Sunday the NFL will crown its champion for 2020-21, in Super Bowl 55. The game will be seen nationally on CBS, with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo calling the action. No knock on the network guys because they are excellent at what they do. I’ll be tuned in since I have no skin in this game. It might be different if I had a rooting interest.
For those that do have that interest, there’s a better than average chance you’ll be watching, but with the hometown radio call on somewhere close by. Chiefs radio play-by-play man, Mitch Holthus hopes to belt out his signature “Touchdown, KAN-ZA CITY!” and longtime Bucs radio guy Gene Deckerhoff is hoping to shout out “Touchdown Tampa Bay!” a few times. It’s the local radio calls that bring the emotion, be it on the winning end or losing end of things. Fans crave it, especially in these huge moments.
With that in mind as we get ready for the NFL Title game, here are, in no particular order, the best local radio calls in Super Bowl history. I tried to narrow it down to 5, but it just couldn’t be done.
Helmet Catch–Feb. 3, 2008: Super Bowl XLII, Patriots vs. Giants
New England was trying to complete a perfect season, but the Giants stood in their way. Eli Manning’s pass to David Tyree may be one of the most spectacular in Super Bowl history! With the Giants on the move, Manning evaded lineman and let loose a deep ball in the direction of receiver David Tyree, who was mainly a special team’s guy in those days. The hook up was legendary and so was the call. Bob Papa, Dick Lynch and Carl Banks had the radio duties that day.
Papa: “Manning takes the snap, back to throw, under pressure, avoids the rush and he’s going to fight out of it, still fights out of it, now throws it deep down field, wide open Tyree who MAKES THE CATCH! What a play by manning, he eluded three sacks and what a catch by Tyree with 58 seconds to go.
Lynch: They had Manning by the back of the shirt and he was able to evade that and get away from it. How did he get away from that?
Banks: I have no idea. I am still flabbergasted with what Eli Manning was able to do and it’s amazing that he didn’t go down.
Papa: Tyree had Harrison all over him, the ball was on his helmet but he got his other hand on it and pulled it in.
It works because you can tell the utter amazement in all of their voices. It was real emotion in that moment. The description of Papa, assuming Manning was going to get sacked two or three times, was spot on. It didn’t go too over the top, I felt after listening back to it again and again, they nailed it.
Marcus Allen, 74-yard TD run, Los Angeles Raiders win Super Bowl 18:
In Super Bowl XVIII, Los Angeles Raiders Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen put the game out of reach on the final play of the third quarter. Allen improvised his way to a 74-yard touchdown run to put away Washington. His run was filled with cuts and a reversal of field and was a thing of beauty. So was the hometown call by play-by-play man, the legendary Bill King.
King: “Plunkett giving to Allen, sending him wide left. He has to reverse his field…and he gets away for a moment. Cuts up the middle to the 40, runs across a man to the 50, down to the 40, picking up a blocker, gets up to the 20. To the 10. To the 5. Touchdown Raiders! Holy Toledo! 74 yards. The Raiders are mobbing Marcus Allen, who has just stood a crowd of 72,000 on its collective ear.”
I only wish I’d been able to listen to King more, living in the Midwest, I didn’t really get the chance. The smoothness in which he delivers his words, the inflection at just the right moment and the descriptions makes this a call of legends. King doesn’t get the credit for being a multi-sport icon that he was. Tremendous call here, not a thing is missing from it.
Devin Hester returns opening kick of Super Bowl 41, 92-yards for a Touchdown:
In 2006, Bears rookie kick returner Devin Hester had the reputation of a guy you don’t kick to, at all. He would return kick after kick that season, which made it hard to believe that to start Super Bowl 41, the Colts would even think of letting Hester get his hands on the ball. They did and the opening kick resulted in a 92-yard return for a touchdown. Jeff Joniak and former Bear Tom Thayer had the call that evening.
Joniak: It sails to the far side around the 8-yard line to Hester under it and to the middle at the 15 to the 20. Breaks free at the 25, to the 30 to the OUTSIDE, 40, midfield, 40, 30 of the colts, 20, 15, Hester 5, (OHHHH!) touchdown Bears!
Thayer: NO WAY! Adam Vinatieri kicked the ball so high in the air it gave time for the protection to get behind him and create a running lane and Devin Hester followed his blockers. He caught the ball first and then went to work.
Joniak: A fast start delivered by the Windy City Flyer, the man they called “Anytime” here in South Florida while he played at Miami. Devin Hester you are ridiculous!”
Hester’s return game made Joniak’s phrase of “Devin Hester you are ridiculous” one that was featured in commercials and on NFL Network promos. Even though it had become “old hat”, the energy brought to this call is spot on. The analysis by Thayer of “why did they kick to him?” was a great question at the time. This Super Bowl first was described nearly perfectly by these two gentlemen.
James Harrison’s pick 6–Feb. 1, 2009: Super Bowl XLIII, Steelers vs. Cardinals
Heading into halftime, Pittsburgh was trying to stop an Arizona team looking to take a lead into the locker room. The Cardinals were down 10-7 and had the ball at the Steelers 2-yard line. James Harrison then made a read on a play and picked off Kurt Warner’s pass at the goal-line. He then started the longest interception return in the game’s history, rumbling 100 yards for a Pittsburgh score. Bill Hargrove had the call on Steelers’ radio.
Hargrove: 18 seconds left of the 2nd quarter, 1st and goal Arizona. Steelers show blitz he throws the pass, it’s going to be picked off, James Harrison has it, he’s running up the sideline, 35, 40, still on his feet at the forty-five, and down, NO he’s still on his feet, here comes Harrison jumping over people to the 20, the 15, the 10, the 5 and it’s a touchdown!
Hargrove seemed as stunned as anyone that this big burly linebacker was going to return this interception for a touchdown. In the call there were a few moments Hargrove thought the play was over, but just as Harrison was running out of gas, Hargrove put the pedal to the metal with the exclamation of “NO!” he’s still on his feet. The call mirrored the pacing of the play to that point. There was a trepidation on the field and Hargrove handled it carefully trying not to disappoint an audience if he got too into the play as it developed. I loved listening back to this call with video attached.
Joe Montana Passes to John Taylor to Win Super Bowl XXIII
Joe Montana worked more of his magic, engineering a drive to win Super Bowl XXIII for the 49’ers. San Francisco went on to a 20-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals thanks to Montana’s brilliance. He drove his team down the field in the waning seconds of the game and capped it off with a game winning TD pass to John Taylor.
On the call that day on KGO-AM in San Francisco were, Lon Simmons, who was calling his final game as the 49’ers play-by-play announcer, Wayne Welker and Joe Starkey. As Montana put San Francisco in position for the final score, this is what it sounded like.
Starkey: It’s such a sight to watch this, whether it happens now or not to watch Joe Montana do this so many years and to watch this absolute surgeon on the football field and one of the all-time greats do his thing again it’s almost like poetry.
Simmons: At the 10-yard line, 39 seconds remaining. Montana at quarterback in motion comes rice. Back to throw Montana steps up throws…TOUCHDOWN 49’ers! Taylor is in for the touchdown. A 10-yard pass and the 49’ers have scored with 34 seconds remaining.
Welker: They brought Jerry Rice in motion and a couple of guys followed Rice, one man was on Taylor and he ran a post pattern and Montana hit him in stride.
Great set up to the eventual outcome to start this particular call. Detailing the previous exploits of Montana, creating the drama for the moment to come. Was awesome to hear Lon Simmons too, forgot about that unmistakable voice. The play was a huge one in the legacy of Montana and it was given more than the appropriate level of deference. A good solid call by Simmons and company.
Joe Gibbs Goes for It in Super Bowl XVII
Washington Head Coach Joe Gibbs decided to make a gutsy call in the Super Bowl. With his team trailing the Miami Dolphins 17-13 in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XVII, he went for it on fourth-and-1. The decision would pay off. Using his workhorse running back, John Riggins to convert the first down. He got that and more as the Skins would eventually win the game 27-17 thanks to this game changing play.
Frank Herzog had the play-by-play with analysis by both Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgensen.
Jergensen: Here comes “The Diesel” (Riggins’ nickname), here comes “The Diesel”.
Herzog: There’s the snap, hand to Riggins, good hole, he’s got the first down at the 40, he’s gone! The 35, the 30, the 20, he’s gone, he’s gone, touchdown Washington Redskins!
Jurgensen: Woooo hoooo!
Herzog: Holy cow what a play, 42-yard touchdown run on 4th and a foot. John Riggins has given the Redskins the lead in Super Bowl 17!
Huff: That, gentlemen might be the nail in the coffin.
This is the epitome of a hometown call. Jergensen referring to Riggins by his nickname at the beginning of the call. Then the former Redskins’ QB lets out the joyous cackle, folks not fans of the Washington Football Team wouldn’t appreciate it, that’s what makes it great. Herzog nailed the call too. Ecstatic that the first down was picked up, then he gets almost melodic with the “he’s gone, he’s gone” part of the call. Perfect execution and intent.
Hometown, home team calls are personal to fans. They feel a connection with the broadcasters, especially when a former player is a part of things. On the national stage, remember that local is still so important and always has a place at the table.
Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call
“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”
I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.
The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.
Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.
Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.
We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.
I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.
You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.
People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.
How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.
Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.
If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.
In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.
Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.
What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.
Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!
“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”
Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?
Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.
To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:
#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?
#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?
#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?
If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!
Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.
Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:
#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.
#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.
#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.
#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.
#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.
Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!
Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas
“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”
Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?
Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!
One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.
Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.
There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.
Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.
I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.
Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.
It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?
Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.
If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.
Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.
A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.
“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.
We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.
As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.
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