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Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame 2019: Bob Fishman, A Directing Virtuoso and Creator of Iconic Moments

07/12/2019

Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame 2019: Bob Fishman, A Directing Virtuoso and Creator of Iconic Moments By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor

Friday, December 6, 2019 - 7:00 am

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SVG is profiling this year's 10 Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductees in the weeks leading up to the ceremony on Dec. 17 at the New York Hilton. For more information, CLICK HERE.

37 NCAA Final Fours. 27 US Open tennis championships. 20 Daytona 500s. Three Olympic Winter Games. Two World Series. Plus the NFL and NBA playoffs, college football, Triple Crown horse races, and so much more during 45 years at CBS Sports. Bob Fishman's r sum speaks for itself.

However, what cements the longtime CBS Sports director as a true industry legend is not the raw numbers but the iconic moments he has etched into the memories of millions of sports fans: Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison duking it out on the track at Daytona, NC State coach Jim Valvano sprinting across the court looking for someone to hug, a weeping Tanya Harding showing Olympic judges her broken skate lace mid-routine, and Joe Carter's walk-off home run to win the World Series for Toronto.

I have one goal as a director, and that's to capture emotional moments, says Fishman. Directing for me - whether it's film or sports or anything else - is about capturing those moments that have true emotion.

In the words of CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus: Bob has distinguished himself as one of the great directors in the history of sports television. His ability to tell the story and set the scene through the camera's lens is simply remarkable. He is both innovative and creative but never loses sight of his main job, which is to cover the action on the field, in the arena, or on the track.

Starting Out in Television: From a Moon Walk to The NFL Today

Born in New York City and reared in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Fishman grew up listening to Dodgers games on shortwave radio and dreaming of being a baseball announcer. He earned a degree in broadcasting at Boston University, where he fell in love with the art of directing and behind-the-scenes production.

After graduating, Fishman landed a job at CBS News in 1972 as a production assistant and associate director. His first shot at directing came when the lead director for CBS News' coverage of the Apollo 17 launch fell ill, and Fishman - at the ripe age of 24 - found himself directing CBS Morning News segments hosted by the legendary Walter Cronkite.

In 1976, newly appointed CBS Sports President Robert Wussler tapped Fishman as director of CBS Sports' pregame show, The NFL Today, which blazed the trail for all NFL studio shows. He spent five years at the front bench for The NFL Today alongside Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Mike Pearl, who served as producer. Fishman also began hitting the road to direct auto racing, college football, and a variety of events for the CBS Sports Spectacular anthology series.

When I first met and worked with Bob Fishman at CBS Sports in 1976, he was already widely regarded as the best young sports director in the industry, says Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer and former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson. Almost a half century later, Bob's innovative and imaginative work principally on NCAA basketball and the NFL has achieved Hall of Fame status, but he remains the same kind, humble, and gracious person we have always known and loved.

The 1979 Daytona 500 and Redefining Auto-Racing Coverage

Fishman got his first big break in 1979 when he was assigned to direct the Daytona 500 for CBS, marking the first time the entire race had been broadcast live from flag to flag. A major snowstorm across the U.S. that weekend brought millions more eyeballs to arguably the most dramatic finish in NASCAR history. Fishman captured the epic last-lap crash between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison that allowed Richard Petty to sneak through for the win, as well as Yarborough and Allison's famously coming to blows on the track after the race.

It was a momentous finish that captured the imagination of NASCAR fans and non-racing fans alike across the country, says Fishman. Until that point, NASCAR was just a regional sport, but the sensational ending vaulted that race to the front page of the New York Times. In my mind, that's the moment that took the sport to the next step. And the fact that people were seeing it live for the first time contributed to the success of NASCAR going forward. And, personally, it set my career in motion.

Fishman would direct every Daytona 500 for the next two decades and served as CBS Sports' lead auto-racing director. He also became the first U.S. director to use Race Cam on-board cameras, when CBS Sports debuted them in 1983. He would go on to help craft the way these cameras are deployed in auto racing and drastically alter the way live races were presented to viewers.

I think we set a new standard for how to cover auto racing during those years, says Fishman. We tried to do a couple things that I found were lacking in racing [coverage]. First, we put out more low cameras to create that sense of speed and show the essence of how dangerous racing can be. Second, my goal was to get further back into the pack. [CBS Sports announcer] Ken Squier always preached, It's not just about the lead two or three cars. It's important to get back in the pack because that's where some of the best battles take place.

A Lifetime of Shining Moments' at the NCAA Final Four

In 1981, CBS Sports won the broadcast-TV rights to the NCAA Final Four, launching one of the longest partnerships between a network and a sports property. Fishman was selected to direct the 1982 Championship Game and was once again gifted one of the most memorable finishes in sports history, when fresh
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