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Collected Wisdom: Greg Gumbel, CBS sportscaster

Greg Gumbel, 67, who was raised in Chicago, discussed his long broadcasting career, which included stops at Chicago's WMAQ-TV, ESPN, MSG, CBS and NBC and calling two Super Bowls for CBS.
by Mel Bracht Published: June 15, 2013

CBS sportscaster Greg Gumbel will be in Oklahoma City to host the 37th annual March of Dimes Mercy Sports Headliner Banquet at 7 p.m. Thursday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

Gumbel, 67, who was raised in Chicago, rose quickly in his sportscasting career, which included stops at Chicago's WMAQ-TV, ESPN, MSG, CBS and NBC and calling two Super Bowls for CBS. He has been a longtime advocate for the March of Dimes and serves as an assistant to the organization's president. His brother, Bryant Gumbel, also is a network broadcaster and hosts a monthly show for HBO.

I turned 67 in May. People have asked me about retiring. And I have had friends who retired and they said, “You'd get bored.” I'm not real sure about that. I'm pretty sure I could wake up in the morning and lay out by the pool and get a little sun, come back in and make a mojito or you know. I'm pretty sure I could do that. I've been very fortunate with CBS. I do football from September to January and then I host basketball from February to the first week in April. Then I'm off during the summer. Even for a 67-year-old guy, that's not terribly taxing and I feel very, very fortunate to do those things I love doing. As long as I can continue to enjoy it and as long as CBS will have me, I will continue to do it.

Hosting March Madness is the hardest I ever work. Those first few days of the tournament are murder. You're talking about 16 games the first day, 16 games the second day. You get into the studio about 8 in the morning. Production meetings. You're on the air at noon and then you go to about 12:30 or 1 in the morning. You go back to the hotel and then you do the same thing the next day and the day after that, and the day after that. It is a hellacious schedule, but it is fun.

I wasn't offended by Doug Gottlieb's comments. (On the air, Gottlieb told the other four studio analysts, all black, “I don't know why you guys ask me, I'm just here to bring diversity to this set, give kind of the white man's perspective.”). First of all, he isn't an offensive type person. He certainly didn't mean it the way a lot of people took it. It was just a joke that fell flat. Some people thought it inappropriate. I always look at intent and I don't think there was any bad intent at all. Someone said, I was like looking around behind me when it happened. I said well it's like, you look for a foxhole when grenades start to go off. Doug is a nice guy and Charles Barkley made the point on the air, people who are offended by that need to get a life.

I flew in a few years ago to host a dinner in Detroit for the March of Dimes. The president of the March of Dimes, Jennifer Howse, was on the plane with me. I don't mind saying this, she kidnapped me from the airport and we stopped by a hospital and we walked through a neonatal care unit. I was looking at so many of the premature babies. Basically, the March of Dimes has had a tremendous hand of helping over the years. The rate of survival for premature babies has skyrocketed over the last 15 years and it's basically from a lot of research, which is helped along from the March of Dimes. I actually saw a baby in the arms of her father and the father could take his wedding ring and slip it over her hand and upper arm, that's how small this baby was. What Jennifer House did was sink the bait into me. She asked me to a member of the national board. I served the maximum time on the board, which was two six-year terms, then she named me as a special adviser.

I played mostly neighborhood sports growing up. My dad played a little minor league baseball and really taught us well. One of the great, great disappointments in my life and my brother's life was that my dad never lived long enough to see either one of us on television. He's the one who taught us all that we knew about sports, what was right about it, what was wrong about it and the things to appreciate. He died at the age of 53 of a heart attack. He was a judge in Chicago. Richard D. Gumbel Jr. was the smartest man I ever knew.

I was just flying up to Chicago a couple of weeks ago to see the Rolling Stones in concert because you will not find a bigger Rolling Stones fan. Sitting across the aisle from me was a guy I went to high school with in Chicago (De La Salle) named Rich Daley, who used to be mayor. In fact, my high school has produced four mayors, including three in a row.

Bryant and I really got along too well to fight. Even if we did fight, there was a standing order in the house that if we were going to fight we had to fight my father first. So that wasn't going to happen. We had our share of brotherly arguments, especially where sports is concerned because he was the Cubs fan in the family and I was the White Sox fan. You know how wrong he was on numerous occasions. My dad was always the referee. Who was the better shortstop, Ernie Banks or Luis Aparicio?

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by Mel Bracht
Copy Editor, Sports Media
Mel Bracht is a copy editor on the presentation desk and also covers sports media. A 1978 graduate of Indiana University, Bracht has been a print journalist for 34 years. He started his career as sports editor of the Rensselaer (Ind.) Republican...
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