Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sports Analysts-The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Mixed Bag Edition

My football and baseball lists are in the books.  I hope I effectively imparted on you all just how much I hate Tim McCarver and what a travesty it is that he is still employed as an professional MLB analyst.  I also didn't hear any Sox fans stick up for their man Hawk Harrelson, so I will just conclude that I was 100% on the mark.

This post is my mixed bag of broadcasters, which covers college basketball and the NHL. I don't watch a great enough variety of these sports to have a favorites list.  There are names, though, that I want to mention because there is one in college b-ball commentator that is probably my favorite in all of sports.  I'll admit these lists are shorter than my football an baseball lists, but this isn't for lack of effort.  I haven't had a lot of

I'll also cover some Chicago sports broadcasters, most notably those that are part of sports talk radio shows on the Chicago dials.  Many of my readers aren't from Chicago and many from Chicago don't listen to the joy of sports talk, but I want to discuss them because I've spent so much time tuned into these stations.

NCAA Basketball - The Best
What a game! HA HA!
  • Gus Johnson: Gus, in my opinion, is the best announcer in the sporting world today.  No one brings more excitement to a call and no one enthralls his audience better than him.  Some people complain that he is too much for the broadcast, but I completely disagree.  Gus' enthusiasm is genuine, which is more than can be said for many other announcers.  You can see that Gus loves his job and he loves sports. His talent has spread across multiple sports, but college basketball has always been his best, especially the March Madness tournament.  The Gus Johnson factor is at play every time he is in the booth-games that he calls are much more likely to go down to the wire or head to OT.  He is the one guy who I would tune into watch just because he is on the call.  If you haven't really listened to him before, watch/listen to this clip, and then enjoy many more on YouTube (such as this hilarious mashup).
  • Jay Bilas: Bilas is one of the smartest men in the sport.  As a former college basketball player (4-year starter at Duke), he brings great insight into his analysis.  He can break things down for the casual fan, but provides lots of depth for even the most crazed college fan.  He has talent both in the studio and as a color man.  You can also tell he prepares for his games well.  He doesn't just speak about the best players, but has analysis for everyone on the team.  He also has some of the best tweets, so follow him if you are on Twitter
NCAA Basketball - The Worst
  • Dick Vitale:  15 years ago, I never would have considered putting Dicky V on the "worst" list for college basketball.  I used to love all his phrases and his childlike enthusiasm for the game.  However, that hasn't changed, and now that I listen to a color commentator for analysis, his shtick has gotten very old.  His Duke-UNC bias can border on the unbearable and he spends so much time on his catch phrases that he never really gets to any useful break downs.  "That's awesome, baby!" and "Get a T.O.!"  have lost their magic.  Vitale is an guy who was once great and fresh, but now he comes off as someone's goofy grandpa.  
I'm overkill, baby!

NHL - The Best
  • Mike "Doc" Emrick and Eddie Olczyk:  I'll pair these two since they are NBC Sports #1 team for its NHL broadcasts.  Doc was normally the play-by-play for the New Jersey Devils (until last summer) and Eddie O is the color guy for my Chicago Blackhawks.  Doc's call is great, adjusting to the tempo of the game while keeping an (mostly) unbiased view.  I love his goal call (ScccOOORReeesss!).  What's best is that he compliments the game well.  He understands what needs to be called and clarified, and does so without interrupting the rhythm of the game.  
"He didn't keep his stick on the ice there, Doc"
Eddie O is a former player who was never spectacular, but has done a great job breaking down the best in the booth.  He spots what happened before anyone has a chance to check out the instant replay.  What I like best is that he talks about and shows what the players do right and wrong.  He commonly uses the phrase, "For all you young hockey players out there," using the play of the best in the world to instruct the up and coming talent of the hockey world

NHL - The Worst

  • Matthew Barnaby: ESPN should be embarrassed that they every employed Barnaby as one of its lead analysts.  They recently let him go, but only after a DWI forced their hand.  The guy was a goon when he played whose only purpose on the ice was to headhunt the other teams' stars and take them down with some serious cheap shots.  He had no idea how to break down plays and frequently praised big/illegal hits as necessary play in the NHL.  I have no reason to listen to analysis of the NHL's best from a guy who spent his whole playing career yapping his mouth with no skill to back it up.

Chicago Sports Talk - The Best

This is how I imagine them looking
when taking 3/4 of the calls on the show
  • Dan Bernstein: Like Dicky V, I thought very differently about Bernstein 10 years ago.  He seemed to spend the entire time making eloquent jokes and demoralizing callers.  But as a listened more, I came to realize that he is probably one of the smartest guys in Chicago sports.  He never says anything without having sound reasoning to back it up.   Even if I disagree with his view, I know exactly where he is coming from.  His tweets and comments indicate that he has a good to great understanding of major sports.  He also demands a high level of intelligence from the callers to his radio show, Boers and Bernstein, which is refreshing in this ESPN-era of sport.  Fans often call with baseless claims and opinions, which he immediately sees through (which makes him seem like a total jerk).  Dan simply asks that you have a way to back up what you say with some sort of common sense. Though I'm not a fan of Terry Boers, he is my favorite talk show host in Chicago, and I hope that Chicago fans can learn from his methods, especially in this generalizing, throw-it-and-if-it-sticks-keep-it world we live in.
  • Matt Spiegel:  After being a behind the scenes producer for the Score and hosting a nationally syndicated sports radio show, Spiegel rejoined 670 alongside Dan McNeil.  The reason I like him is that he makes listening to McNeil manageable.  Mac, as you will see below, spends his time trying to demonstrate how experienced he is, but never actually proves he knows anything.  Matt actually has a great historical knowledge of sports.  Also, unlike McNeil, he is actually funny.  Spiegel is one of the reasons why 670 the Score is much better than ESPN 1000 in the realm of Chicago sports talk.

Chicago Sports Talk - The Worst

  • Dan McNeil:  Mac has his fingerprints all over the Chicago sports talk radio scene.  When I first heard him, he was on ESPN Radio 1000 on the show "Mac, Jurko, and Harry."  It started out as my favorite show, but as time passed and I gained sports knowledge, I realized that they never really said anything useful.  Harry was a former comedian, and I'll get to Jurko later.  In the end, he came of as a major jerk, and worse, a jerk that was hypocritical.  He didn't actually prove a caller or a co-host wrong, but would insult them as a means of shutting them up.  Mac was let go by ESPN after multiple on-air fights with Harry and was taken back by 670 the Score, where he started his broadcasting career.  He's become somewhat less of a jerk, but still flaps his head without any meaning.  He is also a Sox fan, so he can't really be trusted, can he?
  • John Jurkovic: Jurko is the loveable idiot of the "Afternoon Saloon" on ESPN 1000.  He is a former NFL defensive lineman who grew up in the Chicagoland area.  He is another man who says nothing of value, but just tries to be funny in the Homer Simpson sort of way- he is not smart and he knows it. His personality was funny at first, but now it is just annoying.  He actually reminds me a lot of Mike Golic of "Mike and Mike in the Morning."  He just says really general things that anyone can figure out, but they are somehow masked as intelligent talk because he used to be in the NFL.  As I said with McNeil, "Mac, Jurko, and Harry" was once my favorite show which I listened to every day, much to the chagrin of the people I drove home from high school.  However, as my desire to grow my sports knowledge and acumen, I liked the show less and less.  Jurko's mindless banter had a lot to do with that.
My final list will cover the mothership, ESPN.  I hope you are enjoying reading these lists as I have had writing them.  Leave some feedback via the comments or Facebook (or any social media really [or by owl if you are a wizard]) and we can compare our respective lists.

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