(Creative Book Publishers, 226 pages, $16.95)
By Tony Verna
This is not live, ladies and gentlemen—Army did not score again!” With those words, sports announcer Lindsey Nelson ushered in the era of instant replay in live TV sportscasting. It was such a startling innovation on that December day in 1963 that Nelson had to spell out for the audience what it had just witnessed.
The young man responsible for the tricky and demanding technical feat was Tony Verna, who went on to build a long career directing sporting events (five Super Bowls, the Rome and Los Angeles Olympics) and logistically demanding live events (Live Aid, Pope John Paul II’s TV special A Prayer for World Peace). He was presented the DGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Direction in 1995. At the time of his historic breakthrough, Verna had been working piecemeal on the technical aspects of instant replay and was impressed by NBC’s handling of live action and replays of the Lee Harvey Oswald shooting just two weeks earlier. As he says in his lively memoir, “Well, if Army didn’t win, CBS certainly did, despite their failure to give me the acclaim.”
There’s quite a bit of energetic score-settling of this kind, and Verna’s frustration with CBS evidently still rankles. Less well-known is his subsequent success running some of the most complicated live broadcasts imaginable and making them work. The supporting characters in his memoir range form Mother Teresa to Presidents Reagan and Bush to Dick Clark. The book is loaded with firsthand anecdotes, both technical and personal. For those in the trade, it’s a revealing behind-the-scenes look at television during a transitional period.
Review written by John Patterson.