THE FATHER OF PLAY BY PLAY
Some stories are more worth telling that others. In this case the story is that of a great story teller, and this month HBO is telling it. I got my first look at this wonderful retrospective of the life of sportscasting legend Marty Glickman this week. It’s a passionate and heartfelt work by the network Glickman himself helped launch as, originally, an all sports network, the predecessor to the hundreds that today dot every cable system. To call Glickman a sportscasting legend is to almost demean Glickman the man, undercrediting the rest of his remarkable life. I had the pleasure of knowing Marty Glickman during the years in the 1980’s, when he came out of retirement to broadcast UCONN football and basketball games for the Connecticut Radio Network. I knew then what was confirmed by HBO’s documentary, that his life is one that can’t be confined to the narrow borders of a T-V screen. The story of Marty Glickman is much larger than the story of one life. An athlete of international talent, an All American sprinter and football player at Syracuse, where no less a Syracuse legend than Jim Brown credits him with setting the standard for all Orange running backs to come, Marty was also an Olympic sprinter, a member of the 1936 U.S. team at the “Nazi” games in Germany, where he and Sam Stoller, the only two Jews on the team, were informed the day before they were to take part in the 4 X 100 relay that they were being replaced, robbed of a chance to compete that they’d worked so hard for, and the gold medal they surely would have won, because of their religion. It would be decades before Marty admitted he knew all along USOC chairman Avery Brundage ordered their removal because he didn’t want to embarrass Olympic host Adolph Hitler. Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller became two of the most compelling political figures of the 20th century. It was in another field that Glickman would emerge as a giant, the greatest ever to ply the craft. “The father of play by play broadcasting” he literally created the art at the side court of New York Knicks games, allowing fans to “watch” the games on the radio as he integrated such terms as “Swish” and phrases as “Good like Nedicks” into the national lexicon. From the late 50’s through the 60’s Glickman and the New York Giants were synonomous with each other. Though he passed away in 2001, much of this must see documentary is narrated by Glickman himself and it closes with a roll call of the great sportscasters who followed, all of whom were coached, taught and encouraged by Glickman. The focus is on his legendary years in his native New York and the New York sportscasters he developed, with no mention of his years with UCONN. It was during those years that I added my name to that list. I was a sponge whenever I was in his presence, in press boxes all over the northeast, on car trips through the back roads of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, stopping at his beloved road side diners for a bite to eat, accumulating course hour upon course hour at Glickman U., the most prolific producer of sportscasters in the history of the field. Like the true greats in any profession Marty Glickman never seemed to be aware of his own status. His greatest joy came from helping those who would follow in his path, patiently telling Gale Seirens, as he prepped her to become the first female play by play announcer in NFL history, that he would not let her fail. The great thing about Marty Glickman that this HBO treatment goes to great pains to relate, is that, for all the things he was, his place in history and his status as THE giant of a field he helped create, he was a wonderful human being, one of the finest I have ever had the pleasure to call a friend. You really owe it to yourself to see this documentary, to know one of the great figures of our time. Bring the Kleenex. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.