The realm of sports is one full of arguments. Since not everything is quantifiable, and you can pick and choose certain statistics to make your argument, debates about the comparisons of players and teams are an exercise in futility. Rarely is someone won over by a clever argument. People stay rooted in their opinions, but hey, at least you passed the time with a shouting match or two. Well, here’s the ultimate debate that can be neither won nor lost by anyone: who are the best and worst sports commentators? There’s no way to measure this one at all, so it comes down to pure preference. Sounds like a great idea for a blog post to me!
Sideline Reporters – They may be the sports broadcasting equivalent to the appendix, but I’ll rate them anyhow.
Ric Bucher – Actually has meaningful inside information for the viewers during NBA games.
Craig Sager – I love his crazy suits gimmick. Sports is entertainment, and that’s what he provides.
Erin Andrews – I think every male sports fan in America has had a crush on her at some point.
Tiki Barber – He’s so disliked by everybody, that NBC demoted him to the lowly sideline reporter. I don’t care to notice if he’s doing a good job or not, I just don’t like him.
Tony Siragusa – He’s just a giant ball of unintentional comedy. I don’t care if he’s paid in pregame meals only, it’s too much for the amount of actual work he puts in screwing around on the sidelines.
In-Studio Analysts – They seem to be multiplying.
NBA on TNT crew – Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Shaq, and of course, everybody’s favorite: Charles Barkley. These guys have great knowledge of the NBA as past players, and better yet, they’re hilarious personalities.
FOX NFL Sunday crew – Terry Bradshaw and Michael Strahan are the standouts for actually being interesting personalities, but overall, they’re the most solid NFL group out there.
Chris Berman – This may be sacrilege to some, but I’ve never been a “Boomer” guy. Whether it’s “He Could…Go…All…The…Waaayyy!” or “Whoop!” or changing the volume and tone of his voice like he’s doing a Jiminy Glick impersonation, I’m not impressed.
Emmitt Smith – He didn’t last too long in his role at ESPN. Here’s why.
Color Commentators – Who’s the blow-hardiest of them all?
Bill Raftery – Raftery always shines the brightest during the Big Dance, where he always uses my favorite calls like “Onions!” or “With a kiss!” and of course, he’ll always be remembered for “Send it in Jerome!” It’s hard to find someone who loves his job more than this guy.
Jon Gruden – I get it, he’s a bit over the top. He gushes over each and every quarterback he covers, and everything is described in superlatives. But that’s why I love him. He throws caution to the wind, and I find his unbridled enthusiasm contagious and mesmerizing.
Jeff Van Gundy – Somebody needs to tell this guy he’s not a comedian. Although, despite his failed stand-up act while broadcasting, and his terrible basketball opinions, I still find this hilarious.
Phil Simms – Bland. Somehow never ceases to annoy me when he doesn’t pronounce the “h” in “him” (sounds like “eem”). And finally, he and his partner Jim Nantz are huge AFC homers, and they also both won’t stop lavishing Bill Belichick and Tom Brady with heaps of praise.
Dick Vitale – I have hated the Dook Blue Devils for almost my entire life, and that’s largely where my distaste of Mr. Vitale stems from. On the surface, it may seem like disliking Vitale makes me a hypocrite since I just praised Raftery and Gruden. I contend that while Gruden and Raftery do get a little over the top sometimes, they both add a lot of great bits of wisdom and analysis during the game, while Vitale is more of a cartoon character at this point. He’s obligated to say as many of his ridiculous made up terms like “PTPer” and “Diaper Dandy” as possible during a 2 hour broadcast while still leaving enough time to shout “Awesome baby!” from the top of his lungs 50 times. Oh yeah, and he loves Dook and Coach K way too much.
Play-by-Play Guys – Whatever would we do without them?
Gus Johnson – Gus is like a play-by-play volcano. He’ll calmly describe the action with his catchphrases like “Rise and fire” and “Pure”, but when a game’s excitement level rises, Gus erupts! And boy does he ever! And then once he reaches that level, he just may not ever stop screaming into the microphone, but I love it. Check out this sweet Gus Johnson soundboard.
Kevin Harlan – His voice is God’s gift to sports fans. He gets nearly as excited as Gus when a great play is made, but he manages to stay coherent. I’m somewhat biased in Harlan’s favor since he used to be the voice of the Timberwolves, but he’s clearly worthy of this honor as he is TNT’s #2 NBA guy (behind the legendary announcer I’m about to mention next) and also scores bonus points for having the versatility to call football on the radio for Westwood One. That’s excellence in two sports and two different types of media.
Marv Albert – Bizarre personal issues aside, Marv is the best in the business. He balances articulate description of the action while letting the game breathe. He knows when to keep an even keel, and when to ramp up the intensity when a big play goes down. He correctly defers to his color commentator for technical basketball info, and you can’t deny the man has a voice of solid gold for the broadcast booth. Lastly, you have to acknowledge the accomplishment that was his voice being used as the model for the NBA Jam announcer.
Bob Costas – I look up to my dad a lot, and so ever since my father declared that he strongly disliked Bob Costas, it’s been easy for me to despise him. And since I’ve grown old enough to come up with opinions completely on my own, it hasn’t been tough to stick with that stance toward him. To be honest, his play-by-play acumen isn’t that bad, it’s more of his interviews and monologues that annoy me so much that I can’t stand to hear his voice anymore. Go away, Bob.
Joe Buck – He’s arrogant, smug, and bland. Joe Buck infamously called the “helmet-catch” play in Super Bowl XLII, and it sounded more like he was calling a game of croquet. Of course, I also have personal reasons for not liking him, because I think his description of the Randy Moss fake mooning incident at Lambeau was the beginning of a massive overreaction that was part of the reason why my favorite football player of all time was run out of town. I may or may not have a problem with holding grudges.
Al Michaels – To me, Al Michaels is the worst play-by-play guy in all of sports. You may ask yourself, “How can this be? Look at his resume. He uttered ‘Do You Believe in Miracles!?!’ for crying out load.” I realize all that. He’s obviously somewhat popular, otherwise why would he keep getting jobs? But to me, Al is a pioneer in the worst of ways. I believe that he is the originator of a disturbing trend among play-by-play guys today: Interjecting their own opinions and commentaries on the game as if they are somehow “experts” or stand on some sort of moral high ground. Al has called so many football games in his life, that he actually thinks that he knows more about the game than the coaches, the refs, his partner in the booth, etc. It drives me crazy when he attempts to analyze the X’s and O’s of the game. Suppose he has absorbed that knowledge through his work over the years; it’s still against the natural structure of a broadcast booth for him to try and do the color commentator’s job. To top it all off, Al just plain talks too much. He’s a TV guy, and yet he attempts to describe every play with so much detail that he must think all of his audience is blind (perhaps he should switch to radio). I can’t wait until this guy retires.
There are loads of announcers that I didn’t bother mentioning, mainly out of apathy. I lean towards disliking most of them, but for the most part they just aren’t good or bad enough to care about. So if you’re disappointed that I didn’t mention someone for their greatness or incompetence, or perhaps you hate my opinions on who’s good, bad, or ugly, let me know.