Promotion and vanity have long been first cousins at ESPN, and one of the annual family outings occurs during the first week of the Monday Night Football schedule. For the past seven years with little exception, ESPN management has assigned broadcasters to the second game of its opening week MNF doubleheader—the so-called “B” game that kicks off at 10 p.m. ET—with little regard for the announcers’ NFL game-calling experience. Obviously, that is the network’s right. When you pay $1.9 billion a year for a television property, as ESPN is currently doing for the rights to MNF, you get a few perks, and one of those perks is picking the announcers.
Some history: Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, the ESPN Radio morning show personalities, were assigned the game from 2007 to ’10. That was clearly done as a promotional vehicle for the Mike and Mike brand, though both broadcasters prepared and took the assignment seriously. During the Mike and Mike Era of Monday Night Football, NFL analyst Mike Ditka was also brought in as part of a “Three Mikes” promotion. That’s the kind of marketing idea that sounds good at the ESPN cafeteria but loses steam once it crosses the Bristol, Conn. line.
Longtime NFL voice Brad Nessler restored some broadcaster sanity to the game in 2010 and ’11 (with the always-excellent Trent Dilfer) before ESPN management foisted the Late Night with Chris Berman concept despite Berman having never called college or pro football play-by-play.
Despite a lack of play-by-play experience, ESPN veteran Berman has called the late Monday Night opener each of the past two seasons. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)Despite a lack of football play-by-play experience, ESPN veteran Berman has called the late Monday Night opener each of the past two seasons.
Naturally, that announcement came with all the PR trimmings, including a podcast with Berman conducted by ESPN Pravda. If you want to call Berman’s assignment rewarding a longtime employee for years of NFL service, that’s totally fair, perhaps even heartwarming. If you want to call it a vanity play for an announcer who is as much a part of an NFL apparatus as The Duke football, that would be accurate too.
Because I’m a charitable guy, I’m going to give ESPN an idea that offers the dream tonic of promotion and boldness. Plus, there’s the bonus of having the game called by a professional football announcer:
ESPN should assign Beth Mowins to call the Chargers at Cardinals game (10:20 ET kickoff) on Sept. 8, and pair her with a quality NFL game analyst such as Dilfer or Steve Young.
Whether it’s college football, women’s basketball, softball, volleyball or anything else she’s assigned, Mowins is a no-shtick broadcaster who is always prepared and professional. She began calling college football nine years ago. In 2011 the network wisely promoted her to a full-time slate of college football on ESPN2’s Saturday noon telecast. Every Saturday, she chips away at the antiquated notion that football play-by-play must be delivered by a man. (Note to the inevitable mouth-breathers calling me a sports feminist: Blast away, but make sure you spell it correctly. It’s D-E-I-T-S-C-H.) If you want to compare her reps calling football to Berman’s, it’s the difference between LeBron James and Austin Croshere.
A woman calling the NFL on a regular basis is an idea whose time really should have come long ago. In 1987, Mike Weisman, then the executive producer of NBC Sports and one of the most innovative producers in sports broadcasting history, assigned then-newscaster Gayle Sierens to call the Seahawks-Chiefs game on the final Sunday of the regular season. Weisman offered Sierens six more game opportunities for the following year but she opted to focus on her news career. The headline on this Richard Sandomir profile of Sierens remains unchanged six years later: “First Women To Call NFL Play By Play, and The Last.”
Mowins has been one of ESPN’s top play-by-play announcers on sports ranging from volleyball and softball to college basketball and college football. She should get a shot at the late Monday Night opener. (Porter Binks for Sports Illustrated)Mowins has been one of ESPN’s top play-by-play announcers on sports ranging from volleyball and softball to college basketball and college football. (Porter Binks for Sports Illustrated)
Assigning Mowins the late MNF game would follow news that the CBS Sports Network will air a once-a-week, nightly opinion-based sports show with an all-female cast. That’s a smart play for CBS Sports, which needs different concepts (and more viewers). As long as the show avoids First Take buffoonery or pink ghettoizing every sports issue, the effort alone will have meaning. One of the women who will appear on the show is Amy Trask, the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders who now works as an NFL analyst for CBS. I asked Trask how NFL brass would view Mowins doing a one-off or multiple NFL games.
“The league is a business and to the extent it believes it beneficial—economically or from a public perception standpoint—to include a woman on a broadcast team, I believe that it would do so,” Trask said. “I don’t believe that players or coaches would be the slightest bit concerned about this. Stated differently, I believe that players and coaches are concerned with whether someone can get the job done and that it wouldn’t matter to them whether that person was a man or a woman.”
No broadcaster has worked more closely with Mowins than Debbie Antonelli. The two have partnered on more than 1,000 college basketball broadcasts or podcasts since they first began calling ACC games as a pair for Fox Sports South in the early 1990s.
“Beth is aware her margin for error is slim and it serves as motivation for her unique opportunity,” Antonelli said. “She is concerned with what’s in her control: her work ethic, her motivation, and her love for her job. No one dictates those things for Beth. She protects and respects the game she is broadcasting.”
I intentionally did not contact Mowins for this piece. She did not plant this idea for the column, nor did anyone on her behalf. In previous interviews with SI.com, she has said the NFL would be the highest honor for a football broadcaster but did not express calling NFL games as her ultimate broadcasting goal.
Antonelli believes Mowins would accept the assignment immediately if offered.
“As her friend, I would be thrilled for her to challenge herself at the highest level in football,” Antonelli said. “Detractors of having a woman call football say the same clichés—she didn’t play, she doesn’t know the game. Beth didn’t play football but she knows the game, the rules and it would be awesome for her to lead women into a different role in the NFL, a challenge that I’m positive she would navigate and handle.”
ESPN has been the most forward-thinking sports broadcaster when it comes to giving on-air female staffers opportunities, and assigning Mowins would be received with great pride from its employees (as well as women throughout the sports media.). As of now, alas, the late-game MNF assignment has been made:
The network told The MMQB earlier this week that Berman and Dilfer will call the game for a third consecutive year.
Credit to Sports Illustrated who originally published this article
Peter Schrager: ‘Next Good Morning Football Host Has Massive Shoes To Fill’
“I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it.”
This week, Good Morning Football ended up winning a Sports Emmy for the best daily studio show. It is a show that has turned into part most football fans’ morning routines. However, there will be new people on the panel eventually with the departures of Nate Burleson and Kay Adams.
This week, one of those left, Peter Schrager, was on The Pat McAfee Show. He did not have a name for McAfee that would fill the role Adams leaves behind and he isn’t going to interfere in the process of the executives picking the next host.
“I would think that there is going to be a long line of people who will want that,” he said. “Those are massive shoes to fill. I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it. But, for now, I trust the executives to hire someone who is going to take care of that hosting job.”
As for Burleson’s seat, the show has used a number of ex-players to fill-in. Schrager likes it that way because he can learn many different stories each week:
“Nate and I can finish each other’s sentences. Now, you have a guy I don’t know the story this player is going to tell. I don’t know where he’s going to take it and I think it’s kind of cool for us.”
Last summer, Schrager hosted The Flying Coach podcast on The Ringer with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. Unfortunately, there will be no season 2 of that show this summer. That doesn’t mean there won’t be another season of the podcast in the future though.
“I won’t do it without McVay. I begged him. He’s just out….He’s getting married this offseason. He’s got his honeymoon. He’s like, we’ll pick it up another offseason. I’m upset. I love doing it. All these new coaches, Sean and I would have had a good time with it and we talked about it, but it’s his decision and he’s saying no and I totally get it. He’s really good at it and he liked it. He’ll have opportunities and you see some of these numbers that these guys are getting. Trust me, he’s aware.”
Shan & RJ: ‘Inside The NBA Was Trying To Prevent A Riot Last Night’
“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?”
Things were very far from normal on Thursday night on the set of Inside the NBA. During the postgame show, Warriors fans threw objects at Charles Barkley as TNT was broadcasting live outside of the Chase Center in San Francisco.
Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Shan and RJ discussed the scene and said things felt out of the ordinary long before anything was even thrown.
“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?” Shan Shariff said. “That’s what happened yesterday on Inside the NBA both in the pregame and the postgame.”
Barkley had been picking on Warriors fans calling them annoying and describing San Francisco as having “dirty ass streets full of homeless people” throughout the series.
Shariff said even in the pregame show, it seemed that the Inside the NBA crew was wary of the crowd gathered behind them.
“It felt like yesterday instead of having fun and cutting loose, it felt like they were trying to prevent a riot.”
After a rolled-up t-shirt struck Barkley, he got up and acted as if he was going to throw a ceramic coffee mug into the crowd. Shariff said it was clear that Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith thought Barkley was about to be involved in an altercation of some sort.
RJ Choppy disagreed though. His immediate thought in seeing the video was that Barkley was just taking his ribbing of the crowd to the next level like a WWE superstar might.
“I think he knew the wrestling role, but I don’t think the other guys did,” Choppy said.
Sean and RJ expounded on the wrestling comparison, saying that he had a specific event in mind. He compared the way the crowd treated Barkley on Thursday night to how the crowd at ECW’s One Night Stand in 2006 treated John Cena. Cena and security may have thought they knew what was coming, but it was clear when fans started throwing chairs at the WWE champ that their ire was more serious than anticipated.
There can be peace for the time being. TNT’s NBA season ends at the conclusion of the Western Conference Finals. It will be interesting to see if this animosity returns in the 2022-23 season.
Don La Greca: ‘Howie Rose Was The Only Sports Talk Host As Passionate About Hockey As Me’
“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose.”
Don LaGreca has been working on Rangers radio broadcasts since 2005, and has served as the backup play-by-play announcer for the last few seasons, filling in for Kenny Albert when he is unable to be on the call. Because of Albert’s responsibilities in calling national playoff games on television amid the new media rights agreement between the league and its partners (ESPN and Turner Sports), La Greca has called more Rangers games of late, and received positive reviews.
Yesterday on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York, Kay mentioned the compliments callers have been giving La Greca for his ability to call hockey games, some of whom credit him for introducing them to the sport.
“The one thing hockey is is underexposed,” said La Greca. “Because you hear a lot of people say, ‘Boy, I didn’t realize how much fun this sport is; how great it is to go to a game,’ because a lot of us don’t grow up around it.”
La Greca realizes that he is in a unique position being the co-host of a sports radio show and an NHL play-by-play announcer, giving him a responsibility to communicate and opine on the game of hockey to his listening audience at large. He considers himself the second person to have such a distinction – the pioneer of which, while he may no longer be calling hockey games, still frequently discusses the sport on Twitter.
“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose,” said La Greca. “And Howie Rose has been out of the sports radio game for 25 years.”
Rose was with WFAN from its launch on July 1, 1987 as its weekday nighttime host. Additionally, he served in the same role as La Greca, backing up Kenny Albert’s father Marv on Rangers radio broadcasts – where, in 1994, he delivered the illustrious call of Stephane Matteau’s game-winning, double-overtime goal in game 7 that sent the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. One year later, Rose left WFAN to begin calling games for the NHL’s New York Islanders on Sportschannel, and did not host a sports radio show during his time as a lead hockey play-by-play announcer.
While there are other sports radio hosts in the New York marketplace that exhibit a passion for hockey such as Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, La Greca is the only one who actively calls the games – akin to how Michael Kay is the only active New York sports radio host who regularly calls professional baseball.
“You don’t have somebody who is as close to the sport as I am to have this kind of forum, so maybe there are a few people like, ‘Hey, I’m a fan of Don. I really don’t like hockey, but he calls a few games so let me listen,’ and it kind of opened a door that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened” said La Greca. “….I don’t think it’s anything that I’m doing. It’s just an opportunity that I have, and it is humbling and it’s pretty cool to hear and I hope those people stick with the sport.”