Oct 4, 2021
Veteran sportswriter and Sports Broadcast Journal columnist Rich Podolsky ("You Are Looking Live! How 'The NFL Today' Revolutionized Sports Broadcasting") joins the pod this week for an inside look at the TV pregame show that modernized how America experiences nationally televised pro football.
While the concept of NFL pregame coverage dates back to the earliest days of the medium, it wasn't until 1974 that the format was produced live for the first time in full "wrap-around" fashion via the The NFL on CBS - with studio hosts Jack Whitaker and Lee Leonard providing pregame features, as well as halftime and post-game scores and highlights from around the league.
But it was during the following season - when
CBS Sports producers hired up-and-coming play-by-play sportscaster
Brent Musburger, former Miss America winner Phyllis George, and
ex-Philadelphia Eagle player Irv Cross to anchor the proceedings -
that things really got interesting.
Three magnetic personalities from differing sports experiences and perspectives - soon joined by professional gambler Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder in 1976 - helped drive the now-renamed "The NFL Today" to must-watch status among both die-hard NFL fans and casual viewers alike. And with it: sky-high ratings and Emmys for CBS' NFL coverage.
Along the way, headline-grabbing drama among the show's stars became commonplace - including George's shocking departure from the show in 1978 (replace briefly by former Miss Ohio USA Jayne Kennedy) and equally surprising return two years later; a post-show, bar-room fist-fight between Musburger and Snyder in 1980; and Snyder's infamous comments about Black athletes during a 1988 Martin Luther King Day interview that immediately ended his career.