I was a nineteen year-old kid back in 1980 when I took a job with WRC-TV in Washington. I worked in Local News for Bob Ryan, the meteorologist. Weather was all I thought about when I was a kid, and working in weather at a television station was my life goal.
Many nights I would stay past quitting time, and sit in the studio and watch the news from just behind the cameras. It was there in the studio I got to know George Michael.
If you weren’t paying attention, you might think that George was a little disconnected from the people around him. He would appear just moments before he was to go on air, put on a tremendous show, and then disappear to his basement lair. To find the real George you had to follow him to the basement.
His office was wall-to-wall monitors and tape machines. His staff combed every piece of video from every game looking for highlights. There was no interrupting him or his staff, because they had a job to do – find every highlight, and get it ready to put on the air. George seemed a little disconnected from me, but he was totally engaged in his work – and he was doing it for us, his viewers.
This seems rather commonplace now; the action-packed sports highlights program. But it was revolutionary in 1980. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I was witnessing was the changing of an industry.
The thing about George was, when he was on the air, you felt like he was talking just to you. What very few people knew was that he was just as engaging in person. I was a nobody at WRC in 1980, but he always made a point to say hello, andÂ as busy as he was, he always welcomed me into his office.
Even though George was new to Washington in 1980, I already knew who he was. As a radio geek, I often stayed up and listened to AM radio from stations across the country, and I often listened to George when he was a jock at WABC in New York.
I moved away from Washington in 1986, but George was considerate enough to follow me everywhere I went – even to Alaska. The George Michael Sports Machine was everywhere, and his program was a reminder of my Washington roots.
The last time I saw George in person was at the Nationals home opener in 2005.
You changed the world for us all, George. I think that is all any of us can ever hope to achieve. You did it.