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The 5 (or 6) Best Hometown Radio Calls In Super Bowl History

“I tried to narrow it down to 5, but it just couldn’t be done.”

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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