NFL

The NFL propelled in the 1960s and 70s; “You are looking live,” CBS’ Musburger would declare!

“You Are Looking Live!” the Documentary on CBS Sunday at 1pm

(Editor’s note: CBS will air its documentary “You Are Looking Live!” this Sunday (1pm Eastern), which was inspired by Rich Podolsky’s book of the same name.).

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As I was touching base with former colleagues when Phyllis George passed away in May of 2020, it hit me what a great and groundbreaking show The NFL Today was. So that summer I set out to interview as many as I could to tell that story. A little over a year later, my book “You Are Looking Live!” became a reality.

I wanted to tell it all—the good with the bad, the funny with the sad. And in doing it that way, the book struck a chord. There were so many firsts for a live show of this kind, and so many Emmys (13) that first transitional year in 1975. It also launched the careers of four unlikely stars: Brent Musburger, Phyllis George, Irv Cross and Jimmy The Greek.

And along with the awards and much higher ratings came a competition for airtime and in-fighting between some of the stars. In “You Are Looking Live!’ I wanted to give the reader an insider’s view of all that, and I tried not to leave anything out. The fights, the drama, the front-page headlines—they were all there. Almost everyone seemed to love it.

That’s the kind of documentary we had in mind when Ted Shaker and I presented our plan to produce a documentary to CBS Sports, based on the book. Ted worked on the show for 14 years, most of which as executive producer. He knew as much as anyone about it, and his commentary was instrumental to the success of the book.

CBS also liked the idea of doing a documentary about their 50-year-old groundbreaking show. Not totally to our surprise, they decided to produce it themselves. Ted and I agreed to be consultants but were hardly consulted and not interviewed. Certainly Ted should have been. He witnessed Brent’s fight with the Greek and was part of the team that fired Musburger in1990. Ted was also the one who revamped the show after Brent left, making Greg Gumbel the host and Terry Bradshaw the #1 analyst. Both went onto stellar careers.

Brent Musburger, now 84, agreed to co-host the production. It will be his first appearance on CBS since he was fired in 1990. He was one of the few I had no success reaching for the book. I’m hoping they’ll find time for Brent to discuss his contentious relationship with The Greek and their famous fight at Peartrees. Finding the time is the key, because with just one hour to tell it they can’t be expected to get everything in. 

Jayne Kennedy, who replaced Phyllis for two years on the show, will also be co-hosting the production. I’m hoping they have time to discuss the crazy events that led to her hiring when Phyllis decided to leave the show in 1978, and the racial undertones that surrounded it.

The NFL Today began in 1974 with Bill Fitts producing and changed dramatically the following year when Bob Wussler became the head of CBS Sports. Wussler hired the entire cast and brought in Mike Pearl and Bob Fishman to produce and direct. Today, nearly all of those people are in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. 

Over that 50-year period there have been only four hosts: Brent, Greg Gumbel, Jim Nantz and James Brown. It’s my understanding all four will be part of the show Sunday. It may not answer all the questions Ted and I hoped to, but CBS’ documentary is sure to stir up some fond memories.

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Rich Podolsky

Rich Podolsky, an established writer and reporter since the 70s, has been a staff writer for CBS and has written for ESPN, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Palm Beach Post, the Wilmington News Journal, College & Pro Football Newsweekly and TV Guide. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers' Keystone Award for writing excellence. A fan of music from the 60s and 70s, he is the author of "Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear," which relates how Kirshner discovered Bobby Darin, Carole King and Neil Sedaka among others, and "Neil Sedaka, Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivor,” which tells the inside story of Sedaka’s comeback. His new book, “You Are Looking Live!” is about CBS’ revolutionary pregame show in 1975 which introduced Brent, Phyllis, Irv and The Greek to America.

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Michael Green
4 months ago

It is disappointing but somehow unsurprising that CBS didn’t interview the two people from behind the scenes who had the idea and had a lot to say. I fear it will be too celebratory–and it should be celebrated. But The NFL Today also involved politics and egos, as all things do, and should get fully covered.