It’s time for another installment of our highly influential fantasy drafts, and this time around we turn our sharp, analytical minds and limited attention spans to the world of sports broadcasting.
Sports announcers are a constant thorn in the side of most sports fans – the vast majority of them detract from the game experience, rather than enhancing it. They’re there to:
a) tell us what’s happening — but we can figure that out for ourselves unless we’re idiots.
b) provide insight into why things are happening the way they are — but most announcers have the insight of a toilet seat.
c) add entertainment to the game — instead, they generally add irritation.
And that’s why we end up watching a lot of games on mute.
So, we’re each starting our own sports division on a major TV network. We need to pick a play-by-play and a color guy to do our baseball, football, and basketball games. (Neither of us watch enough hockey to know anything except that Doc Emrick is awesome.) In addition, we need to pick two guys for our studio team to anchor our sports coverage, and a useless sideline reporter to appease our numbskull viewers. The rules are pretty loose — we don’t need to keep strict definitions of play-by-play and color, since those roles are often fluid, but we do need to designate who’s the play-caller and who’s doing the analysis. We can pick radio announcers if we think they would be better at TV than current TV broadcasters.
Since The Dilemma picked first in the Bill Murray draft, David Simon Cowell’s up first today. Who’s our sports announcer Groundhog Day?
David Simon Cowell:
In the first round of any draft, I think it’s always smart to pick the best person available, preferably at the most important position. The NFL is clearly the big dog for the 2012 sports viewer, so I’m going to go there.
Obviously, unlike the MLB or NBA, all of the NFL television games are done by national guys, so we all know the (mostly) dreck that’s out there. The guy I’m going with is one of the few (only?) who combines actual football knowledge with a human personality. For my football color guy, I’m going with Cris Collinsworth.
Collinsworth is valuable, no doubt, because most football analysts are ex-players, coaches, or both, and hence, very likely morons. They all love to talk about “THE National Football League” and exude toughness and machismo, while adding utterly nothing of value in the way of X’s and O’s analysis or behind-the-scenes information. He would have been my first choice for football too.
But I’m going baseball with my top pick, and my favorite announcer in any sport: Vin Scully.
Scully works alone in the Dodgers booth, proving that one person is all you need announcing that game, if that person is great at what they do – which also shows how few announcers are great at what they do. Vin is a throwback from another era, when baseball announcers had a more lyrical quality, but he never seems like a dinosaur in the sport’s modern age. His calls lend situations importance and credibility, and he knows when to shut up and let the game call itself.
I watch Dodgers games in bed solely because of Scully, which is the highest compliment I could pay a broadcaster (and God knows that there’s not much else worth watching in most Dodgers game). If that franchise has any credibility left after the nightmares of Fox and McCourt ownership, it’s because of Scully.
With my second pick, I’m taking Marv Albert as my NBA play-by-play guy. Homer pick? Sure. But every other NBA announcer is either vanilla (Mike Breen) or repellent (Vern Lundquist), or some combination thereof. Albert comes with a lot of shtick, but it’s shtick I enjoy, and it’s inarguable that he’s the sport’s signature voice. Plus: he bites women’s backs. I don’t see how this can go wrong.
Wow… your old age and impending fatherhood has obviously moved you into the nostalgia zone, which is the only way I can explain taking an 84-year-old whose milquetoast tone was shorthand for the inherent boringness of baseball 30 years ago. At least now I know that Rick Reilly will be off the board early if we ever do a sportswriter version of this.
I know, I know, play-by-play guys are the rhythm section of announcing teams, less flashy but necessary to making the thing work. But, on television, I care much more about color guys, so I’m going with the best in the two sports left.
As much as I like Marv Albert, I’m psyched and surprised that I’m able to get Jeff Van Gundy. Much like Collinsworth, Van Gundy is one of those rare ex-players or coaches that seems like somebody you could have an actual conversation with, and who takes the game seriously while still realizing its inherent ridiculousness.
And, for baseball, I’m going with someone who has worked both for my team and one of their enemies. While I can’t claim any great baseball knowledge, it’s always surprised me that no team has ever given Steve Stone his desired shot at GM. While he has more than a hint of Al Michaels douchiness, he is able to make a baseball game seem interesting, which is saying something. Plus, he’s done it while being paired with Harry Caray (the human man’s Vin Scully) in his confused twilight and the horrible Hawk Harrelson.
I would have also taken Van Gundy as my NBA color guy. Your Stone pick would have been fine 5 years ago, but he’s since been poisoned by his proximity to Hawk Harrelson, and seems to drop about 15 IQ points a season.
With my third and fourth picks, I’m going to lock in my studio team. And don’t worry, Chris Berman is all yours.
I’m grabbing James Brown and Ernie Johnson. These guys specialze in different sports (football and basketball), giving me broad, flexible coverage. And both are affable, mildly funny, and knowledgeable. Being a studio host isn’t rocket science….you run through some highlights, you throw it to an interview, and you don’t overstay your welcome. Unfortunately, most hosts take that description and turn it into “scream at your fellow hosts, guffaw like a knee-slapping, drunken jackass, and make terrible puns.” With Brown and Johnson, my audiences will know they’re in good hands, and won’t rush to change channels at half-time or as soon as the game ends.
For my basketball play-by-play guy, I’ll take Gus Johnson. I know he’s more known for college basketball, but I think he’ll bring a nice level of that kind of excitement to NBA broadcasts. Plus, he’ll match up nicely with the more cerebral Van Gundy.
For my head studio guy, I’ll take someone who is one of the best natural broadcasters of all time, and take him away from the subject about which he’s unbearable (politics)… ladies and gentlemen, Keith Olbermann. When he isn’t harping about some political red herring, he’s one of the quickest and smartest anchors around. Plus, I can probably get him pretty cheaply, and he adds the excitement factor of never knowing when he’ll walk off the set.
Damn, Johnson was going to be my color guy for basketball – even though he’s a natural play-by-play guy, I would have used him just to scream excited things in lieu of analysis.
Olbermann was great on SportsCenter back in the day, but his more recent forays into sports have been pretty unwatchable. His stints with Fox Sports and NBC showed that his ego has grown to the point where he’s no longer able to make the story about anything other than himself. And his baseball blog is pretty terrible too. As Dan Patrick said to him at the end of their last SportsCenter together, “You’re now a newsman now [sic].” He should have stayed one.
With my fifth pick, I’m taking Brad Nessler as my NFL play-by-play guy. I think Al Michaels’ ship has sailed, meaning Nessler is the best in the business. Games on the NFL Network are always a more pleasant experience than games on the broadcast nets or (especially) ESPN. Nessler’s professional, competent and knows the game.
Next, I’m taking David Cone as my MLB color analyst. I watch A LOT of baseball, and I hear a lot of local and national TV and radio announcers, and Cone is smartest analyst working. His broadcasting skills aren’t the most polished, but he offers actual insights into the game, is sabermetrically aware (he even references FanGraphs), and knows when to use his own experience as a point of comparison. Plus, if he’s having a bad day, he can just sit there quietly and let Scully do all the talking.
I agree that the state of football play-by-play announcing is abysmal. Nessler is probably the best out there, and then it’s pick your poison, unless you want to use Gus Johnson, who I’d rather hear on basketball. So, I’m going with Jim Nantz. The stuff that drives me crazy about him is usually when he’s doing other stuff (see: Masters), he doesn’t bring the annoying politics of Buck and Michaels, and I just feel like he’d fit well with Collinsworth.
As for studio show, I agree with you about Olbermann, but I still feel that there’s still alot of talent there. It’s just a matter of getting him out of his own way. I could try to find somebody who could control him, but don’t think that’d ever work. I need somebody who is even crazier than he is, hopefully to compel him to keep control. My show may be off the air within weeks, but I’m adding gasoline to the fire with Charles Barkley.
I should note here that I gave serious consideration to Lil’ Wayne at this spot. Just the idea of Keith throwing it the Lil’ for a few minutes of nonsensical muttering makes me laugh. I would definitely watch that show.
Beyond Collinsworth, there is absolutely nothing worth drafting in the pool of football analysts. I’ve given serious thought to an outside-the-box choice a la Lil’ Wayne (or an improved version of Dennis Miller and Tony Kornheiser), and fuck it, why not? It’s either that or drag John Madden’s corpse out of his bus and stuff him in the booth with Nessler. But I’m not going to pick a random actor or comedian and hope they know enough football to make it happen (although, goddamn, Alec Baldwin is tempting). Instead, I’ll take Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders. Despite being a Patriots fan, Schatz would bring a rational approach to a sport that’s too often lost in cliches, intangibles, and talk of “the will to win.” Schatz has sounded well-spoken on podcasts, so I have faith he could pull it off.
For my basketball analyst, again, there’s not much out there beyond Van Gundy, so I’m going with Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Since whoever I pick here won’t have any insight to offer, I might as well offer viewers some entertainment. Instead of well-reasoned arguments, they’ll get rhymes.
For baseball play-by-play, Jesus, who the fuck cares? It’s a bunch of boring jackasses who make Jim Nantz look edgy by comparison. I’m going to slide someone I can stand, Steve Stone, over to play-by-play and pair him up in the broadcast booth with Bill Murray. Yeah, it’s Chicago-centric. But at least it’d be interesting.
I guess I’m forced to do what the networks do, and fill my female quota with the sideline reporter. I need someone who’s good looking, who has a good sense of humor, who can get athletes to come over and talk during a game, and who doesn’t mind having a completely degrading job. This sounds like a job for Sasha Grey.
This also is the only thing that could make me consider hiring Joe Buck, because having to throw it to Sasha would set up an infinite loop of conflicted emotions, as his “save the children” moralizing would run up against his desire to please his corporate overlords by being a good team player. I give him three games until he has a stroke.
For my sideline reporter, the choice comes down to eye candy, humor or substance. I’ll cast my lot with humor, and pick someone who I’m guessing knows little about sports, but could call attention to the more ridiculous aspects of what we’re watching: Patton Oswalt. Welcome aboard, Patton! Keep the comic book references to a minimum, please.
Baseball: Vin Scully and David Cone
Football: Brad Nessler and Aaron Schatz
Basketball: Marv Albert and Walt Frazier
Studio: James Brown and Ernie Johnson
Sideline: Patton Oswalt
David Simon Cowell
Baseball: Steve Stone and Bill Murray
Football: Jim Nantz and Cris Collinsworth
Basketball: Gus Johnson and Jeff Van Gundy
Studio: Keith Olbermann and Charles Barkley
Sideline: Sasha Grey
This draft has made me realize that the state of sports broadcasting is even worse than I thought going in, given how difficult it was to fill these sports, and how many times we had to go outside the box and grab people from the entertainment world. Between Murray, Olbermann, and Barkley, there’s no doubt that your network is going to have a personnel change sooner.
I regret the dullness of my James Brown pick, but other than that, I’m pleased. I am, however, stunned that no one grabbed Troy Aikman.
Yeah, James Brown is my Jim Nantz. But, sometimes you have to go with those bland guys… bland obviously beats annoying, which is why the most inoffensive talents get the plum jobs. Hopefully, Sasha can fuck the boring out of them, if Barkley doesn’t leave her in a ditch first.