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NBC Raids the Vault

Apr 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

A long-buried discovery at NBC is headed for network television in the form of “Icons From the Archives.” The video find, from a NBC warehouse in northern New Jersey, was buried in stacks of film reels featuring candid footage and interviews with sports legends from the 1970s and early ’80s.
The footage was uncovered months ago and NBC Sports is pulling it together for at least one special set to air April 27 from 5 to 6 p.m. on the network.
“For people like me, who have been here a long time, it really stuck a chord to find something like this,” said David Neal, executive producer of NBC Sports and Olympics. “The deeper we dug, the more of a treasure trove of information we kept finding.”
“Icons” will feature four of America’s greatest sports icons, Henry Aaron, Joe Namath, Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali, through once-forgotten moments captured by classic NBC Sports programs.
In addition to vintage interviews with these men, the show will include additional footage retrieved from the archives, including the original NBC coverage of the famous Ali-Shavers fight from September 1977.
“Icons From the Archives” also will feature the memories and comments of current sports icons as they reflect on what the sports legends mean to them.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter recalls the first time he met Mr. Aaron. Super Bowl XLII MVP Eli Manning talks about Mr. Namath and their connection in quarterbacking New York football teams to Super Bowl upsets. NBC Sports’ Bob Costas talks about the first time he met Mr. Cosell, and boxer Roy Jones Jr. gives his thoughts on Mr. Ali.
“This is the ultimate home-grown product. We didn’t have to acquire rights for any of this,” said Mr. Neal. “We were fortunate that the film was treated with love and care, as film tends to get brittle with time.
“We would love to be able to continue with more of these if it strikes a chord on the air,” he added.
Among the comments set to run on “Icons”:
Hank Aaron on if people want him to break Babe Ruth’s record: “There are an awful lot of people in my corner that want to see me break the record. There are an awful lot of kids that want to see me go out there every pitch and hit a home run. When the opposing pitcher walks me, they’re booing him. But for as many that are pulling for me, there are a lot that don’t want to see this record broken.”
Howard Cosell on interviewing Fidel Castro: “We started doing the interview and we were talking about the role of sports in Cuba, and suddenly I hear from my producer in the truck, ‘Cut him off and throw it to Jim McKay and speed skating in Lake Placid.’ I thought, ‘Good Lord, I’m not going to do that. I can’t do that to this man, I’ll get crucified.’
“Suddenly, crawling on the floor is our chief technician, who was pulling the mic from me, pulling on the wire. I could see Castro looking and wondering what’s going on. Finally I said, ‘El Comandante, I have no recourse, I’ve just received word that I must throw it to Jim McKay and speed skating in Lake Placid.’
“We were five hours detained in the airport because somebody in the truck ordered me, with the technician pulling the microphone from me, to throw it to Jim McKay and speed skating in Lake Placid.”

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