Bryant Gumbel is one of the most outstanding journalists in news and sports reporting in America. That’s a broad statement I know, but his work speaks for itself. And, apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so.
The word is out that Barbara Walters and Bill Geddie, who created ABC’s hit women’s talk show, “The View,” and serve as its executive producers, are quietly developing a “unisex” spin-off that will attempt to inject a male perspective into the topics of the day.
The New York Daily News reports that former “Today” show host Bryant Gumbel is at the top of their list is for the show’s moderator spot. Gumbel, who appeared recently on “The View,” and currently hosts “Real Sports” on HBO, announced late last year that he had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his lung. Gumbel, recently told People magazine that he was doing well. “I feel great, thank you very much for asking,” he said.
ABC will not confirm the rumor about the male version of “The View,” and there has been no comment from the Gumbel camp; he would, however, be an excellent choice.
Gumbel kicked off his broadcast career in 1972 as a weekend sportscaster for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. His outstanding performance in that slot landed him a job with the network.
In 1976, he began commuting from Los Angeles to New York to anchor professional football, baseball, and college basketball broadcasts for the network. Gumbel went to work for NBC full time in 1980, when he began doing three sports stories per week on “Today.”
Eventually, he served as a substitute host, when anchors Jane Pauley or Tom Brokaw were absent. When Brokaw left “Today” in 1981 to anchor NBC’s evening news, Gumbel replaced him as a host, and he remained there for 15 years.
HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” is a monthly sports newsmagazine on HBO that debuted on April 2, 1995. The show has won a number of awards, including 15 Emmys.
As the host, Gumbel introduces the stories and expert reporters sit with him after each story, and they discuss the person or topic even further. Because the reports are so well done, you walk away knowing that you’ve got the complete story, and you can count on the fact that it is accurate.
According to Gumbel, the show was “spawned by the fact that sports have changed dramatically, that it’s no longer just fun and games, and that what happens off the field and, beyond the scores, is worthy of some serious reporting.”
Gumbel and his staff are great storytellers. His narration is crisp and clear, and you know that he cares, because when the camera cuts to him in a listening shot, you see interest, total involvement, curiosity and passion all over his face. “Real Sports” goes beyond traditional sports reporting, and presents exclusive stories that other networks don’t usually cover.
Hailing from New Orleans, Gumbel, back in the day, was accused of not being Black enough. He often said that the way he spoke made Black people think he was trying to be White.
He rejected the charge, and in a 1980 interview with Lowell Cohn, Gumbel said, “I’ve been told that I don’t convey a Black image. I’ve been told that my manner of speaking doesn’t set me off as Black. People say I changed my voice to get ahead. Well, this is the way I’ve always spoken. People say I got my first television job because I’m Black. They’re right. There is no reason in the world to cart someone with no experience in TV across the country and put him on the air in the nation’s second major market. They did it because I’m Black. Period. Since then, nothing has come to me because I’m Black. I offer myself as a positive Black image in a passive way. If you want to accept my image, fine. If not, that’s fine, too. I’m a broadcaster who happens to be Black. Not a Black broadcaster. And that’s more than a lesson in semantics.”
During his career he also caught flack from mainstream America. In 1988, Rick Reilly wrote a highly critical profile of Gumbel in Sports Illustrated, calling him a “strange man. Stubborn man.”
But none of the criticism and controversy that’s surrounded his personal life or his career, over the decades, has slowed him down. What better person to lead a group of men talking about current events and what life throws at them.
Bryant Gumbel will make an excellent host of the ‘rumored’ all-male version of “The View.”
Gail can be reached at email@example.com.