Longtime Washington sportscaster George Michael died Thursday morning, ending a larger-than-life career marked by groundbreaking innovations and an outsized personality that loomed over a no-nonsense sports town brimming with characters.
“George was a pioneer in sports broadcasting,” WRC-TV (Channel 4) said in a statement early Thursday announcing Mr. Michael’s death from leukemia at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Northwest Washington. “He was a gifted interviewer, a master storyteller and one of the hardest-working journalists out there.”
Mr. Michael, 70, anchored the station’s sports desk from 1980 to 2007 and produced the nationally syndicated “George Michael Sports Machine” television show. He is perhaps best-known for his pioneering use of game highlights, which became the model for such shows as ESPN’s SportsCenter.
In addition to his appearances on the station’s nightly newscasts, Mr. Michael also hosted a series of other local sports shows, including “Redskins Report” and “Full Court Press.” He continued those shows, and Monday reports with Redskins coaches, even after he gave up his daily job with the station.
Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins for the past decade, called Mr. Michael a “consummate reporter and a valuable friend.”
“I doubt we’ll ever again see a sports reporter who was so admired by the people he covered,” said Mr. Snyder, adding that there would be a moment of silence before Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs called Mr. Michael a “dear friend.”
“I always appreciated George’s direct and honest approach, and I certainly leaned on his advice many times throughout my career,” Mr. Gibbs said. “He was a tremendous influence on me and so many in sports and in the Washington community because he truly cared about the people he covered.”
Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said Mr. Michael was one of the “most respected, thought-provoking and honest reporters” he had encountered.
“George always was well-prepared for any topic, fair in his commentary, opinionated in his comments and entertaining in his delivery. He was a role model for sportscasters in D.C. and around the country,” Mr. Leonsis said.
Tony Kornheiser, a former Washington Post columnist and former commentator for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” postponed a vacation to air a tribute to Mr. Michael on his ESPN 980-AM radio show, prompting others to call the show and pay their respects.
Mr. Kornheiser called Mr. Michael “a local television presence of the highest order.”
“He’s a giant in the town,” Mr. Kornheiser said.
Film critic Arch Campbell, another longtime WRC-TV employee, said on the show that Mr. Michael was diagnosed about two years ago with cancer and that he had recently seen him.
“Everybody knew he was struggling, but it’s hard to believe he passed away,” Mr. Campbell said. Mr. Campbell said Mr. Michael had been home, but felt sick on Sunday and was admitted to the hospital.