Sports news on TV has taken a lot of hits in the past few years with the closure of CNNSI, the cancellation of the National Sports Report on Fox Sports, the end of Global's Sportsline in Toronto and the cutback of local sportscasts from coast to coast. Now in another blow for TV sports George Michael has stepped down as sports anchor at WRC in Washington, D.C., effective the end of his contract in March.
And that means the end of his syndicated George Michael Sports Machine, one of the longest running sports highlight shows in North America. Since 1984 it has been a fixture of Sunday weekend programming, along with Ebert and Roeper, Meet the Press, Soul Train, and the rest of them.
I gotta say, I respect the reason for Michael's decision. He says he rejected a really big offer to stay on. But NBC is going through a really big downsizing and Michael is packing it in because he doesn't want any more of his staff members to be laid off. He says that it's his responsibility to bite the bullet as the senior guy, because he's 67 years old and has already had a good run of it. I say, good for him to look out for other people in this big NBC layoff. Good for him to retire at retirement age. You know, if I hit that age 65 I'd feel a responsibility to retire so that others didn't get the knife in a downsizing situation, not stay on forever like all these other old fossils on TV (this means you, Larry King). So long as the retirement package is good- who can say no to sitting at home with your feet up? Besides, it's not like Michael's completely gone, he'll still host a couple of panel shows on weekends.
And at least his exit is dignified; at least Michael can say he chose to leave, as opposed to Warner Wolf who was fired in New York City, and all these other aging sportscasters who've gotten booted or otherwise discarded, or who had to switch to hard news just to stay on the air. It is always good to go out on top.
But it will be sad to see the Sports Machine go. Ironically, one reason for this show's demise may have to do with that new NFL contract NBC has going. Those NFL games are pushing all the Sunday highlight shows way past midnight on these NBC affiliates. I know that the NBC station in Buffalo, channel 2, cancelled their own local Sunday sports highlight show because of football, and decided to give their sports guys more exposure the rest of the week. These games were pushing the Sports Machine on WRC and these other sports shows into the very early morning hours of Monday morning, and everyone knows that the wee hours of Monday have the worst viewing numbers on TV the entire week. Lots of stations run the worst rerun/infomercial programming imaginable at that hour because so many people are asleep. Or they simply run a test pattern. So they might as well shut the show down. It's sad for us fans. But life goes on.