It's the agony of grief for sports fans.

Jim McKay, the esteemed sportscaster who hosted ABC's popular Wide World of Sports for over 40 years and whose haunting coverage of the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics etched itself in American consciousness, died Saturday at his farm in Monkton, Md. He was 86.

According to a statement released to ESPN by his family, McKay died of natural causes, ironically on the same day that his favorite sport, horseracing, was to hold one of its signature events, the Belmont Stakes, with Big Brown seeking to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years.

"There are no superlatives that can adequately honor Jim McKay. He meant so much to so many people. He was a founding father of sports television, one of the most respected commentators in the history of broadcasting and journalism," ESPN and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer said.

In 1961, the iconic commentator was hired as the emcee of Wide World of Sports and quickly became known for his low-key, stately voice that graced the introduction of the Saturday afternoon broadcast and whose "the thrill of victory...and the agony of defeat" became a national catchphrase.

McKay , who was born James Kenneth McManus, was the first television sports journalist to win an Emmy. He wound up with 13 trophies in all, one of them in the news category for his grim narration of the tragedy at Munich, when Palestinian terrorists took hostage 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and massacred them during a bungled rescue attempt.

In 1990, he received the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences inaugural Lifetime Achievement in Sports Award for his six-decade career. McKay's well-stocked trophy cabinet also featured and the George Polk Memorial Award in 1972 and the prestigious Peabody Award.

McKay narrated some of the sports world's seminal contests: car racing's Indianapolis 500, golf's British Open, soccer's World Cup, the Kentucky Derby and 12—count 'em 12!—summer and winter Olympic games, including coverage of gymnastics, skiing, track and field, and figure skating.

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