Friday, November 24, 2006

You Read It. Now You Have to Comment.

---Who Do You Love?---

This is a question I've been pondering since shortly after I decided I eventually want to end up in sports talk radio: Is there a sports talk show host/play-by-play man/anchor that is universally loved? That isn't over 55?

Nationally speaking, Howard Cosell, in life as well as in death, is considered by many to be one of the best ever, despite a very staccato delivery. Dick Enberg was a member of the elite for a long time, and only now as he approaches the age of 72, has he been considered to be slipping a bit (a la Myron Cope). Al Michaels may actually be the king of sports commentator-ship. Many blogs and columns I have read have very little negative to say about him.

The ubiquitous Joe Buck seems to annoy most sports fans I've talked to. I don't know how much of that stems from the fact that he pops up like Bob Costas (another one who is often slammed) at the Olympics, and how much of it is from his over the top "disgust" at Randy Moss fake mooning a Lambeau Field crowd back when he was happier.

Viewers of last week's Steelers/Browns game were treated to the tandem of Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker. Mondesi's House thinks Gus Johnson needs to lay off the uppers. I think Steve Tasker is one of the reasons I hate ex-football players being allowed into broadcast booths. I mean, it's bad enough when Gus Johnson pronounces the Steelers Offensive Coordinator's last name "WISE - en - hunt", and when the CBS graphics department shows that Ben Roethlisberger's previous 4th quarter comeback drive was on 10/31/05 against BUF (sorry, guys. That was BAL). Throw Tasker into that fire, and you have someone who must have been trying to win a contest by saying "World Champion(s)" in relation to the Black and Gold no fewer than 8 times, and, my personal favorite, during the Steelers game-winning drive, saying, "The best case scenario is to score with no time left." Ok, I can roll with that. "The worst case would be...well...for something bad to happen."

He gets paid for these pearls.

Joe Theismann is regularly denigrated by the public at large (I can't say I disagree most of the time), and Joe Morgan of baseball has a popular website against his vocation (mostly in name, but they come around to address him often enough).

Turning the crosshairs, locally, most Pittsburgh commentators/reporters/hosts are constantly under fire. Without further deliberation, it would seem that a lot of that has to do with armchair broadcasters who think they could do better jobs. Heck, that's what started my foray into this whole thing.

Whether it be slamming ESPN 1250's Mark Madden for insulting his callers more than he talks sports, falling asleep to the Tim Benz/Joe Bendel bore-fest, wondering where the job listing for "Penguins Hockey TV Play-by-Play Man" was posted, or wanting to throw John Fedko out of a window for being extremely positive about the Steelers' playoff chances following a 2-6 start, there's a constant barrage of discontent with regards to the official Pittsburgh sports media.

Even I, a fledgling sports talk host/columnist at a fringe station in the Pittsburgh market with a fairly obscure blog, find "haters". I guess because my interview with Trenni Kusnierek did not include the words "Jello" and "Wrestling", I failed to provide an interesting biopic.

---Is this ad for a Contest or Mugging?

I've read everything from, "These guys will essentially call you stupid for sticking with a team that's had 14 consecutive losing seasons, then turn around and call you fairweather when you turn your back" to "Knowledge of sports should be a requisite for working in the business."

Nationally, I still like Enberg and Michaels. They have a way of staying both excited and objective no matter who's playing, or by how much.

Brent Musberger is also a rock, similarly objective and exciting. During football, he also is good about letting you know which players leave and enter the field.

Jim Nantz has acquitted himself better and better as the years go by. His usual broadcast partner, while better than 10 years ago, still leaves much to be desired, and can sometimes "cramp his style."

Mike and Mike. Particularly Golic. But their on-air chemistry is tops as much as Greeney can sound like a whiny puss-boy and has a tendency to get away from sports (interviewing "The Wiggles"? You kidding?). Chicago has an evening drive team "Mac, Jurko, and Harry," for whom I can say the same thing. Not always the best sports talk, but at least they never stress you out listening to them.

Locally, especially on radio, Pittsburgh is blessed with excellent play-by-play men. Mike Lange is the best hockey commentator, possibly on Earth. Folks out there make fun of his love for the bottle, but, especially since he's been sent to radio, his focus on the game is great, and his goal-calling is unmatched. "Hop in the cordova, baby. We're goin' bowling!"

Lanny Frattere is another stalwart. Not only because he's remained upbeat (on the air, anyway) about the Pirates through their futility streak, but because he virtually knows the entire history of the team. As days go by, you know this he's a dying breed. Steve Blass and Bob Walk are also more than competent color guys.

Bill Hillgrove. I used to mute the television and turn him up during Steeler games, and not just because of the "homerism", but because he was just that much better than whichever national guy was doing the game. After moving to Chicago, I didn't have this option, so I got out of the habit. Now with the weird delay times between TV and Radio, it's hard to watch like that.

Admittedly, I can't think of a local TV anchor that I'd consider "important" to the Pittsburgh sports scene. The best ones just tend to do their jobs, in my opinion. There's not much that sets them apart. I don't even hate Sally Wiggin when she does the Steelers pre- and post-game thing which seems to get under most Pittsburghers' skins. Of course, those that try to set themselves apart, usually do so in a negative light (Pompeani, Fedko).

So, guys, who do you love? And more importantly, why? If you've read this whole thing, you are now required to sound off on this. Just your thumbs-up votes for those broadcasters, etc, who are currently working in the national or local venues, television or radio (the list for "thumbs-downs" can get long).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t think there are any beloved announcers anymore. Look at Fox’s “A team” and ESPN’s Monday Night Football team. Joe Buck and Joe Theismann are probably the two most universally hated announcers, but both have great job. Joe Buck gets all of Fox’s good games on Sunday, and Theismann gets to somehow keep his job at ESPN and now works at the one of the best broadcasting jobs. How, I do not know. Obviously someone high up at those networks must like them, because most avid sports fans hate both of them.

ON Thanksgiving, I was watching a high school football game between Easton and Phillipsburg on ESPN 2. I don’t remember their names, but I was surprised and impressed by what they knew. They really did their homework for that game. I live around that area, so I know about all of the good local players, and these guys knew all of their stats and other, more personal stuff about them. I’m really surprised that they were only broadcasting a high school football game, because these guys were better than just about any broadcasting pair, or trio, that I’ve seen in a long time.

12/02/2006 12:07 AM  
Anonymous thejim said...

I really hate to admit this, but I thought Jesse Palmer did a good job as a color commentator last Sunday. Usually, like most fans, I hate former players in that role, but Palmer seems like he's not so far gone from actually playing in the league that he's totally disconnected.

Locally, I like Tim Benz but admit that his show is like the antithesis of Red Bull. I also like Stan Savran and Guy Junker as neither of them seems to "homer" for Pittsburgh and are as objective as possible when it comes to Pittsburgh sports.

I also would love to chart how many times Hillgrove says "out of the gun, sidecar right, Steelers show blitz" in a season. I'm betting my pen would run out of ink.

12/05/2006 11:20 AM  

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