Robin Roberts Returns to ‘Good Morning America’


“Now,” Robin Roberts said to the staff of her top-rated morning show, “Good Morning America,” right after it wrapped on Wednesday, “we can resume regular programming.”

Ms. Roberts had just made a television comeback unlike any other, as a host of the program for the first time since she was forced to leave it in August to fight a life-threatening illness. The return, promoted two weeks ahead of time by ABC, was celebrated by fans, tens of thousands of whom sent well-wishes on social networking sites. Many of them watch the program specifically for Ms. Roberts, who is, according to industry research, the most-liked host on any American morning news program by a wide margin.

On Wednesday it was obvious why. She beamed with pride and gratitude as she returned to the broadcast, defying the expectations of some in the television industry who had predicted she would be unwilling or unable to anchor again.

The broadcast gave ABC fresh optimism that “Good Morning America,” with Ms. Roberts, 52, back in her chair, can continue to beat NBC’s “Today,” which last year was dislodged from the top spot in the morning ratings after 16 straight years.

Most of all it closed a chapter in a story that started almost exactly one year ago, when Ms. Roberts felt exhausted while covering the 2012 Academy Awards in Los Angeles for ABC. Subsequent tests by her doctors found that she had myelodysplastic syndromes, known as M.D.S., a rare and debilitating blood disorder, most likely resulting from her treatment for breast cancer five years earlier.

After taking a leave in August she underwent a bone-marrow transplant in September. Back then Ms. Roberts told viewers she’d return to “Good Morning America” as soon as she could. But no one knew for sure how long she would be away, if she survived at all. Nor could anyone at ABC think of any precedents for a leave like hers. “There was no handbook for this, but I’m very pleased with how we handled it,” Ms. Roberts said in an interview after Wednesday’s broadcast.

The closest things to precedents were weeks-long maternity leaves, and the one thing ABC was determined not to repeat: a departure like that of Peter Jennings, the longtime “World News Tonight” anchor who abruptly came onto his newscast one day in April 2005, announced he had lung cancer, said, “I will continue to do the broadcast,” and never came back.

Jennings died four months after making the announcement, and the circumstances were traumatic for viewers as well as for ABC staff members. For that reason — as well as for the more obvious ones involving ratings and reputation — ABC decided to make Ms. Roberts a part of the show even while she was in the hospital recuperating from the transplant.

George Stephanopoulos and the other co-hosts mentioned her by name at least once every half-hour, and they shared her Twitter messages and photos on TV regularly. On Wednesday everyone involved emphasized that she was returning now only because her doctors say she is ready.

Nonetheless morning TV is big business, so there were grumblings that ABC had exploited her condition for ratings gains. Last July, two weeks after NBC removed Ann Curry from “Today,”spurring a big lift in the ratings for “Good Morning America,” the “Today” executive producer Jim Bell wrote in an e-mail to senior producers that the competition was “using Robin’s illness and the accompanying public interest in her health as a new weapon in its arsenal.”

More recently some media critics have censured the show for overcovering Ms. Roberts’s impending return. But if online chatter is any indication, that sentiment wasn’t widely shared by the viewers who have been rooting for Ms. Roberts and for her television family, which remained firmly No. 1 among total viewers while she was away. But among the 25- to 54-year-old viewers that help the shows make money, “Good Morning America” stayed only slightly ahead of “Today,” and within ABC, there is a quiet hope that Ms. Roberts’ return will propel the program forward.

Ben Sherwood, the president of ABC News, ducked questions about the ratings on Wednesday but said, “This experience has reminded us to take nothing for granted, and, like Robin herself, in many ways we feel like we’re just getting started.”

He also said, “After 173 very long days, it’s beautiful to get back to business as usual with our full team and two more wonderful regulars.” By “regulars” he meant Elizabeth Vargas and Amy Robach, who took turns filling in while Ms. Roberts was away. They will continue to show up frequently on the program, he said, in part because Ms. Roberts is not yet back at full strength. She’ll re-emerge gradually, for a few days a week at first, depending on how she and how her doctors feel about her progress. At least one thing is certain: she will be back in Los Angeles to cover the Academy Awards this weekend.

Mr. Sherwood, when asked if Ms. Roberts would ever return to a five-day-a-week schedule, observed that she’s an athlete first and foremost (a star college basketball player and former ESPN sportscaster) who “wants to play every day.” He added, “I think nothing would make Robin happier than getting back to five days a week.”

Even the most cynical “Good Morning” producers — who requested anonymity because they were not authorized by the network to speak — pointed out that Ms. Roberts’s story could have ended very differently. “It doesn’t matter about ratings” on Wednesday, one such producer said in between emotional expletives. “She is alive!”

Interviewed by People magazine, which put her on its cover last week, Ms. Roberts said she was warned that “at one point I would feel like dying.” Shortly after the transplant, that came true, she said: “I was in a pain I had never experienced before, physically and mentally. I was in a comalike state. I truly felt like I was slipping away. Then I kept hearing, ‘Robin! Robin!’ ” The voice belonged to a nurse, who was “pleading for me to stay here,” Ms. Roberts said. “And thankfully I did. I came back.”

Ms. Roberts said she didn’t feel especially tired after her two-hour hosting blitz on Wednesday. She did notice some problems with her vision, however, since she had not been under the bright studio lights for such an extended period since August.

Her return was even cause for a temporary cessation of hostilities between “Today” and “Good Morning America.” “Today” sent a gift basket to the ABC studio and welcomed Ms. Roberts back during its 8 a.m. hour.

Don Nash, who succeeded Mr. Bell as executive producer of “Today” two months ago, said in an e-mail on Tuesday night, “All of us at ‘Today’ wish her continued good health and years of hitting the 3 a.m. snooze button!” 

Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan lift U.S. to gold

A year ago, the U.S. women lost to Japan in the World Cup final in a shootout.

On Thursday evening, the Americans won the gold medal, beating the same Japanese team 2-1 in front of 80,203 fans in the fact that the temple of football, Wembley Stadium.

Here are three consecutive gold medals for Team USA and four in five Olympics since women's soccer debut. Gold are great, but a victory in Beijing four years ago was not the game that inspired Americans. It was that goiter sticking out losses in Japan.

The Americans needed to get better, and they did.

What's the difference?

Carli Lloyd, for example. Lloyd was to the south, until shortly before the Olympics when Shannon Boxx was injured. Lloyd scored two goals Thursday.

Alex Morgan, for another. Morgan, a former Cal star, was a super sub at the world championships last year. She scored one of the goals in the final 2.2, allowing the U.S. a chance to penalty kicks tiebreaker. But it was to the south.

Lloyd Morgan, and hated not start. Hated it. They kept their mouths shut and worked harder.

"When Boxx went down, I knew that a lot of work," said Lloyd. "I had to take a moment."

Morgan, 23, whose teammates call her Baby Horse, when she joined the team, champed at the bit. In the end, she just can not stay out of turn. While it's great that the patchwork south, the power of the Morgan and instinct are something you need on the field from the outset. As in eight minutes on Thursday.

"She has a gift," the coach Pia Sundhage explained.

Veteran star Abby Wambach Morgan pulled away not so long ago, and told her that she was the top scorer with Wambach played with great Mia Hamm.

Morgan, a sturdy 5-foot-7, brought her a gift to these Olympics. She won the title in the 123 th minute against Canada on Monday to send Americans to the title game.

On Thursday, Morgan did not have a goal, but it was a brilliant account of orders in the first game.

The Americans returned is happening in this tournament. They came from behind three times to beat Canada, and a knife in their game, they came from 2-0 to beat France. Dramatic, perfect for fans, but certainly not what the Americans wanted to do against Japan, a much more dangerous and ruthless team than any of the five they had previously failed.

Cue Morgan. In eight minutes, Tobin Heath brought the ball to the far left side of the line and Morgan, on the opposite side of the field, rushed towards the Heath, beat her defender and set on a low block.

Heath turned the ball into Morgan, who snapped up their right to the left leg, spun it right and sent the ball on the field. Wambach was there and hit the volleyball pass, but Lloyd clipped and headed missiles at a target.

"After I got that pass from Tobin," Morgan said, "I was just trying to get it in the mixer, from the keeper enough where it will stay on the line .... I tried to fake my counsel ....

"I've left foot, so twist your body in any way to get my left foot on the ball. I knew that I wanted to get it from the keeper enough where it does not come and hit him."

Password: the perfect angle, perfect height, perfect target velocity.

Lloyd was a clever game of aggression. She knew that Morgan is likely to send the ball into play through the window, so she was attacked from the outside, throwing the ball in the head almost upside Wambach.

"I was ready for it in one gulp," Wambach said, "but it may have left my feet at the wrong angle, and here comes Carly. I would be heading Carly every day."

A year ago, Lloyd missed a penalty kick in the tiebreaker against Japan and it was a year to think about getting even.

On her second goal on Thursday, largely Lloyd authorities drove the middle of the defense of Japan, has got a fair distance, and fired. This was tantamount to an attack, and LeBron James dunk - Power, aggression and self-confidence.

"What I do best," Lloyd shrugged "is dribbling the players, with the space and take pictures from a distance. I'm dribbling and I do not think about it and just unleashed a shot, and saw that enter"

Long-time team of stars Wambach and Solo goalkeeper Hope came huge.

Wambach was the leader, calling his fellows to play through fatigue, pounding her chest and shouting at them in the last minute suck it up: "Well, guys, we're all tired."

Solo, mainly through the untested tournament until Thursday, made three sensational savings, including two aimed shots to the right under the crossbar. It helps to be seven feet tall. Or, to be able to jump as if you are.

The old stars were shining, but they could not have done it without the new children's block.

Alex Morgan saves the day, sends U.S. to final vs. Japan

Three times, Christine Sinclair gave Canada and the lead three times in the football team returned to the U.S. women. Then, in the 123rd minute, Alex Morgan became an Olympic hero with a great title after defeating Canada 4-3, and sending every American watching in hysterics.

What I liked about the game after an interview with Morgan, NBC Sports, youth and her emotions show, and she was talking about Japan. Everything on the football team in the U.S. women at heart, probably would encounter in Japan created a rematch against the team that beat them in the 2011 World Cup final with a penalty.

The last time Canada beat Team USA women, Alex Morgan was eleven years old. Title Morgan came seconds before the second overtime was drawing to an end. The match was so back and fourth, watching the penalty would have been excruciating. I can not say that we would have won if he went to penalty kicks, Canada, of course, the best opponent of the U.S. team faced so far in the London Olympics.

Canada meets the U.S. speed team and they had surgery, they stuck to the passage of the strip. Team USA dominated play early, but created few scoring opportunities.

Christine Sinclair, Canada should be the most disappointed Olympic champion in London right now. Surprisingly, Sinclair notched a hat trick and three goals in regulation were the most against the Americans in May 2008.

There were moments in the semifinals, when Sinclair suddenly appear behind all the American defenders. She was the most aggressive player I've seen in the tournament, perhaps second only to Abby Wambach who had a goal. It was the fifth goal in five matches Wambach in the tournament.

It will be interesting to see how Hope Solo recovered from the fact that its weak performance so far in the Olympics. That's Christine Sinclair against Hope Solo, and Sinclair clearly won ... Performance wise, but not on the scoreboard. You can not put it all on the solos, though, especially in the third assessment of Sinclair, who was only a title that has penetrated into the left-hand post.

This was an epic semi-final. Canada is going home with a loss, but they pushed the U.S. team on the verge of exhausting and just came up short. Megan Rapinoe, with its bending a corner kick in the 55th and 30 in the basement of the 71st, was a sensation in America. She deserves to NBC Sports after the interview. NBC was just talking to Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan.

Something tells me that winning the title of Morgan is just the beginning of a long line of incredible moments, it will have been an exceptional career.