NBC Olympics, Ebersol, Big Winners at 30th Annual Sports Emmys

By Ken Kerschbaumer

NBC Sports coverage of the Beijing Olympics keyed a big night at the 30th Annual Sports Emmys for the network but it was a moving lifetime achievement award presentation to Dick Ebersol, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics chairman, that was the night’s highlight. Muhammad Ali walked on stage and presented Ebersol’s award following a live tribute from the leaders of the six largest professional sports leagues.

“It’s hard to get it together after something as awesome as that,” said Ebersol following the tribute. “Four years ago I stood here on a pretty tricky night and you all welcomed me back. And I fast forward to this and the only thing that keeps coming back to me is family. No matter how competitive we are about these awards we really are joined together and we’re lucky to all be in this together.”

The lineup of honorees for Ebersol included David Stern, Commissioner of the National Basketball Association; Bud Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball; Tim Finchem, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR; Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League; Brian France, CEO and Chairman of NASCAR; and Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner. This is believed to be the only time that the leaders of the six sports organizations have gathered for a joint presentation and one of the rare occasions that all have been assembled together.

Reflecting on his career, Ebersol told a story regarding one of the most important moments of his life, a meeting with Sammy Weisbord in 1979 after Ebersol was fired. Weisbord was head of the William Morris Agency and met with the young Ebersol in Los Angeles.

“He said, ‘You’re a very bright young man and you have a lot of great ideas,’” recalls Ebersol. “’But until you figure out in life that what really is important are relationships and how you treat other people without any thought to what you may get back yourself you’ll never really succeed in this business or in life. It was a life changing event for me.”

During Ebersol’s remarks he reiterated the emphasis on family by individually thanking all of the top sports networks and acknowledging his wife Susan.

The award was part of a big night for NBC as it was honored with a total of 11 Emmys, including the Emmy for Live Sports Special with coverage of the 108th U.S. Open golf Championship. Olympics coverage pulled in six Emmys: Outstanding Live Event Turnaround; Outstanding Technical Team Remote; Outstanding New Approaches in Sports Event Coverage–NBCOlympics.com; Outstanding Sports Personality – Studio Host (Bob Costas); Outstanding Camera Work–The Clock of Their Lives and Outstanding Editing–Remember the Titans.

“It’s a team effort, not just technical,” said Chip Adams, NBC Olympics Vice President, Venue Engineering during his acceptance of Outstanding Live Event Turnaround. “There are also the people who help us get there, house us, and move us around. We couldn’t do it without them.”

There were also a few other notable firsts during the ceremony. CBS Sports lead play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz was honored with his first ever Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Play by Play.

“It’s a blessing to be in this business and this is something that I really did believe at the age of 11 might really happen and through a series of great breaks, like most of us, I’ve been able to be here,” said Nantz. “Last year was in many ways the most difficult year of my life. Mr. McKay passed away on June 7 and he certainly was a broadcasting father to me. And then three weeks later my hero and inspiration, my father, lost a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He always believed in me and always told me the dream would come true. But during the last 13 years he didn’t really get a chance to understand what his boy was doing. But every single broadcast, right up until the Hartford Traveler’s Championship, played in his room. And I played to him all those years as Mr. McKay told me to think about somebody on the other side of the camera. And it was always my dad. So I dedicate this to the real Jim Nantz, my father. God bless him and God bless you. Thank you so much.”

Fox Sports has won numerous audio-related Emmys but its NFL coverage pulled in its first Outstanding Live Event Audio/Sound Emmy. “This is the first time winning for the NFL so this one is really important to us,” said Jerry Steinberg, Fox Sports SVP, Field Operations. “I want to thank David [Hill] and Ed [Goren] who let us go out and do our job of bringing the viewer closer to the field. I also want to thank Fred Aldous.”

The George Wensel Technical Achievement Award went to ESPN for the Virtual Playbook, a football analysis tool that combines video game technology from EA Sports with broadcast graphics technology and brings life-size 3D graphic representation of players to life in the ESPN NFL studio.

NFL football analyst John Madden was also mentioned frequently during the ceremony even though he did not win any awards. Cris Collinsworth, who won out over Madden for Outstanding Sports Personality, Sports Event Analyst, said the award was honor he would rather not have received given Madden’s impact on his own life, career, and the industry.

Added Fred Gaudelli, who was a producer with Madden at two networks: “Without him none us would be where we are today. He is the best coach, the best teacher, and the best friend you could have.”

The complete list of winners are:

Outstanding LIVE SPORTS SPECIAL
108th U.S. Open Championship, NBC

Outstanding LIVE SPORTS SERIES
NBC Sunday Night Football, NBC

Outstanding LIVE EVENT TURNAROUND
Games of the XXIX Olympiad, NBC

Outstanding EDITED SPORTS SPECIAL
Calzaghe Jones 24/7, HBO

Outstanding SPORTS DOCUMENTARY
Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football, HBO

Outstanding EDITED SPORTS SERIES/Anthology
De La Hoya/Pacquiao 24/7, HBO

Outstanding STUDIO SHOW WEEKLY
Inside the NFL, CBS/Showtime/NFL Films

Outstanding STUDIO SHOW DAILY
Inside the NBA Playoffs, TNT

Outstanding SPORTS JOURNALISM
Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel – Horse Slaughter: Running For Their Lives, HBO

Outstanding SHORT FEATURE
2008 NCAA Basketball on CBS – Jason Ray Feature, CBS

Outstanding LONG FEATURE
Outside the Lines – Richard Jensen, ESPN

Outstanding OPEN/TEASE
NFL on FOX: Super Bowl XLII – Super Bowl XLII Perfection, Fox

Outstanding NEW APPROACHES SPORTS EVENT COVERAGE
Games of the XXIX Olympiad: Beyond the Broadcast

Outstanding NEW APPROACHES SPORTS PROGRAMMING
Sport Science, FSN

Outstanding NEW APPROACHES SPORTS PROGRAMMING SHORT FORMAT
No Love Lost, ESPN.com

Outstanding Sports Personality STUDIO HOST
Bob Costas, NBC/HBO

Outstanding Sports Personality PLAY BY PLAY
Jim Nantz, CBS

Outstanding Sports Personality STUDIO ANALYST
Terry Bradshaw, Fox
Tom Jackson, ESPN

Outstanding Sports Personality SPORTS EVENT ANALYST
Cris Collinsworth, NFL Network/NBC

Outstanding TECHNICAL TEAM REMOTE
Games of the XXIX Olympiad, NBC
Red Bull Air Race World Series, FSN

Outstanding TECHNICAL TEAM STUDIO
ESPN NASCAR, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2

Outstanding CAMERA WORK
Games of the XXIX Olympiad: The Clock of Their Lives, NBC

Outstanding EDITING
Calzaghe Jones 24/7, HBO
Games of the XXIX Olympiad: Remember the Titans, NBC

The Dick Schaap WRITING AWARD
NBA on TNT, TNT

Outstanding MUSIC COMPOSITION/DIRECTION/LYRICS
NF
L on CBS – AFC Championship Game Tease, CBS

Outstanding Live Event AUDIO / SOUND
NFL on FOX, Fox

Outstanding Post Produced AUDIO / SOUND
Calzaghe Jones 24/7, HBO
Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Dallas Cowboys, HBO/NFL Films

Outstanding GRAPHIC DESIGN
Sport Science, FSN

Outstanding PRODUCTION DESIGN / ART DIRECTION
NFL on CBS – AFC Championship Game Tease, CBS

The George Wensel TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Virtual Playbook/Augmented Reality, ESPN

Outstanding SPORTS PROMOTIONAL ANNOUNCEMENT INSTITUTIONAL
MLB ALL Star Game 2008 – Raftors, FOX, Fox Sports Design

Outstanding SPORTS PROMOTIONAL ANNOUNCEMENT EPISODIC
2009 Winter Classic, NBC
NASCAR on FOX 2008 – Engine City, Fox