Home » This Season is the Last for REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL: The End of an Era

This Season is the Last for REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL: The End of an Era

by Jef Dinsmore
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Wow, one of the foundation stones of HBO, after 29 seasons, is wrapping it up. REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL has decided to end production.  

Regarding the final installment, an official press release states –

HBO’s REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL will conclude with a 90-minute retrospective of its 29 seasons of storytelling on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19 (10:00-11:30 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO and will be available to stream on Max. The final episode highlights segments from over 1,100 extraordinary stories, reported from nearly 70 different countries across the seven continents. Gumbel, along with veteran correspondents Mary Carillo, Jon Frankel, Soledad O’Brien, Andrea Kremer, and David Scott reflect on segments that transcended the world of sports and centered on the costs of modern sport, holding power to account, the resilience of athletes who defied unthinkable challenges and the innumerable personalities that made lasting impressions over the nearly three decades of the program. 

To the matter Bryant Gumbel states, “Since Day 1 at Real Sports, we’ve consistently tried to look beyond the scoreboard and focus instead on the many societal issues inherent in the world of sports. In the process, we’ve had the opportunity to tell complex stories about race, gender, class, opportunity and so much more. Being able to do so at HBO for almost 3 decades has been very gratifying. I’m proud of the imprint we’ve made, so I’m ready to turn the page. Although goodbyes are never easy, I’ve decided that now’s the time to move on.”   

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From its start on April 02, 1995, to its December 19, 2023, installment, it racks up a total of 320 episodes with three or four segments per show. The current correspondents are Mary Carillo, Jon Frankel, Andrea Kremer, Soledad O’Brien, David Scott, Carl Quintanilla, Kavitha Davidson and Ariel Helwani. Previous contributors over the years included former correspondents James Brown, Bryan Burwell, Frank Deford, Jim Lampley, Sonja Steptoe, Lesley Visser, Armen Keteyian and Bernard Goldberg. And in that time, they’ve covered stories about every sport from tiddley-winks to extreme surfboarding.  

That very first episode talked about Major League Baseball’s labor woes of the time, Billy Crystal on his love of sports and sports memorabilia and a profile of basketballer Dennis Rodman. Just recently they had a Special ‘Dogs & Sports’ Edition: Unique program teaches the very best guide dogs how to run with people who’ve lose their sight; the Iditarod’s legendary Mackey family whose love of dog mushing has both brought them together and torn them apart; an inside look at the training of some of the most athletic and accomplished dogs in the world of elite dog sports. Also recently covered were such topics as the pressure placed on NFL kickers, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay on his addiction, and Ukrainian athletes.  

This post now heralds the final installment of this award-winning sports journalism show and it will be missed. Casey Bloys, Chairman and CEO, HBO and Max Content, said: “For 29 seasons, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel has delivered a masterclass in sports storytelling. … As the longest-running HBO series, Bryant and his Real Sports team have long been a cornerstone of HBO programming. The series will continue to resonate in the realm of sports journalism, and we are so proud to have been part of such a remarkable odyssey.” 

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The end of an HBO era indeed. The series has earned 37 Sports Emmys, and three Peabody Awards and Gumbel has earned Lifetime Achievement awards for his time at the helm. Plus, the show has broken some of the biggest stories in sports: exposing a child slavery ring, investigating the International Olympic Committee and revealing that Shaquille O’Neal made more money per year from endorsements than from the NBA. REAL SPORTS was a well thought out and orchestrated journalistic endeavor that had no rival. Even though the fictionalized works of quality HBO has had over the years always took the spotlight, REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL was a steadfast anchor for the service and for HBO Sports; holding strong even after HBO Boxing shuttered.   

Soon the only programming left at HBO Sports will be the HARD KNOCK shows. I hope Bryant Gumbel did indeed decide to throw in the towel because he was ready to close this chapter. I hope that WBD didn’t break him. Speaking of which, if you want to see past installments of the sports series, you’ll only find the current People_BryantGumbel-2023-300x266season and 2022’s shows on WBD’s Max. I know, I know, I am tired of bitching about Zaslav’s treatment of the HBO brand, too. This pretty much ends HBO Sports as we know it. But on a more positive note, we learned via Jane Pauley, Gumbel’s one-time Today show co-host, that he indeed left on his terms. He told her on CBS, “Nothing happened, other than I knew my contract was coming out, it was ending, and I had to ask myself, Did I want to do another three years? Could I do another three years? And the answer was, probably not. My heart wouldn’t be in it. I’m OK with that. I’m at peace with it.” 

And so we have to be at peace with that as well. It is the end of an HBO era with the absence of Gumbel, his team, and their show. Thank you, REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL – it was a pleasure. With you, we felt like we got a real inside look at real sports from the big games on the world market to the little sports like tiddly-winks and pickleball and the real people behind each and every one of them. Thank you.    

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