That name in the world of television is royalty and the gold standard by which all great sportscasters like Al Michaels, Bob Costas and are measured. But when you're the son carrying the name of a legend, there can be enormous expectations and the pressure to measure up to what your father was.
Longtime New Canaan resident Curt Gowdy, Jr. followed his father into the same industry where he's still considered an icon, but the son created his own path and a name for himself that is well-respected throughout the business. Gowdy, Jr. spent 27 years at producing live events and in 2005, he was hired to help build a network from scratch as senior vice president and executive producer of SportsNet New York, a regional network and home of the Mets.
"It's been a tremendous experience for me," said Gowdy, Jr. "I'm responsible for all the production, talent, content and I oversee all the shows. When you have a blank canvas, you're able to start the painting. The painting is basically finished, but we always add new touches and wrinkles to it. Without a doubt, of all the things I've done in my career, this has been the most gratifying."
That is saying a lot for a man who has covered nearly every marquee event in sports from the Olympics and the Kentucky Derby to the MLB All-Star games. He also produced ABC's "Wide World of Sports" for more than a decade. Of all the events that Gowdy, Jr. worked on, there is one that stands out.
"The 1989 San Francisco Earthquake series, (Giants vs. Oakland A's)" said Gowdy, Jr., who has won 24 Emmy Awards in his career. "At 5:04 local time, we were sitting in the production truck and this tremendous roar went beneath the truck like a subway train was running under it. The truck tilted forward and suddenly, 94 monitors go to black and we were off the air. We didn't know what happened. It turned out to be an earthquake and when we came back on the air, we put our news hats on and covered the aftermath. I'll never forget it."
An avid sports fan and athlete growing up outside of Boston where his father was the voice of the , Gowdy, Jr. tagged along with his dad to see the team in spring training and go on trips to games that his father covered. Gowdy, Jr. seemed destined to make sports his life.
"I grew up in a world of sports and knew when I was 12 years old that I wanted to get into sports," said Gowdy, Jr., who played varsity hockey at Colby College in Maine. "It was in my DNA. I couldn't get enough of them. I was the kid on the weekends who would stop playing pick-up football games with my friends to go watch a football doubleheader on television."
As a young boy, Gowdy, Jr. sat in the booth for some of his father's broadcasts, but when he broke into sports television, he had the special opportunity of working with him, which meant sometimes giving orders to the man known as, "The Cowboy."
"We were at the 1980 Winter Olympic games in Lake Placid. I was a young producer and he was the play-by-play guy for the luge and bobsled," he said. "My father had to do a stand-up after an event and he made a few flubs. I said, 'Dad, we have to do this over.' And then he said, 'Geez, do we have to do this again? Can't we do it later on?' I said, 'No, here's your choice. You can either come back to the studio at 2 a.m and voice it over, or you can do it right now.' He said, 'No, no, no, let's do it right now."
Curt Gowdy, the legendary sportscaster, passed away in 2006, but he's still very much a part of his son's life. When Gowdy, Jr. introduces himself or presents his identification, there are compliments and nice stories about his father that come back his way. By working in sports television, he gets to honor his father's legacy and continue to live the life he always dreamed of.
"The greatest thing about it, is just waking up and going to work every day," he said. "It's a business that changes daily and sometimes by the minute. That's the great thing about being in sports television. It's all unscripted and there's a surprise every day. You don't know what that surprise is going to be and that's the joy of going to work every day."
Gowdy, Jr. commutes to Manhattan every day from which he and his family have called home since 1989, "When we first drove into town, we said, 'This is it'. It just had a real special feel about it. It's never lost it's charm, which is great. The primary reason we moved here was because of the school system. My two oldest daughters graduated from the and our youngest daughter is a freshman there now. New Canaan has been great for us."