Dick Ebersol, the real man beyond the business guy

May 20, 2011, 11:55 PM UTC

It’s a stunner that Dick Ebersol quit NBC Universal yesterday. The man who ran NBC Sports for 22 years. The King of the Olympics. The guy who hired Lorne Michaels, who created Saturday Night Live. Ebersol produced SNL during a short stint outside sports entertainment — and got the girl when actress Susan Saint James hosted the show. They fell in love and married.

None of that drama, though, compares to the tragedy of losing their youngest son, 14-year-old Teddy, in a plane crash in Colorado in 2004. Ebersol himself survived the accident and recovered (if you can call it that) from the loss of his son in part by raising his game: He won the broadcast rights, at a cost of $3.6 billion, for NBC and delivered Sunday Night Football, which has buoyed the troubled broadcast network these past few years.

If you want a sense of Dick Ebersol, the real human being, read my 2006 Fortune profile, “Playing with pain.”