Thursday 20 July 2017

Tragic end to Greek drama

John Greene

John Greene

L AST month, as part of its outstanding season of sports documentaries, ESPN broadcast Fritz Mitchell's film The Legend Of Jimmy The Greek. Events of the last few days brought it to mind.

The film recalls the dramatic rise and tragic fall of Jimmy Snyder, or Jimmy the Greek, who was one of America's most famous and colourful tv sports pundits, best known for his role calling the handicap spreads on the landmark CBS show, The NFL Today, in the '70s and '80s.

But he was fired by CBS in 1988 after comments he made to a reporter about black athletes. He said: "The black is a better athlete to begin with because he's been bred to be that way -- because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs.

"This goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trading, the owner -- the slave owner -- would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid."

His comments caused uproar but Snyder's request to CBS to allow him to apologise on air was turned down.

Those who knew him best said that they had never known him to be racist, or to make racist comments, but he never recovered from the controversy. His life unravelled after his dismissal and he died eight years later, alone and in relative poverty.

jgreene@independent.ie

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