The dreariness of the Phillies’ dreadful season has been exacerbated by the broadcast team. Although analysts Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer have progressed during their first season in the Phillies’ broadcast booth, it’s still painful to listen to the awkward silences and observations from both extremes of the spectrum, from the blatantly obvious to way, way “inside baseball.”
This was a tough year for Moyer and Stairs to break in. If the Phillies were more competitive and exciting, the action would carry the television broadcast instead of that responsibility being placed on the broadcasters.
It’s difficult to fault play-by-play man Tom McCarthy, who seems to spend half the broadcast trying to set up his analysts for comments. But McCarthy doesn’t escape blame. His constant chuckling is annoying, some of his choices for discussion are inane – one of my favorite moments this year came when, as McCarthy attempted to prolong an already-too-long discussion about favorite Turkey Hill ice cream flavors, either Moyer or Mike Schmidt said “Isn’t there a game going on here?” – as are the constant references to the careers of Moyer and Stairs. How much more can they milk out of Stairs’ postseason home run against the Dodgers?
The only breath of fresh air in the television broadcast booth has been Schmidt. His conversational style is easy to listen to, and he makes some sharp, candid observations. But Schmidt, at the urging of McCarthy, spends too much time reminiscing about players whose careers were over before many of today’s fans were born. Schmidt also could be better prepared. For example, on one recent occasion, he didn’t know the name of the Mets’ hitting coach, even though it was the third game of the series.
Listening to the Phillies’ television broadcast – the radio team of Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen is excellent – caused me to reminisce about the outstanding broadcasters who provided the soundtrack for my sports life growing up. Harry Kalas. Gene Hart. My goodness, was Merrill Reese doing Eagles games before I was in high school? Yes, he was.
Instead of getting stuck in the past, however, let’s focus on today’s broadcast landscape. Instead of complaining about broadcasters I don’t like, I’m going to list my 15 favorite local and national broadcasters – these are play-play announcers and game analysts, as opposed to studio hosts and commentators – working today (teams count as two entries).
Do you agree or disagree?
1. Mike Emrick: His unabashed, genuine enthusiasm for hockey comes through during every second of his broadcasts. He is knowledgeable, honest and creates plenty of opportunities for his analysts to shine. He uses inflection and tone to convey excitement rather than screaming, as too many broadcasters do today. Emrick was good when he broadcast Flyers games during the 1980s and early 1990s, but he’s gotten better with age.
2. Bill Clement: Emrick’s former partner on Flyers broadcasts, Clement is the best in-game analyst in Philadelphia. He’s insightful and is able to give you a former player’s perspective without sounding too “inside.” He injects enough humor to keep the broadcast fun without turning it into a chucklefest that detracts from the game. (Keith Jones, with his sharp wit, would make this list if he could follow Clement’s example and avoid being dragged into prolonged “comedic” exchanges by his broadcast partners. Perhaps Chris Therien replacing Steve Coates on the television broadcast team will help.) These qualities make Clement a good studio analyst as well, although I think he’s at his best providing analysis during live action.
3. Al Michaels: Consistency and quality are the hallmarks of Michaels’ career. He made his mark with the “Do you believe in miracles?!!!” call at Lake Placid, but it’s his steadiness that stands out. The transition from working with John Madden to Chris Collingsworth on the NFL’s most-watched broadcast has been seamless, which is a tribute to Michaels.
4. Mary Carillo: Her analysis of tennis is outstanding. But I gained further appreciation of Carillo’s skills and range listening to her broadcast relatively obscure Olympic sports.
5. John McEnroe: Insightful. Funny. Obnoxious. And most importantly: interesting. A broadcast with McEnroe is never boring.
6. Merrill Reese: He’s been the voice of the Eagles since 1977, meaning two generations of fans have grown up listening to Reese broadcast Eagles games. Emotion is an equal partner to accuracy – and I mean that as a compliment – during Reese’s broadcasts, although when the emotion builds to the screaming so many fans love (“It’s Goooooood!!!”), I find it detracts from his otherwise outstanding performance.
7 and 8. Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen: I’m putting the main members of the Phillies’ radio team together because their chemistry is part of what makes their broadcast so amazing. Franzke and Andersen are funny, informative and not afraid to criticize the Phillies if it’s warranted.
9 and 10. Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery: Another team I’m going to put together. Lundquist and Raftery sound like your two favorite uncles calling a college basketball game. They establish a wonderful rhythm and give the viewer a feel for the game. I can’t remember ever wanting one of them to shut up, which, coming from me, is a compliment. Trust me.
11. Kevin Harlan: If some of you said “Who?” that proves my point. Harlan doesn’t do anything to call attention to himself. All he does is call the game he’s broadcasting, whether it be football, the NBA or college basketball. His broadcasts are about the action on the court or field, an example far too many broadcasters don’t follow while promoting themselves instead of the people playing the game. His college basketball work is stellar.
12. Troy Aikman: His observations are interesting and usually on-point. This is a back-handed compliment, but he’s the least annoying of the former Cowboys polluting the NFL airwaves. The mere fact that I’m able to listen to Aikman’s analysis without his words being blocked out by my anti-Cowboys fervor is testament to his excellence.
13. Malik Rose: A breath of fresh air. Rose is witty and insightful. His chemistry with long-time play-by-play broadcaster Marc Zumoff is wonderful. Rose seems to bring out the best in the veteran Zumoff as much as Zumoff brings out the best in Rose. He was one of the few reasons the Sixers were worth watching this past season.
14. Ian Darke: The lead announcer for the World Cup coverage this summer, Darke manages to build intrigue in even the most boring games. Unlike the Phillies’ television broadcast crew, the entertaining and conversational Darke finds ways to carry the action when there isn’t much action.
15. Dick Vitale: His shtick sometimes overwhelms the game, but Vitale’s unbridled enthusiasm for college basketball and his sharp eye for detail earn him the final spot on my list.