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Glickman Documentary Pays Tribute to Sprinter, Broadcaster

Glickman The Film
A movie poster for Glickman. Photo courtesy of GlickmanTheFilm.com.
Glickman, a documentary film that looks at the life and legacy of Marty Glickman, a towering figure in the world of both Olympic track and field and sportscasting, premiered on HBO on Monday, August 26.

James L. Freedman wrote, produced and directed the movie, his first documentary. Famed director Martin Scorsese served as the film's executive producer. 

The documentary is "a labor of love" for Freedman, who got his start in media because of Glickman. According to the film's web site, Freedman -- while still in high school -- produced Marty Glickman’s late night radio program, one of the first all sports call-in shows in the country, on WNEW in New York.

The story of Glickman's life and career, both on the field and in the broadcast booth, is remarkable.

A track star in high school and at Syracuse University, Glickman was part of the U.S. 4X100 meter relay team sent to Germany to compete in the 1936 Olympic Summer Games.

The day before the race, coaches replaced Glickman and teammate Sam Stoller, the only two Jews on the U.S. Olympic team, on the relay squad with runners Ralph Metcalfe and Jesse Owens. Owen's protested the move and urged his coaches to allow Glickman and Stoller to run.

The removal of the Jewish sprinters was seen by many as a clear showing of antisemitism and a move designed by American Olympic Committee chair Avery Brundage, a Nazi sympathizer, to appease Hitler.

Ironically, both Owens and Metcalfe were African-Americans, also members of "inferior races," according to the Nazis. Led by Owens, the American sprinters set a world record and won gold in the relay. The Germans finished fourth. 

Running-a-Relay-with-Jesse-Owens
Glickman passes the baton to Jesse Owens during a relay race. Photo courtesy of GlickmanTheFilm.com.
The relay victory earned Owens his fourth gold medal in the Olympic Games. Owens' achievement catapulted him to international fame, though it didn't earn him racial respect at home. Owens' record stood until 1984, when Carl Lewis matched the feat in the Los Angeles Olympics.

Spurned in Berlin, Glickman returned to Syracuse University, where he starred in football and basketball. His prowess on the playing field led a local station to offer Glickman his first radio job, which paid $15 a broadcast. 

After college Glickman worked in radio in New York City before enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1943. Following action in the Pacific Theater during WWII, Glickman returned to New York and started his broadcasting career in earnest.

During a career that would span more than 50 years, Glickman covered almost every sport that could be broadcast.

Glickman provided radio play-by-play for Knicks games and served as the first television announcer for the NBA. In describing basketball for radio listeners, Glickman created the language used by players, fans and broadcasters throughout the world today. He invented terms like "lane," "key" and "Swish!" 

"Marty Glickman wasn't the first man to do basketball on radio, but he was the first to establish the precise geometry of the court, using a language and terminology that survives more than half a century later." writes Dennis D'Agostino in a rememberance of Glickman on NBA.com.

"I strove to create a word picture that the listener could see in the mind's eye," Glickman wrote in his autobiography, The Fastest Kid on the Block: The Marty Glickman Story. "Not only see it, but feel it as well -- the excitement, the colors, the tension, the enthusiasm of the winner and the despair of the loser."

Glickman broadcasting a Giants football game
Glickman broadcasts a Giants football game. Photo courtesy of Getty Images, GlickmanTheFilm.com.
In addition to covering basketball, Glickman provided radio and television play-by-play and broadcast pre- and post-game shows for the New York (football) Giants, New York Jets, New York Rangers, New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers.

He also narrated sports news reels for Paramount films, announced horse races at Yonkers Raceway, and covered tennis matches for HBO Sports.

As busy as he was on-air, Glickman made time to teach and mentor a generation of sports broadcasters, including luminaries like Marv Albert (also Jewish), Bob Costas, Dick Engberg and Dick Stockton.

Albert, who is interviewed in the documentary, once described Glickman as "the greatest radio broadcaster of all time," according to Investor's Business Daily.

Glickman's professional accolades lend credence to Albert's statement. Glickman is a member of the National Sportscasters & Sportswriters Hall of Fame, winner of the Curt Gowdy Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and a member of the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. He has also been inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Yet, in spite of his success, Glickman faced discrimination in his professional career. According to the HBO web site, when the NBA signed a national TV deal, Glickman was passed over for a broadcaster with a "more Midwestern voice." Whether this decision was made by an executive who didn't like Glickman's New York accent, or subtle antisemitism on the part of the TV networks is open for debate.

Freedman tells Glickman's story in a 75-minute documentary combining archival photos and footage with modern interviews. There is, for obvious reasons, a focus on Glickman's releigion.

"People ask if I set out to make a Jewish film," Freedman said in an email to JewishSportsCollectibles.com. "My answer is not at all. The heart of the film explores what happens when an 18-year-old's dreams are crushed by racism and prejudice. Do they become bitter?  Or do they triumph in life as Marty did? Marty happened to be Jewish -- but I feel the story is universal."

In a posting on IndieWire, reviewer Kevin Jagernauth describes the film this way:

"Freedman ... does an admirable job of capturing the broadcaster, even if the structure is a little old fashioned, moving as it does between vintage footage (which has been smartly assembled) and talking heads. He veers toward hyperbole from time to time ... but what he gets right is conveying the spirit of Glickman, the excitement of his work (even if you don’t know your three-point shot from a touchdown, it’s infectious) and the aura of someone who became a legend by not being as manipulative, cheap, mean, blindly ambitious or coldly cruel as so many others around him were. Marty Glickman was simply being the best Marty Glickman he could be. For many he wasn’t just the best Marty Glickman he was simply: the best."

A preview for Glickman is available by clicking on the video window below. 

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Collectors have access to a wide array of memorabilia associated with the famed Jewish sportscaster, but little associated with the film itself.

Glickman radio ad ebay
A WOR Radio ad for Jets games featuring Marty Glickman. Photo courtesy of eBay.
Glickman memorabilia on eBay at the time of this posting include photos, a 1937 Syracuse University yearbook, ads for Glickman's radio shows, and copies of his book.

Glickman played football and basketball at Syracuse, and enjoyed brief professional careers in both sports. Patient collectors may be able to find vintage sports memorabilia associated with Glickman's college career on eBay.

While not specific to Glickman, eBay offers a wide array of collectibles and memorabilia associated with the 1936 Olympics.

Glickman is featured on 2012 Sportskings Series E one-of-a-kind cards. These include a Top 50 Broadcasters cut autographs card and a redemption sketch card, according to Beckett.com.

These cards are not available for purchase in the Beckett Marketplace, eBay or Amazon, at the time of this posting. As one-of-a-kind cards they are extremely rare and would likely be expensive to buy, if they ever come up for sale.

Fastest Kid on the Block Marty Glickman
The Fastest Kid on the Block, Glickman's autobiography. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
Among the books about Glickman on Amazon.com are his autobiography, The Fastest Kid on the Block. Others include Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's OlympicsGhost Runners (an historical fiction novel inspired by Glickman and Stoller's experience), Great Jews In Sports and the Encyclopedia of Jews in Sports.

Also, while not specifically about Glickman, Jack Kerouac described Glickman as "absolutely the greatest announcer I ever heard" in On The Road.

Memorabilia associated with Glickman the documentary is scant, however. "There is no merchandise or memorabilia associated with the film," Freedman tells JewishSportsCollectibles.com. "That is not why I made it. It was a true labor of love having worked for Marty producing his radio show when I was 17."

Before its HBO broadcast debut, numerous film festivals, including the February 2013 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, screened Glickman. The Newhouse Sports Media Center at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications hosted a New York City premiere on August 24 that featured a roundtable discussion, “Memories of Marty,” featuring Costas, Albert and Freedman. Dedicated collectors may be able to find tickets, programs or advertisements for these festivals and events.

And, social media enthusiasts can collect tweet and postings about Glickman on Twitter and Facebook. The film's Twitter feed is particularly interesting.

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Have you seen Glickman? What did you think about the documentary? Did you ever have the chance to meet Marty Glickman? What Glickman memorabilia do you have in your Jewish sports collection?

Let JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know by commenting below.

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