Sports Illustrated has a brutal and wonderful story about former D.C. sportscaster Nick Charles, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer in August 2009 and, according to the piece, “will die soon.”
Among the story’s many fine passages is this one, about Charles’s recent experiences with well-wishers:
He gets e-mails and phone calls from friends. Two weeks ago Mike Tyson called, as he often does. “On the other side,” Iron Mike said, “I want to hang out with you.”
Charles, positioned as something of a beefcakey glamour-boy during his days at WRC-4 more than three decades ago, left the D.C. market in 1980 and became the first sportscaster at Ted Turner‘s newbie cable network, CNN. He went on to be among the most respected boxing commentators in the business.
When Charles left WRC-4, Glenn Brenner was the rage of the local sportscasting scene. So in the interest of competing, management replaced Charles with a loudmouth Philadelphia Top 40 DJ named George Michael. Michael’s background in pop music informed the dollar-driven style of journalism that he brought to D.C. and perfected during his years here.
Michael died of cancer a year ago, but his influence at WRC-4 remains vital, as the station’s news department is still the most conflicted staff in town. Its sportscasters continue to moonlight for Dan Snyder‘s Redskins Broadcast Network, producing infomercials and preseason broadcasts for a channel owned by someone whose job by definition makes him a subject of any local sports reporter.
Had Charles not left D.C. when he did, in other words, there’s a fine chance thatWRC’s Lindsay Czarniak wouldn’t be reporting on the Redskins while wearing a licensed Redskins shirt on the 11 o’clock news.