George Michael, a hard-driving, colorful, respected sportscaster at Washington's Channel 4, died early Thursday of leukemia at DC's Sibley Hospital. Since 1980 he had been a dominant personality in television sports coverage. Here is a What I've Learned interview he did with The Washingtonian's Harry Jaffe that appeared in the March 2007 issue of the magazine.
George Michael has shown viewers lots of big plays. What does he think of Dan Snyder? How is all that money changing sports?
Washingtonians know George Michael as the sportscaster who has anchored Channel 4’s local coverage since 1980. But few know that the woman writing his scripts for the last 27 years has been his wife, Pat Lackman.
In 1984 they created the nationally syndicated program The George Michael Sports Machine. It pioneered the use of the highlight reel and paved the way for ESPN’s sports-highlight shows.
In November, NBC told Michael he would have to lay off half of his 20-member staff to cut costs. Michael says he was offered more money to remain as anchor but he didn’t want to stay without his staff, especially his wife.
“There’ll never be another woman sportswriter like Pat,” he says. “It’s painful to think that what we do is going away.”
Michael, 67, is a native of St. Louis. He started reporting on sports for radio stations in Philadelphia. Lackman, a Philly girl, met Michael the summer before her senior year at Villanova when she was an intern at WFIL, the radio station where he worked. Michael was divorced and raising three young children, Brad, Michelle, and Cindi. The two worked together in New York, married in 1978, and moved to Washington in 1980. Michael and Lackman, 53, live on a horse farm in Comus, Maryland.
Their last day working together on the anchor desk is March 1. He’ll continue to appear on the station’s interview shows.
How did you end up working together?
George Michael: We started dating in 1974 in Philadelphia. When I moved to New York, I needed help. It was a Super Bowl Sunday and our writer/producer called in sick. I said, “Pat, I need you to write.” She wrote the Super Bowl script that Sunday.
It was so good that Roger Grimsby, the WABC-TV anchor, said to me, “Who the hell is that writer?”
I said, “Are you asking for a lecherous reason?”
He said, “She’s good.”
So I said to her, “Bingo! You’re doing it.”
When we were dating, I asked if she was willing to accept three kids, because I was a bachelor father. On Easter 1978, the kids and I had been together three or four years. At brunch, my two older kids put their little sister up to a ruse. She said, “Dad, we want to know when Pat’s going to be Mom.”
That was in April. We got married in November. My son stood up for me, and our daughters were bridesmaids.
What brought you to Washington?
Michael: In 1980 I was hired to build a sports department at Channel 4. Before I got here, there had been 14 sportscasters in 16 years. John Rohrbeck, the general manager, met Pat and me. She agreed to help, but she wanted to be home with the kids.
Pat Lackman: I said I’d help get it started, but if I wanted to go do something else, I’d go. Then they said, “Well, why don’t you write for news?” I said, “I don’t want to write about rapes and murders every night.” George said, “Well, if you’re going to do this, you might as well do it here in sports.” I said okay. I didn’t plan to stay, but I learned to love it.
Michael: When John Rohrbeck hired me, he said, “I want to build the biggest and best sports department in the country. Our station’s in fourth place. With you we can do something we’ve never done anywhere else.” The Sports Machine started as Sports Final in 1980.
Was it fun back then?
Lackman: Tremendously fun. There was such an air of “Let’s go get ’em—whatever we have to do! We’re a team. We can do this. We can win in this market.”