Taking a look at Chad Finn’s top big-event announcers

Something I had been considering doing for a while was looking at the national announcers and rating my top play-by-play men. Well, Chad Finn’s Friday column was just that, the top 10 big-event announcers. Here is his condensed list:

  1. Al Michaels (NBC; football)
  2. Joe Buck (Fox; football, baseball, golf)
  3. Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick (NBC; hockey)
  4. Mike Tirico (NBC; football, golf, Olympics, etc.)
  5. Sean McDonough (ESPN; Monday Night Football, college basketball)
  6. Kevin Harlan (CBS/Turner/Westwood One Radio; football, basketball)
  7. Jim Nantz (CBS; football, basketball, golf)
  8. Mike Breen (ESPN/ABC; basketball)
  9. Marv Albert (Turner; basketball)
  10. Kevin Burkhardt (Fox; football, baseball, golf)

I have no big issues with Finn’s list; his top three makes a lot of sense for me and definitely would be my as well. I would give the top nod to Buck, however, due to the breadth of his work and how his voice has that ‘big game’ feel and he has called the most goosebump-inducing of moments. His call in game 4 of the 2004 World Series is perfect, “back to Foulke, Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: The Boston Red Sox are World Champions!” and then gets out of the way. Unobtrusive, like it should be.

Emrick and Michaels both excel at what they do, despite having diminished roles in their later years. Emrick, who has an exquisite vocabulary, once used 153 different verbs to describe a pass in hockey. His excitement is unmatched. Michaels has the pedigree and the legacy. From calling the miracle on ice in 1980, he has had a long, storied career and has shown no signs of slowing down in his work on the marquee Sunday Night Football broadcast.

My one issue, which has been slowly brewing for a while, is Nantz on this list. Once one of my favorite announcers, Nantz has jumped the shark for me. He seems to think that he is a part of the moment more than he should have, for instance when he stepped all over Sergio Garcia’s winning putt just last week. Whether it be giving out ties in the NCAA tournament (who wants a freaking Nantz tie?!?!?) or pictures of how he likes his burnt toast in his wallet (seriously…), Nantz has started to bug me about how he wants to be the story. Also, in his calls he is very reserved and doesn’t seem to have a memorable moment or call, even in his high-profile gigs like the Master, NCAA Tournament and Super Bowl. To me, he’s just another voice, not worthy of even top 10 honors, despite his role.

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Tony Romo leaves NFL for CBS broadcasting booth

Once the punchline of NFL late-game interception jokes, Tony Romo has announced that he is leaving the NFL to take over the top analyst spot in the CBS broadcasting both next to Jim Nantz. While this may not be a Boston-specific story, I think this will have an impact on the Boston market for two reasons. First, the Patriots play a lot of games on CBS and as a perennial contender, they often draw the premier broadcast team and timeslot. Boston fans better be ready for the voice of Romo. Second, and less about media, it makes Jimmy Garoppolo an even more valuable commodity to sell for a higher price.

In looking at the changes to the booth, it is rare that you see a player step off the field and right into a high-profile broadcast spot. Pundits predicted that Peyton Manning was a candidate for this, but it never came to fruition. Additionally, it is such a change of tune from CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, who just last fall praised former top analyst Phil Simms, saying:

“Listening to it with a very critical ear, I think Phil is vastly underappreciated, and part of that is the overreaction to social media. If you listen to what he said during some of the biggest moments of the season—he was the first one to say if Denver won the Super Bowl, Von Miller would be MVP, and he was the first one to criticize Cam Newton for not jumping on his fumble toward the end of the game. He was on top of most of the storylines for most of the game, and that’s part of the reason we won the [Sports] Emmy [for Outstanding Live Sports Special]. I would just suggest that if people listen to Jim and Phil with an open mind, I think they would recognize what a good job they are doing.”

However, Simms has been brutal as a TV analyst in recent years, gaining notoriety for his babbling analysis that has its own faux-Twitter account with over 41,000 followers.

While I agree that Simms should be out as the top analyst, I’m not sure if Romo was the guy for the job. It is tough to step right into that top role, especially never having called a game before. It could also get particularly awkward if Romo does make a midseason return to the NFL, forcing CBS to return to the Nantz-Simms duo. However, nothing will ever top the Simms fart on the awkward scale.

Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham in hot water over Twitter use

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It all started with this since-deleted exchange. Out of nowhere, the Globe’s Pete Abraham calls a tweeter “Grand Wizard” aka the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, for implying that the Red Sox are better without David Price. As Abraham should know, deleting this tweet would not solve the problem because once you tweet something, it’s almost impossible to control. Since this tweet, Abraham has given a lame apology (seen below), but is still feeling the heat from the asinine tweet.

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Check the mentions of any Abraham tweet and it is filled with comments destroying his accusation that someone is racist because they don’t like David Price. The story is best chronicled by Jared Carrabis at Barstool Sports, where he goes through the story of Abraham and also his past experiences with Abraham, which frankly make Abraham look very insecure.

For me, I have heard from many accounts that Abraham is not the most pleasant person behind closed doors. However, my problem with this is using his high-profile position as a beat writer to constantly give the team the benefit of the doubt. In this case, the tweeter who said the Red Sox were “better without” David Price was almost definitely looking at his 3.99 ERA, worst since his rookie year, and the fact that he is making $31 million a year. Race notwithstanding, most fans are ticked off when a high paid player underachieves and especially when they are as sensitive on Twitter as David Price is.

Abraham should not be focused on coming to the team’s defense and race-baiting, as that is not his job as a beat writer. In Carrabis’ post, he also recounts the time that Abraham claimed that Pablo Sandoval couldn’t have liked an Instagram post during a game because it is against MLB policy. When the story, which Carrabis broke, was confirmed to be true, Abraham begrudgingly gave credit to Carrabis. It seems that Abraham’s first instinct here was to work as a PR person, not a reporter covering a team and investigating. To me, that is something that the Globe should keep an eye on. Who knows if he has had stories in the past that he has kept under the pillow to please the team.

 

 

 

CSNNE Revamps Nightly Programming

The Friday before break, Chad Finn reported that Comcast SportsNet New England had announced a shift in its weeknight programming. In place of their main nightly staples, SportsNet Central (a news-based sports update show), Early Edition (half-hour opinion based show hosted by Gary Tanguay) and Sports Tonight (basically Early Edition at 10 p.m. hosted by Michael Felger), CSN announced a new nightly schedule that features an two-hour expanded Early Edition and Boston Sports Tonight, a new three-hour show from 9 p.m.-midnight. The new lineup is slated to roll out April 3 and these shows will be bumped for Celtics coverage as needed.

The change was not out of the blue, however. Finn wrote in December that CSN was planning on moving toward more opinion-based programming and away from sports news shows. With a new line-up, here’s a closer look at each show and some of my questions:

Early Edition (Hosted by Tanguay, Felger and Trenni Kusnierek from 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.)- This show looks to be a combination of three of Boston’s top opinion personalities and won’t be short for “hot-takes”. Trenni will be the most sane and rational out of the bunch, but I look forward to seeing how the three work together for two hours. I also hope the show continues to use Kirk Minihane, who has great chemistry with both Tanguay and Trenni, as it does during the half-hour segments. My biggest question for this show is the use of Felger. Felger will finish his daily radio show at 6 p.m. and what will the expectations be? Will he do the show completely remote from 98.5 studios, or will he do a segment and then drive to Comcast studios from Brighton to Burlington during rush-hour? I would think it would be tough for him to prep for the show as well, but who knows, he is a good enough personality to wing it. I believe it would be best to have him in person, but it may not be feasible.

Boston Sports Tonight (Hosted by Tom Giles, Tom Curran, Kayce Smith and Michael Holley)- This show looks to be similar in format, opinion based with what looks like Giles and Smith to set the table for Curran and Holley. With this show I have a couple of questions. First about Smith and how she will handle the Boston market. I am not familiar with her work, but I have seen in the past that the market has been a tough move for personalities. My next two questions are about Holley, who hosts a 2-6 p.m. show at WEEI in competition of Felger. For Holley, it seems the 35 hours a week of talking on air is a lot to handle, I would like to see how he can manage that workload. Also, he does come off as very hypocritical in this instance as he told Rich Keefe, a new member to his radio show on WEEI, that he did not want Keefe to do an extra hour of radio after their program from 2-6 because it would be too much on Keefe’s plate. Holley then goes out and gets a nightly gig for THREE HOURS on top of his four-hour show. Seems like if Keefe has a full plate, then Holley is at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barstool Sports Owns Headlines During Super Bowl Week

The Patriots may have been the victorious football team in Super Bowl LI, but Barstool Sports, a blog founded in Boston, found themselves claiming headlines seemingly everyday. To start, the Barstool crew was in Houston for their television debut after they scored a midnight slot on Comedy Central for their flagship show, the Barstool Rundown. The show had modest success, averaging approximately 250,000 viewers through the four-day trial period.

Things only got better for the Barstool from there. During the middle of Super Bowl media week, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio planned to have two Barstool personalities on his radio show, but found out quickly that Barstool was not in the good graces of the league and banned from media activities. PFT’s Michael David Smith reported this and even asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the Barstool Sports ban, to which Goodell feigned ignorance. In a slow media week and uninterested build-up to the Super Bowl, the Barstool story was one of the hottest topics around the country.

On top of the ban making news, Barstool Sports also made a splash in adding Pat McAfee, former Colts punter, to their staff as he announced his retirement from the NFL at age 29. At this point, Barstool was everywhere, ESPN, NBC Sports, Fox Sports, you name the outlet, Barstool was getting traction.

The cherry on top for Barstool was a Patriots victory, leading to Barstool merchandise being everywhere during the parade. Getting off of the team charter, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was spotted wearing a shirt portraying Goodell as a clown, made by who else but Barstool Sports.

All in all, Barstool found itself with a ton of promotion, both organic and planned, which will without a doubt help it expand from a predominantly New England brand to going national as they hope.

Taking a Look at the Notable Calls for James White’s Super Bowl Winning TD

When looking back at the New England Patriots’ historic Super Bowl win, one thing I like to do is check out some of the notable calls from each of the big TV/Radio broadcasts. Deadspin posted a video with all of the major calls by the networks here.

Joe Buck (Fox)- For some reason unbeknownst to me, Buck gets a bad rap as an announcer. Possibly because his father held the same role and people may feel he is a product of nepotistic practices, but I think Buck has the quintessential “big-game voice”. His call here is beautifully executed, he makes his call with enthusiasm and passion and promptly gets out of the way and lets the crowds cheers tell the story. A great couple of months for Buck and Fox as they were fresh off of calling the Cubs’ historic World Series title and got the greatest Super Bowl, dare I say ever.

Bob Socci (Patriots Radio Network)- Exactly what you would want from the “homer” broadcast, from color analyst Scott Zolak’s shouting in the background in his unabashed support of the team to a great call from Socci. Although it is radio, I would have liked Socci to let the moment breathe a little bit and get the crowd noise or at least not cut off Zolak.

Wes Durham (Falcons Radio)- Not much you can say as the team broadcaster after a comeback of that proportion, but I think Durham all-in-all handled his call pretty well. I think he got the tenor of the moment for Falcons fans while also capturing some of the excitement heard on the other sideline.

Kevin Harlan (Westwood One)- Another “big-game voice” Harlan arguably has the best call of the bunch. He is definitive with his statements and captures the excitement of the moment with his own voice. No complaints on this call.

 

Entercom-CBS Radio Merger Creates Interesting Questions for Boston Sports Radio

It was announced this past week that CBS Radio and Entercom would join forces in a merger to become the second-largest radio group in the country. These mergers happen all the time in the business sector, but this one in particular caught my eye due to an interesting situation that could play out in Boston. Currently, the two sports radio rivals, WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub are owned by Entercom and CBS Radio, respectively. This merger would put these bitter rivals under the same roof on the business side of things, which could prompt some changes.

The Globe and the Herald each had their own takes on what this will mean for the two stations looking forward. Ultimately, from what I have seen, it looks like nothing will change in the immediate future from an on-air perspective. The two stations get massive ratings in this sports-hungry area and it would not make sense from a business perspective to chop a massive revenue market. I do wonder if any content will change, particularly toning down the feud between the stations because of the new partnership. It could be interesting if high-level executives start meddling with the programming and try to make the stations work together. I don’t see this happening and I think it would be a bad idea, but you never know with mergers like this. Let’s hope we don’t see any content change and this spurs an even more intense rivalry, like a sibling rivalry, now that they are under the same roof.