Chat wrap: ABC's Terry Gannon
ABC Sports Online
ABC's Terry Gannon visited the chat room on Friday to celebrate Sunday's 40th Anniversary of Wide World of Sports (ABC, 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT). He chatted with online users about his Wide World experiences, his basketball days at North Carolina State, and much more.
Terry Gannon: I'm here and ready to go. Fire away.
VanDerveer: You've covered so many sports, was there a sport that you started covering without being a fan of that you ended up liking a lot?
Gannon: Two sports, one being figure skating. I wasn't an aficionado when I started, but I've certainly grown to appreciate the personal sacrifice of the skaters. The singular aspect of the sport, the fact that their careers can hinge on four or four and a half minutes on the ice is outstanding. It has to be one of the scariest moments for an athlete, when you're out there all alone like that.
|Michelle Kwan won a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.|
Secondly, I've covered the Tour de France three times. Prior to covering it, I was well aware of the accomplishments of Greg LeMond, but like many Americans, did not truly understand the team aspects of the sport. Having been a part of it three times now, it is one of the most amazing spectacles in the world of sports. It is like a Super Bowl every day for three weeks that spans not only one country, but in many cases, numerous countries along the route. And I think physically, it's the most demanding sport of them all.
Lazerman: What do you think of when you think of Wide World?
Gannon: Like millions of Americans in my generation and beyond, the first image that comes to mind is Vinko Bogataj during the phrase "the agony of defeat."
When I was covering a ski jumping competition in Slovenia
some years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Vinko Bogataj, who is alive
and well. But on the way to his meeting with us, had a fender bender with
four old ladies in a compact car, who chased him furiously to the parking
lot of our hotel. Vinko was quick-witted enough to say upon arriving, "Every
time I'm on ABC, I crash." He survived that one just fine, too.
Layla: Which parts of the Wide World special are you most looking forward to viewing?
Gannon: The era when it was the only show spanning the globe, when it dominated sports television and was a ratings giant. It will bring back so many memories of my childhood, because as a kid, I not only tuned in to see the world of sports, but also to experience the world through the eyes and the
words of Jim McKay, going behind the Iron Curtain at a time when very few
Westerners were able to do that.
Geoff Folsom: I remember watching you when you toured through the small towns of the South with the ACC All-Stars. Would you like to do something like that again?
Gannon: I don't have the legs or the jump shot to do that at this point in my career. It was much like the Tour de France, where we went through every
small town in the South, where you meet people that you otherwise wouldn't
and experience towns, cities and rural areas that you would never otherwise
Krispy: When you were playing ball at N.C. State, did you ever think you'd be on TV as a commentator?
Gannon: When I was playing ball at N.C. State, I certainly never thought I'd be calling the World Championships next to Peggy Fleming and Dick Button. I'm sure my late coach and friend Jim Valvano chuckles from up in the air when he sees me covering figure skating, supercross or ski jumping.
But I've always had a great curiosity of people and a love of sports, so there's no better job on the planet.
Ron Fox: Were you interested in skating before your involvement as its premier play by play man, and how is Dick Button doing?
Gannon: I was interested when the Olympics came around every four years. Beyond that, it was not one of my passions before I started covering the sport.
Dick Button is doing extremely well. He has fully recovered from his
fall. I've talked to him on a number of occasions, and he's anxious to get
back to the microphone next season. And he'll have a year's worth of
opinions stored up come next fall, so watch out.
Chip B.: Are there a lot of similarities between Lipinski and Kwan, or are they completely different?
Gannon: The main similarity between Lipinski and Kwan is an overwhelming competitive drive to be the best. But that's where the similarities end.
They both were extremely competitive at an early age, but their styles were
different. Tara Lipinski was able to complete elements at such an early age
that it blew your mind. Michelle Kwan had such an understanding of the
emotional and artistic side of skating at such an early age that you were
equally amazed and felt that those talents had to be God-given.
It's a shame that the rivalry between the two has not been able to continue,
because I think it would have drawn out the best in both of them.
Lazerman: Who would you consider to be the greatest sports personality you've had a chance to cover?
Gannon: It would have to be Michael Jordan. And I've had the unique opportunity to cover him not only as a member of the media, but as a college athlete, and I can call him a friend.
Michael Jordan is the epitome of the greatest natural talent coming together with the greatest desire to win and willingness to make the sacrifice to get there. Those two elements don't manifest themselves in one person very often.
Beyond that, the person I was most intimidated by during the course of an interview was John Wooden. I felt like I was interviewing God. I wondered, "What do I ask God?"
Jasmine: What would you say is the most difficult part of being a broadcaster?
Gannon: The ultimate concentration that is necessary to focus when the job when the red light goes on. There are so many things going on that the viewer doesn't see. Yet, when you are on the air, you can't regard any of those. You have to be aware of what the viewer is seeing and hearing and nothing else.
The first job that I had in this business, the producer started to
talk to me over my earpiece while I was talking, and I answered him. And of
course, the viewer is saying, "What is he talking about?" After that I
learned that what I'm saying is more important and to not let the viewer know what's happening in my earpiece.
Lazerman: Is there a sport that you haven't had a chance to cover yet that you'd most like to in the future for ABC or ESPN?
Gannon: Major League Baseball. I grew up playing baseball, and I played in college. I did minor league baseball for a number of years, on both radio and television. I would love to do Major League Baseball at some point. It's one of my great loves. And I was in severe mourning last fall when the White Sox got swept in the playoffs. There's little that is more enjoyable than doing baseball on the radio, because nothing happens until you say it.
Krispy: Do you find the smaller the sport, the easier it is to interact with the athletes?
Gannon: I think when athletes get to a certain point when they're multimillionaires surrounded by an entourage, they are more difficult to gain access to. However, they're also more media savvy, for the most part, and understand the relationship between the media and athletes better. So, from that perspective, they're easier to deal with in the "major sports."
But it is refreshing to see someone in a sport that isn't given major coverage
to react in an unrehearsed, spontaneous action that is not the product of
countless hours in front of the camera.
Mike Singer: Out of all the announcing you've done, what has been your most memorable moment?
Gannon: Rudy Galindo's win at the 1996 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in his hometown was as dramatic a moment as you can envision. Here was a kid without much money growing up who had lost a number of members of his family and a number of friends, taking one last chance at a great achievement against all odds. No one expected him to win, and I think the relationship and the feeling between the audience and that athlete at that particular time of his performance was unlike any other that I've witnessed, because they all knew what he had been through to get to that point.
Jack: Are you related to (Oakland Raiders quarterback) Rich Gannon?
Gannon: Only when he's playing well.
Steve Flamisch: Do you miss working college football? Also, is there any chance ABC will bring you back or that you may move to ESPN as Mark Jones did for college football?
Gannon: I hope to be back on a number of games this Fall. The only reason I haven't been recently is because the figure skating season has gotten so extensive. It's a conflict of time and they share the same season. But I do love sharing that experience with 70,000 people on a crisp Fall Saturday
Gainor: Which broadcasters are you the biggest fan of?
Gannon: Al Michaels is the ultimate play-by-play broadcaster, and I will watch anything he's covering. He is the consummate professional.
On the other hand, growing up, I was influenced by Harry Caray, who is as far
away from Al Michaels as you can get. He was the ultimate fan behind the
microphone. Ultimately, I've tried never to forget that aspect of
broadcasting -- that the average fan wants to hear the kind of questions
asked that they would ask.
Geoff Folsom: What's your best memory of Jim Valvano?
Gannon: When Jim Valvano came to recruit me, within 10 minutes of being in my home, he had his shoes off, his jacket off, his tie loosened, and his feet up on the coffee table, and within 15 minutes of entering my home, there was no way my parents were going to let me go anywhere but N.C. State.
He was the smartest, funniest, most engaging person that I've ever been around
in my life. He made the game of basketball more fun than it ever should have
been, and I miss his friendship every day. He had a vision that went well
beyond basketball. In fact, one of the great lessons I learned from him, was
the meaning of the words, "Why not?" As in, covering sports: Why not?
Being around sports that you're normally not interested in: Why not? He was
a dreamer, and had a vision that very few people had.
Not only did I enjoy the questions, but going back a few years and being
able to revisit some of my memories on Wide World of Sports and on ABC.
I, like many of you, will be sitting in front of my television on
Sunday to relive some more.