races. He put NASCAR on the map in Washington, D.C. because nobody covered NASCAR, and the whole time he did with it this effervescence and this excitement that was just contagious," Herzog said.

Herzog says Michael "raised the standard for sportscasting in Washington, D.C., and as a result, in every local market across the country because everybody wanted to do what George did."

Michael signed off as Channel 4's lead sports anchor March 1, 2007. He rejected NBC Universal's demands to slash his production staff.

Michael's family says plans for a memorial service are not yet complete.

I'll admit, I was a very big fan of his work, in large part because of his playful on-air bantering with longtime WRC 6 PM anchor Jim Vance during the 6:50 PM sports report that ended the newscasts at the time as well as his work covering the Redskins, he & Sonny Jurgensen were quite the on-air pairing too. We'll miss you greatly, George.
12/24/09 1:49:00PM
i watched the sports machine at midnights on sunday nights throughout high school. he was a good broadcaster and the show was the precursor to sportscenter. RIP
12/24/09 5:22:39PM
This sucks ass. I grew up with Warner "Lets go to the video tape" Wolf, but the Sports Machine kicked ass. We, in the DC Metro area had the good fortune to be around 3 of the best Sportscasters ever, Warner wolf, Glen Brenner and George Michael. RIP Big guy. You'll be missed big time
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