Ed Goren, Vice Chairman, FOX Sports Media Group
Ed Goren HOF Speech
When he was 3 years old, Ed Goren went to spring training in Havana, Cuba, with Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers. A few years later, he got to show off his Little Leaguer skills on the Dodgers' pregame TV show, Happy Felton's Knothole Gang.
These experiences and more were thanks to his father, Herb Goren, who covered sports for New York City daily The Sun and later ran publicity for hockey's New York Rangers.
With this kind of pedigree, you might think Ed Goren's path to becoming one of the most innovative and influential sports-television executives of the past 35 years was predetermined.
But starting his career in news-at the suggestion of his father, on graduation day at Syracuse University in 1966-is the move that Goren credits as key to his groundbreaking successes as a senior producer for CBS Sports and founding executive producer and later president of Fox Sports. "‘Before you go into sports, get a job in news and learn how to tell a story,'" Goren, now vice chairman of the Fox Sports Media Group, says his dad told him. "It was the best advice he ever gave me, because the greatest broadcasters, producers and directors in sports are all wonderful storytellers."
Out of college, Goren landed a job as a copyboy at CBS News, where he ran correspondents' reports and coffee to the likes of Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace. When an offer came to join then-CBS affiliate WTVJ Miami and work in the field as a newsman, even at a cut in pay, he jumped.
After Miami, Goren returned to New York as a producer for CBS' NewsNet service for affiliates. In 1975, CBS Sports President Bob Wussler hired Goren as a producer, reconnecting the now-savvy storyteller with his childhood passions. In nearly two decades at CBS Sports, Goren won 12 Emmy awards and produced telecasts of the Super Bowl, World Series, NCAA basketball tournament and The Masters.
The toughest assignment in his long run at CBS Sports, Goren says, was a trek up Mount Everest to film a primetime special on amateur climbers. Actually, the Everest ascent itself went pretty smoothly-it was the tryout that then-CBS Sports chief Barry Frank put Goren through beforehand that was a killer. "Barry says to me, ‘Are you in shape to do this film? What do you run the mile in?'" I said, ‘I don't.' I smoked a couple packs of Marlboro Reds a day, and on any given night I'm out having a few drinks. Barry insisted I race him around the Central Park Reservoir. I let him beat me by a few feet, and he told me to go pack a bag."
In January 1994, shortly after Rupert Murdoch outbid CBS for the NFL's NFC rights for his fledgling Fox network, Goren stole away from a CBS pre-Super Bowl production meeting in Dallas to fly to Los Angeles to interview with Fox Sports boss David Hill. Goren soon got the job as executive producer, and the two execs were together nearly round the clock for the next several months, hiring on-air talent such as John Madden and Jimmy Johnson and cooking up enhancements for viewers, including doubling camera coverage of NFL games (to eight), the Fox Box on-screen score graphic and those wacky whooshing audio bits.
"Ed Goren was the key hire by David Hill in those early days, because Ed brought tremendous levels of experience and credibility to a network sports division that was in its infancy," says Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys and a key member of the NFL's television committee for almost 20 years. "Fox Sports was not afraid to try new things."
"We have walked together every step of the way at Fox Sports," David Hill says of his longtime partner. "Ed has an amazing editorial eye, and I have never met anyone who could watch a sports broadcast and immediately determine its strengths and weaknesses as well as he does. He always puts the viewer first."
Many production ideas that ended up transforming how football is seen on television were scribbled on cocktail napkins during Goren and Hill's late-night dinners and barhops. One Goren idea that became a big hit with viewers: adding a mini football field to the Fox NFL pregame set so that show-and-tell-happy analyst Terry Bradshaw could demonstrate plays. A Goren brainstorm that failed miserably: having Hollywood celebrities hang out in a "skybox" in the studio and join in the pregame banter. "Forget A-listers-we couldn't get even a single B-list celebrity to wake up on a Sunday morning to come to the set at 7 a.m.," Goren recalls with a laugh.
In addition to the NFL, Goren has helmed Fox Sports' productions of NASCAR, the NHL and college football's Bowl Championship Series. But Major League Baseball, which Fox began broadcasting in 1996, remains closest to the heart of the former star first-baseman/outfielder for Jamaica High School in Queens, N.Y.
"Ed has a baseball background-he knows the game inside and out," says MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. "I have a profound respect for Ed as a person, and for his knowledge of the relationship between television and baseball."
Selig credits Goren as a major player in MLB's controversial 2003 move to make the All-Star Game more compelling for viewers by giving the winning league homefield advantage in the World Series. Goren says that the All-Stars had become lazy and needed incentive to play harder; since the change, All-Star Game ratings and ad rates have improved. "Ed was very outspoken that we needed to do it," Selig says. "This was something really different for baseball, and baseball doesn't always do different."
After 18 years leading production at Fox Sports, Goren plans to step down next spring to spend more time with his family (including his wife, Patty, and son, Greg) and explore other production projects. "It's time to get some balance in my life," says the 67-year-old Goren, who hopes to expand his charity work with Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and Stand Up to Cancer (Patty is a cancer survivor).
Running through all of Goren's vast body of work in sports TV is "his basic love of the games," says Jerry Jones. "Ed's passion for the action on the field and for the players is evident in his broadcasts, and his work reflects a fan's pleasure of being at the ballpark."
"This is the greatest job in the world," Goren says. "Every time you show up in the truck, there's an excitement. And you get an instant report card on your work every week-Was it a good show? What could we have done better? I am one lucky guy." -- Brian Moran