Sunday CBS presents a special on "The NFL Today"


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CBS special celebrates ‘The NFL Today,’ which has deep Chicago ties​

The show, first hosted by Brent Musburger in 1975, became an institution in sports broadcasting. At noon Sunday, CBS will air the one-hour special “You Are Looking Live,” which tells the show’s story.​

By Jeff Agrest

Feb 8, 2024, 11:50am CST

[IMG alt="Broadcaster Brent Musburger stands outside the Pontiac Silverdome in 1982."]!/quality/90/?url=[/IMG]
Brent Musburger was the first host of “The NFL Today” on CBS. Above, he plays with a snowball outside CBS’ plastic-enclosed headquarters at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, before Super Bowl XVI between the 49ers and Bengals on Jan. 20, 1982.

“You are looking live” are four of the most enduring words in sports television. Brent Musburger made them famous, proclaiming them as the host of CBS’ “The NFL Today” from 1975 to ’89. But their inspiration came from a hobby Musburger knew well: gambling.
The father of Bob Fishman, the first director of “The NFL Today,” had a friend who liked to bet on the totals and wanted to see the weather at the stadiums before games. Musburger asked Fishman if he could show live shots from each stadium where CBS was broadcasting.
“I think the first one was probably Soldier Field with the Bears,” Musburger said. “And then it went from there. The only thing that we insisted on is that they had to be live shots, and that’s how we came up with ‘You are looking live.’ It’s all because somebody wanted to bet the over-under back in the day.”

Musburger and “The NFL Today” became institutions in sports broadcasting, and CBS will celebrate both in the run-up to Super Bowl LVIII. At noon Sunday, the network will air the one-hour special “You Are Looking Live: The Show That Changed Sports Television Forever,” which tells the story of the first live studio show that took viewers around the country and became the model in the industry.
It will include interviews with the only surviving early cast members, Musburger and Jayne Kennedy, never-before-seen footage and a virtual recreation of the show set from 1985. The show debuted in ’75 with Musburger, Irv Cross and Phyllis George; Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder joined the next year. And its connections to Chicago run deep.
“Brent Musburger laid the foundation for all of us,” said current host James Brown, who followed Greg Gumbel and Jim Nantz in Musburger’s chair. “ ‘You are looking live,’ how much has that been adopted across the landscape? I hope he got a trademark on that and that he’s still getting royalties from it because he ought to be.”
After graduating from Northwestern, Musburger began his career in newspapers at the Chicago American in 1968. He also was a sports anchor at WBBM-AM and WBBM TV. The late Bob Wussler, who took over CBS Sports in the mid-70s, tabbed Musburger to be the host of a new live NFL pregame show.

“The real founder of this was Bob Wussler,” Musburger said. “You have to remember that preceding that, Pat Summerall and Jack Whitaker taped a show on Friday night, and then they ran that tape [Sunday]. And Bob said, ‘Brent, can we do this live?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know why not.’ ”
Wussler then hired Cross, a former NFL player whom Musburger knew from Northwestern, to be an analyst. Later, Wussler added George, a former Miss America, to be a reporter. The show became a hit, and its allure only grew with “The Greek,” a prognosticator who subtly catered to bettors.
In 1990, CBS fired Musburger after a falling out. Gumbel, another Chicago media product, replaced him.
“Greg did the first ‘NFL Today’ after I was no longer at CBS,” Musburger said. “I was in Montana at my family’s ranch, and I was watching, and I can’t tell you how difficult it was not to be in the studio that day. I had mixed feelings. I liked Greg so much, but I said, My God, they’re gonna do this without me.”

“I don’t mind telling you it was frightening,” said Gumbel, who had worked at WMAQ TV and crossed paths with Musburger. “It was daunting because Brent wrote the book on it. The fact that I got to sit in the same chair and do the same thing, or try to do the same thing, that he did was an incredible honor.”
CBS lost the NFL to Fox before the 1994 season. When the league returned to the network in 1998, Nantz became “The NFL Today” host. In 2000, CBS added former Bears coach Mike Ditka to the cast, and he left quite an impression.
“Ditka was a bigger-than-life character,” Nantz said.
Nantz, who will call the Super Bowl, recalled that whenever Ditka came to New York for the show, he handed out tips of $100. Coat check, bartender, needy person on the street, they all got $100. Stunned by Ditka’s generosity, Nantz asked whether he carried anything smaller than a $100 bill:

“He said, ‘Here’s the way I look at it: This is supposed to be fun for me. I just made up my mind we’re going to have 20 weeks a year, and I don’t want to think about money. So I’ve allocated $5,000 a week to my play money when I come to New York. So I bring 50 $100 bills every weekend, and I would like to think I go back home without any in my pocket.’ That one, I’ll never forget.”
Nantz was equally effusive of Musburger, whom he credits for laying the groundwork for other shows.
“He created it, he showed us the way,” Nantz said. “His energy, his enthusiasm. There’s only one first, and when the first is done so exceptionally well, that is always to me the legacy.”
“The truth is,” Musburger said, “you would not even remember the name Brent Musburger without the ‘NFL Today.’ Nobody knew Brent Musburger from nothing except back in Chicago.”
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EOG Master
The Musburgers took the money and ran after the VSIN sale. Brent's main contribution to VSIN now is salivating on Omaha Steak promos.