Jim O'Gorman is a 47-year-old production stage manager for NBC Sports, and his job puts him on the road as much as anyone in television this side of Charles Kuralt, CBS' peripatetic reporter who cruises the country in a 22-foot motor home. But unlike Kuralt, O'Gorman never gets his face on camera, and if his voice should somehow happen to come over the air, it would be considered a TV gaffe of the worst sort.
For about 45 weekends this year, O'Gorman has been on the move, and by the time Super Bowl XI is concluded on Jan. 9, his stops since New Year's Day 1976 will have included the World Series, two Orange Bowl games, a heavyweight championship fight in Germany, the French Open tennis tournament, the NCAA college basketball championships, the NFL playoffs and enough regular-season baseball and pro football games to make it a wonder that he hasn't lost his sanity, to say nothing of his laundry.
Anyone in the habit of reading credits at the end of televised sporting events would have noticed O'Gorman's name many times. In addition, he often is given verbal acknowledgement by the announcers with whom he is working, as well he should be. Without stage managers, most announcers would be incapable of performing their jobs. In these days of instant replays, roving cameras and endless commercials and promos, a sports broadcaster is under continual pressure. In some cases, announcers are little more than parrots repeating what is shouted into their earplugs by producers and directors located in trucks beneath the stadiums. Good broadcasters still do their own homework and contribute significantly to the coverage of an event, but even the best of them must rely on men like O'Gorman to coordinate the activity between the "announce booth" and the trucks.
The chores O'Gorman performs seem simple enough. He gives the countdown to start and end the show, writes and holds up idiot cards from which the announcers read intros. promos and the like, arranges pre- and post-game interviews, gives the broadcasters their cues and polices the booth to make sure no unwanted people get in. But his job is much more difficult than those tasks would make it appear because he must also act as a buffer in the relationship—which often gets downright hostile—between the men in the booth and those in the truck.
O'Gorman is told things that announcers, many of whom have tender egos, are never allowed to hear. Furious shouts often will come through the plug in O'Gorman's ear: "Jim, did he really say that? Tell him to correct it now." Or "Jim, he's talking too much. Jim, tell him to look at the damned monitor. Jim, make him read the promo now, whether he wants to or not. Jim, get the blankety dandruff off his blazer."
NBC Producer-Director Ted Nathanson, who has worked with O'Gorman for more than a decade, says, "What O'Gorman does is tough. He has to handle the 'talent' on a one-to-one basis and be able to say things to them under pressure that they definitely don't want to hear. He has the perfect personality for the job, because he has a natural ability to handle people."
Executive Producer Scotty Connal also has often worked with O'Gorman. "Sometimes we change cues five times in a matter of seconds, and Jim has to have the announcers ready to handle such situations," Connal says. "And he has to keep the announcers 'up' for 2½ to 3 hours. They are going to have bad days like anyone else, but he's got to somehow bring out the best in them. The relationship has to rely on mutual respect. O'Gorman gets that."
He gets it because he is ready for anything. O'Gorman always travels with a large gray emergency case, whose contents should handle most problems an announcer might encounter: Di-Gel, nasal mist, first-aid cream, suntan lotion, lip balm, cologne to cover up body odor, hangover potions, eye drops, a mirror, needles and thread, a clothes brush, a map of the U.S., a table for converting temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit, and dental floss. "The dental floss might seem a little odd," O'Gorman says, "but as announcers get older, they all seem to have trouble picking their teeth."
He also carries a complete list of the electees to the National Polish American Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Orchard Lake, Mich. so that he can "remind Tony Kubek that he hasn't made it yet."
O'Gorman came to NBC in 1963 from WWJ-TV in Detroit. Although he works mostly on sports, he also stage-manages soap operas and other programs on which the network might require his services during the week. Among his credits are the Today, Tonight and Tomorrow shows. Obviously O'Gorman is no slouch at his job; in fact, he is so well suited to it, he even has the right appearance. "I've got the face of a New York cop," says O'Gorman. "Whenever I get on a subway and look around, other people rush to get off."
But O'Gorman is a sensitive man who reads constantly and watches little on TV except the news and Public Broadcasting System shows. He also is a jazz buff and an expert on the geography and history of Ireland. Even during the most heated moments in the booth he tries to keep in mind a poem his third-grade teacher taught him:
Be careful of the words you speak,
Keep them soft and sweet.
You never know from day to day
Which ones you'll have to eat.