Thursday December 30th, 2010

People might've wondered how Bud Greenspan and I could be such good friends. He adored the Olympics as the most glorious celebration upon this earth, and his magnificent documentaries captured how the Games could uplift us and bring us joy. I, alas, have more often been the captious critic, finding the Olympic Movement hypocritical and pretentious.

But we, the Pollyanna and the Cassandra, loved and admired each other, and nothing honored me more than when Bud was given his Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, he asked me to be the emcee. Bud never wore a tie, but always dressed in a turtleneck, with, invariably, a safari jacket. As even more of a signature, he kept his horn-rimmed glasses up there near the top of his bullet bald head. When I introduced him, I wore my glasses on my head, and had everyone in the hall do the same.

Bud's medium was film, but, above and beyond that, his craft was storytelling. He didn't care about gold medals. He only wanted us to hear a tale about some Olympian who was a better human being than, incidentally, he was an athlete. Bud presented his stories directly and sparingly, allowing the camera to show his passion. So carefully crafted was his style than when his announcer, David Perry, who was Bud's brother, died, Bud searched the land, like Cinderella's prince, to find the one exact voice that best matched David's. That wonderful slow, declarative, baritone ... that ... Bud wanted ... because ... it ... didn't ... intrude upon the story.

Bud Greenspan found grace in sport better than any other journalist. He wasn't gee-whiz delusional about the ugliness in athletics. No. He just chose to give us the beauty.

The reason, ultimately, that Bud and I were such good friends was because he was such a decent gentleman, and so he tolerated my criticism of the Olympics, the thing he so loved, because he felt that I was genuine in my belief. And the reason I respected him so even though I thought those were really rose-colored glasses on his head, is because cynic though I can be, I am first a romanticist. So I appreciated the fact that, in a mean world, Bud Greenspan loved the Olympics so much that he let us see life through their prism as the wonderful world we would want it to be -- not just in Games, but everywhere.

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