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Who's Marty Glickman? New HBO documentary will tell you

Marty Glickman in the HBO documentary "Glickman."

Marty Glickman in the HBO documentary "Glickman." Credit: HBO

James Freedman said he had a simple motivation in writing, producing and directing "Glickman," the documentary that premieres at 9 p.m. Monday on HBO: wider recognition for the film's subject.

He said when he left his native New York and moved to the Midwest and later California and would tell people that as a high school senior he produced Marty Glickman's WNEW radio show he often would hear, "Who's Marty Glickman?"

"It stunned me that outside of New York he was known by very few people, and I always felt if I could remedy that with this film, just a little, it would have been a success," Freedman said Saturday night during a panel discussion that followed a reception and screening in Manhattan to celebrate the film and the new Newhouse Sports Media Center at Syracuse.

"That's how I feel. I always knew this story was so incredible, I knew I would sell this. I never dreamed [executive producer Martin] Scorsese would get involved. But I wanted his story told."

Freedman does so in an elegant 75-minute account during which he intentionally followed the Glickman mantra of succinctness, paring the narration to its essential parts.

The story takes Glickman from being denied his rightful place in the 1936 Olympic 4x100-meter relay through his days as a Syracuse football star and as a pioneering sportscaster who invented much of the terminology of basketball and began the college's pipeline into that profession. (He died in 2001.)

He mentored and/or inspired the likes of fellow Syracuse alums Marv Albert, Bob Costas, Mike Tirico, Dick Stockton, Len Berman and Sean McDonough, many of whom joined a Syracuse-dominated audience of luminaries Saturday. (Costas was awarded the first "Marty" award by the Newhouse School, named in Glickman's honor.)

Glickman's influence extended far beyond central New York, though, notably to Fordham and its own roster of sportscasting stars such as Mike Breen and Bob Papa.

Although there are many compelling talking heads in the documentary, including archival interviews with Glickman himself, it is the trove of still and moving images that stand out, including a snippet of Glickman arriving in Berlin with the Olympic team that Freedman said caused him to "go nuts" when it was found on old newsreels.

The film is sure to be of interest to New York sports fans of a certain age and to sports media professionals of any age. But the hope -- and, frankly, the challenge -- for Freedman's work will be to attract the interest of viewers outside Glickman's home territory.

"There was no ego at all," Costas said, recalling Glickman's work as a coach of younger broadcasters. "When people in our profession have just a little ego and just a little pretense, that's noteworthy. In his case, none at all. He honestly wanted you to be as good as you could possibly be. He reveled in our success.

"It was never about him except to the extent that he wanted to impart whatever his own experiences had led him to know and he wanted to share it with you."

New York Sports