(thanks to Jason Cohen for the link)

From the Washington Post’s John Maynard :

George Michael, the dean of local sports broadcasters, who’s been with WRC (Channel 4) since 1980, will leave the sports anchor desk early next year, the station announced yesterday.

Michael said he rejected a new contract after he learned that some of his staff members would be laid off as part of larger moves by parent company NBC Universal.

“NBC made me an extremely, extremely beyond-my-wildest-dreams offer to stay and sign a new deal,” Michael, 67, said by phone yesterday. But he added: “If I have to lay somebody off . . . I have to take the first bullet. It’s that simple.”

Michael’s last day as a daily anchor will be March 1, although he will continue to host weekend sports panel shows. “George Michael Sports Machine,” which went into national syndication in 1984, will go off the air in March.

Michael’s departure from the desk will mark the breakup of Washington’s longest-serving and often top-rated news team; Michael, Jim Vance, Doreen Gentzler and weatherman Bob Ryan have been together since 1989.

Michael introduced the local, late-night “George Michael’s Sports Final” in 1980; the highlights show evolved four years later into the syndicated “Sports Machine.”

From early on, Michael made liberal use of the highlights reel. As sportswriter Norman Chad wrote in The Washington Post in 1985: “He’s the only guy in town who can show you five minutes of tape in a four-minute sportscast.”

Once upon a time, cable TV was unavailable in large chunks of lower Manhattan and Queens (thank you, Donald Manes), and as such, rather than bask in the dulcet tones of the young (well, younger) Chris Berman on a late Sunday night, Michael’s “Sports Machine” was the only game in town for the highlights-starved.