By Steve Farhood
My best friend died today, and I’m surprised at what saddens
me more than anything else: that more people didn’t have the
opportunity to know Nick Charles.
Diagnosed with stage four bladder cancer two years ago, Nick
passed away Friday night at his home in Santa Fe, New
Mexico. His wife Cory and five-year-old daughter Giovanna
were at his side. He is also survived by his children from
previous marriages, son Jason and daughters Melissa and
Nick was five days shy of his 65th birthday.
I suppose that one man’s life is no more significant than
another’s, but to deny that Nick was special would be
foolish. Nick often said that you judge a man by how he
treats someone who can do nothing for him. He was generous
of spirit and overflowing with life, and if you spent five
minutes with him, chances are it was an impressionable, if
not meaningful, encounter.
Born Nicholas Charles Nickeas, Nick was the son of a Chicago
cab driver. He drove a cab himself while attending Columbia
College Chicago and years later would identify with boxers
who had lifted themselves from humble beginnings.
He was the very embodiment of a self-made man, a man’s man,
and a good man.
A perfect set of pipes and the best hair in the business
undoubtedly helped Nick succeed in television, but his
warmth, which viewers instantly felt, and his natural
curiosity, which they instantly sensed, separated him from
most other broadcasters.
Nick’s first job came in 1970 at a television station in
Springfield, Illinois. In addition to covering sports, he
taped weekly farm reports. During one live shot, a wolf
urinated on his leg.
No, I can’t imagine either.
Next came a quick ascension: sports anchor jobs in Baltimore
and Washington, D.C., and in June 1980, a move to Atlanta,
where Nick helped launch CNN. He and co-anchor Fred Hickman
were daily presences for 17 years. Their chemistry was
Nick worked everything from the World Series and the
Kentucky Derby to the Goodwill Games in Moscow and the big
fights in Vegas. He did roadwork with Ali and became a
confidant of George Steinbrenner. His favorite sports were
boxing and horse racing, which proves that he had taste as
well as talent. But to define Nick by his work in sports is
ridiculously narrow. He was a world traveler; his knowledge
of subjects as diverse as dogs, economics, cooking, and
classical music was comprehensive; and then there was wine.
He talked about it, shopped for it, and drank it with
I can’t recall how many hours I spent by his side while he
painstakingly searched for a top-level Cabernet during
boxing stops in New Town, North Dakota, Concho, Oklahoma, or
Sault St. Marie, Michigan.
I began working with Nick at CNN in the mid-‘90s. In 2001,
we were teamed as broadcasters for the new “ShoBox” series
on Showtime. It took him about a show-and-a-half to become
one of the best blow-by-blow announcers the sport has ever
Nick’s enthusiasm and energy made every show seem like our
first. He was never happier than when ringside.
Nick lived a public life, so perhaps it was fitting that he
chose to battle cancer in front of the cameras. His message
was a simple one: We’re all going to die. Until that
happens, keep doing what makes you happy, focus on the short
term, and love those closest to you with all your heart.
In all our conversations, I never heard Nick once say he was
scared to die. His spirituality gave him comfort, and his
grace gave it to others. At the end, Cory told me he looked
better than at any point since his diagnosis. There can be
only one explanation for that: He was truly at peace.
During his battle with cancer, Nick recorded video diaries
for Giovanna, to be played once a year on her birthdays. In
time, she’ll realize what a lucky girl she was to have Nick
as a father.
I already know how lucky I was to have him as a friend.
If there was a lesson we all learned from Nick during his
courageous battle, it was to embrace life no matter how dire
the circumstances. Nick’s motto was “Love what you’re
In keeping with that, Nick and Cory designated the charity
World Vision and TEACH NOW to make donations in Nick’s
To donate online, please click on this link: