Yesterday, former NFL analyst Irv Cross died at the age of 81. Now, to our younger readers, that name may not ring any bells, but if you are of a certain age, Irv’s name seems familiar. Without a doubt, nothing of what you see on television right now, in regards to the NFL would be possible without Irv Cross. If you are Black and working in media, Irv Cross is the patron saint of what you want to accomplish, the standard by which we are all measured.
After a stellar career with the Philadelphia Eagles and LA Rams, Cross moved onto TV. In 1971, he became the first Black sports analyst on a national show. With the premiere of the NFL Today three years later, Cross again stood on the pedestal of history. For the first time, a live pregame show took to the airwaves. More importantly, a Black man co-hosted. In a league consisting of an overwhelming number of Black men, one sat in the studio, breaking down games. In retrospect, this needed to be a much bigger deal. Yet, flash and attention didn’t fit Cross’ style. He preferred a straight-ahead, direct, game focus.
Watching the NFL Today, I saw him, when I was a child. My father, who never loved football would watch. Yet, he sat there, every Sunday to watch Mr. Cross breakdown film. As my fandom and interest in the analyst side of the game grew, Irv Cross’ accomplishments never fell too far out of my mind. While he was not praised as a trailblazer, he carved a path for so many TV personalities that you see today.
Everyone knows at least one bigot. Irv Cross worked alongside one. Jimmy ” The Greek” Snyder, the NFL Today’s resident gambler/handicapper decided to air his feelings on the Black athlete. Now, we aren’t privy to what occurred behind the scenes, but if Snyder proclaimed this aloud, what did he say during breaks?
Eternal Thank You
As I sit here, writing this piece, I owe him a debt of gratitude. A pioneer, he kicked the door down for Black journalists and analysts behind him. Instead of being considered just athletes, our viewpoints merit respect. Every writer, TV analyst, and podcast host that shares a similar skin tone to Mr.Cross, needs to thank him. CBS took a chance, a flyer, from which, every one of us, over the last fifty years benefits from. Irv Cross died quietly in his Roseville Minnesota home yesterday. Yet, from my heart, I offer my condolences and thanks. Rest well, Mr.Cross. Even the clowns in the business need to thank him.