From Radio To Film
A native of New York City, Greenspan began his career in 1940s radio. By the age of twenty-one, he was sports director at WMGM, then the nation's largest sports station, producing pregame and postgame shows, interview shows, and live play-by-play. Turning his attention to writing, Greenspan wrote hundreds of articles sold to major U.S. publications, including Parade. Greenspan was also drawn to the emerging medium of television, beginning as a producer in 1959. He worked his way up to the post of creative television supervisor in 1968, after which Greenspan founded his own production company.
Greenspan attended the 1952 Olympic summer games in Helsinki, Finland, as a sportswriter; impulsively, he hired a Finnish film crew to shoot some footage. "He brought it home, edited it down to 15 minutes, and sold it as a short," according to Klein. He has been to virtually every Olympics since then, and has filmed most of them.
By the 1960s Greenspan was marketing feature-length sports films. One early effort, Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin, chronicled the famed African-American track-and-field star who showed up German chancellor Adolf Hitler's "master race" theory by sweeping the 1936 summer games in Munich. Though filmed in 1964,
Jesse Owens was not screened on American television until 1972—typical of Greenspan productions, which are often considered too slowly paced for mass audiences. Another documentary of that era, The Glory of Their Times, was likewise rejected by networks as "too lowkey." Rather than submit to the networks' request to edit the film, Greenspan repurchased the rights to his production and waited another eight years until the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) ran the film uncut in 1977.