|Sandy Grossman, Maestro of N.F.L. on TV, Dies at 78|
APRIL 3, 2014 (NY Times)
Sandy Grossman, who aspired to be a broadcaster but instead became an Emmy-winning director of N.F.L. games — most prominently those called by John Madden and Pat Summerall — died on Wednesday at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 78.
The cause was cancer, his son Dean said.
Mr. Grossman, who won eight Emmys, directed broadcasts of 10 Super Bowls, 18 N.B.A. finals, 5 Stanley Cup finals and Olympic hockey.
He orchestrated live football broadcasts from a production truck loaded with television monitors, creating a cohesive three-hour show from a jigsaw puzzle of imagery provided by myriad camera angles and replays. The decision-making by Mr. Grossman and Bob Stenner, the producer, was rapid-fire and occasionally dizzying.
One day in 1991, when the Giants played the Cincinnati Bengals on CBS, the two men made nearly 1,100 choices — about when to move from one camera to another, when to insert replays, when to put a graphic on the screen. When he was told the figure, Mr. Grossman expressed surprise and then said, “But how many of them were good?”
Mr. Grossman started working with Mr. Madden and Mr. Summerall on CBS in 1981 — a partnership that lasted 21 seasons, the last of them on Fox. The relationship was symbiotic. In the days before a game, Mr. Madden would insist that the crews watch coaches’ films of the teams, a practice that helped Mr. Grossman anticipate the types of shots that best illustrated Mr. Madden’s commentary.
“Sandy became like a defensive coordinator, the way he looked at stuff,” Mr. Madden said in an interview Thursday. “If they go slot, if they bunch their receivers on one side and they break off — he had a plan for everything, and when it happens, boom, boom, boom, you’re right there. Sandy took the knowledge he got from the film and transferred it to the cameramen, who carried it over to the game.”
Mr. Stenner, also interviewed Thursday, added: “What Sandy did well was to listen to John. We knew where John was going. So we were leading into it, not chasing it.”
Mr. Madden said that Mr. Grossman was the first director to widen the standard camera shot from the end zones to include the outside linebackers.
“That was such a big thing,” he explained, “because this was the time when pass rushers like Lawrence Taylor were making big plays.”
David Hill, a former chairman of Fox Sports, said, “Watch any N.F.L. game and you will see Sandy Grossman’s legacy.”
Sanford Morton Grossman was born on June 12, 1935, in Newark and graduated from Weequahic High School. He studied broadcasting at the University of Alabama. After calling football games for the campus radio station, he came to realize that his voice would not be his destiny.
“It was obvious that I wouldn’t make it big as a broadcaster,” he told The Palm Beach Post, in Florida, in 2011.
After graduating in 1957, he got a job as an usher at the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan and eventually found work at CBS, first in public affairs at the local station, Channel 2, and then, in 1963, as a production assistant at CBS Sports. He was the lead director of N.B.A. broadcasts in the early 1970s before becoming the top N.F.L. director.
When CBS lost control of N.F.L. rights to Fox before the 1994 season, he and Mr. Stenner followed Mr. Madden and Mr. Summerall to the new network.
Besides his son Dean, Mr. Grossman is survived by his wife, Faithe; another son, Bobby; his daughters, Jodi Grossman Rose and Bari Grossman Rosenholtz; and eight grandchildren.
In 2012, after his retirement from Fox, Mr. Grossman was hired by the Elite Football League of India to give its television camera crews a crash course in covering the American sport. Although he was enthusiastic about the venture, he said, it was a significantly different experience for a man accustomed to a tightly knit group of football cognoscenti working together from Thursday to Sunday.
“There were some guys who couldn’t follow the players,” he said. “I said, ‘Get the kicker,’ and some of them didn’t know where to find him.”