Evaluating sports broadcasting talent is subjective. We each have our favorites. I like Mike Mayock. You like Phil Simms. We all dislike Craig James. While discussing NFL broadcasters over coffee a couple of months ago, James Andrew Miller, the author of the best-selling "These Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World Of ESPN," and I decided it would be fun to pick the 10 people in NFL broadcasting circles who we considered the most indispensable to their networks. (You can follow Miller on Twitter at @ESPNBOOK).
Bryant Gumbel made an unexpected announcement Tuesday morning as a guest host on "Live! With Regis & Kelly." The host of HBO's "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel" had surgery two months ago to remove a malignant tumor on his lung.
When I began working on a book about the 1979 NCAA championship game, one of the first things I did, naturally, was watch a DVD of the game. NBC's telecast began with host Bryant Gumbel narrating a pregame segment before handing the game off to the trio of Dick Enberg, Billy Packer and Al McGuire. During the segment, Gumbel stood by himself on the court. There was no set, no fancy trappings, no commercial presence at all aside from a small "Pro Keds" sign that disappeared from view when the camera zoomed in on Gumbel's face.
Announcers first. Keith of Seattle believes the league is so intent on "selling the spectacle" of the game that "actual facts get in the way of the sales job, hence, revenues." And that, he feels, accounts for the decline in quality of announcing. I get your thought and I agree, kind of, but here's the way I'd put it. Networks appeal to image, hence they hire image people and push them hardest. Once upon a time they weren't afraid of hiring big, earthy guys with a sense of humor ... Matt Millen, John Madden. Now they seem to be more interested in pretty folks who aren't as glib or as incisive.
Here's an old rule of thumb I just made up: Never write a critical column about NFL announcers when you're in an ugly mood because every little annoyance will be magnified beyond reasonable proportions. Thus, as I spent the last two days going through the notes I meticulously made during the season, all the old resentments came back, the sneers, the head-banging frustrations, the wonderment at how we can stand still for the unbelievable barrage of crapola to which we've been subjected.
On the current edition of his HBO show, Real Sports, Bryant Gumbel argues that "the next logical step" for Tiger Woods would be to "call some of his corporate partners" and start his own tour, so he could "keep more of the money he's now earning for others." As evidence, Gumbel points out that the International has just gone out of business because Woods wouldn't play in the event. It's only a matter of time before the same fate befalls other Tigerless tournaments, Gumbel says.
A new problem has arisen, as I attempt to make some sense out of the many charts that define my Ninth Annual TV Commentator Rankings column. The problem is how do you rate a team when one member is obviously much stronger than his partner? In the old days, I didn't think about it much. People generally were paired up in regimental fashion, but the new NFL Network has neatly skewed that arrangement.