Remembering Nick Charles

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me tell you what I can about Nick Charles. I was an intern at CNN Sports the day the station went on the air. Nick was one of the main anchors for a new idea on a new TV experiment: and Sports Tonight became something huge. Nick was a reason why.

I was a kid, of course, barely 18, and I knew something really cool was going on. But I had no idea how serious it would all become. There were pros working under the leadership of the late Bill McPhail, and a lot of young future stars. Nick Charles was one of the pros. He had rock star charisma, a confidence and an ethic that he brought with him every day.

That’s just it: Nick brought it. He crafted words; he didn’t write them. He meant what he said. He understood what he wanted to convey. It was about more than a home run, more than a touchdown, more than a knockout. Some knew him for his loves and his specialties: boxing and horse racing were faves. I knew him for that squint in his eyes, that lean-in towards the camera when he wanted to get something out of the story and give it to YOU. I was listening to Nick.

He set the bar for a young kid like me, who later came back to work as an anchor/reporter in the pre-merger days and found Nick was still there, not looking a day older, trying to do something other than just “sport highlights” with each story. He taught me about perspective, about balance in writing and storytelling. Long before guys on the sports networks were coming up with witty cross-cultural references to tickle their viewers, Nick was re-imagining the   metaphor and magic in his communications. And his style in some ways was both old-school and new. No one had been a sports icon on a 24-hour network before. He was arguably the first.

Nick Charles cared about what he was learning with each interview and was a man who wanted to share it with his viewer with that same fascination and appreciation. 

I remember his dazzling smile, style and laugh. His playfullness. His wittiness. Vince could do an amazing impersonation of Nick, but really, was there any other sports guy like NC? And Nick was quick behind the scenes. He was able to turn it on with the tally light like no one I have ever seen to this day.  He took it to the limit. And he came back for more the next day, ready to push his storytelling to new places. And I do remember his intensity and his demand from those who worked around him. He wanted us all to get it right, and that’s a leadership quality.

I did not know Nick as well as some of the other guys who were closer to my age, but today, I wish I had been able to tell him what I am telling you now: thank you Nick, for your focus and passion for every detail of the way the story is told – and for that smile every day. That smile every time I believe I ever saw you.

He preceded the greatness that we now take for granted on 24 hr news/sports outlets. CNN, ESPN – all of them – had to have guys like Nick who believed THEY WERE ALREADY THERE in order to create something special. So you may not remember him, but I sure do.

Brent Weber
Former CNN Sports Intern and Former CNN Sports Anchor/Reporter

Here’s the story from CNN.com

Renowned CNN sports broadcaster Nick Charles dies at 64
//

June 25, 2011|By Wayne Drash, CNN

People magazine once dubbed Nick Charles one of the most handsome men in America.

 

Nick Charles, who started off as a taxi driver and later became the first sports anchor at CNN, died Saturday after battling bladder cancer since 2009. He was 64.Charles died peacefully, looking out at the spectacular land that drew him to Santa Fe, New Mexico, his wife, Cory, said.

Charles began at CNN on the network’s first day, June 1, 1980, and covered nearly every sporting event over the years.

He was paired with Fred Hickman for most of the next two decades on “Sports Tonight,” a show that beat ESPN in ratings when the upstarts were battling for viewers. To this day, he and Hickman remain one of the longest-lasting anchor duos in television.

Topps, the trading-card company, put Charles’ million-dollar smile on a bubble gum card, a rarity for a television personality. People magazine once dubbed him one of the most handsome men in America.

“Nick was your friend from the moment you met him — and he stayed your friend forever,” said Rick Davis, one of Charles’ producers at CNN in the 1980s. “All of us who had the very good fortune to have been his friend have so much to remember about how he touched our lives in his own special way,” said Davis, who is CNN’s executive vice president of News Standards and Practices.

At his home in Santa Fe recently, Charles pointed to his signature mop of curly black hair as he scrolled through photographs of his on-air days. “Look at that thing,” he said with a laugh. “It’s my Billy Ray Cyrus mullet.”

While the world knew Charles for his sportscaster days, it was his battle with cancer that inspired tens of thousands of people. In a recent CNN.com article, he talked openly about the dying process and preparing his family for when he was gone. He made birthday video diaries for his 5-year-old daughter, Giovanna, in the years to come.

“This is a gift from God where I need to build these memories for her, so that I’m not a blur,” he said. “I feel that when I go, that I’m going to prepare a place for my daughter and my wife. I’m going to be in their heart and soul. I tell them that every day.”

His message, he said, is to “never give up on life.”

“It’s an imperfect world, but, boy, it’s still beautiful.”

“What is life?” he said. “It’s 20 percent what happens to you and 80 percent how you react to it.”

“Find that little kernel every day that brings you pleasure and joy — and fasten onto that. That’s what’s going to make life worth living. Always look for the best.”

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Will King says:

    It was an incredibly classy way HBO chose to handle his passing.

    Particularly the going off air with silence. The moment stood for itself.

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