So, last week, I penned an article for this website talking about who my favorite NFL announcers were on radio.
I focused on the LOCAL level and talked about my “fantastic four” of home team announcers.
This week, I wanted to shift my focus to the NATIONAL level and talk about who I feel are the announcers for the NFL on television.
As well paying as these gigs are, being an announcer for the NFL on TV always seemed like a thankless job. When it comes to said announcers, fans assign them in one of two categories:
“Never heard of them” or “I hate them so much I’m muting my television”.
I remember one Sunday in the Maguire household when Joe Buck had the unfortunate assignment of having to call the Lions-Packers game that week. Several Brett Favre touchdowns and less than a half of football later, my dad grabbed the remote, hit mute, and turned on the Lions home team broadcast on local radio.
After hurling a large sea of expletives at both Buck and the executives that decided to employ him at FOX, he explained in no uncertain terms that he didn’t need to hear Buck spend three hours “with his lips on Brett Favre’s…” (I think you know where I’m headed).
This was my discovery of a belief with my dad that every national announcer who called a Lions game OPENLY ROOTED against them. This belief is held to this day, and radios are in specific places around every TV at my parents’ house because of it.
In truth, no announcer ever rooted against the Lions. The team just flat out sucked…and my pops needed someone to take out his anger on.
What I found over the years is that this phenomenon was not unique to my household. As I watched games with friends or colleagues, I found that many of them did the same thing and for the same reason.
There are some amazingly talented play-by-play and color commentators calling NFL games on television. Some are better than others, but I never once heard someone openly root for one team or another.
So, in part as a mea culpa for all the unnecessary abuse that many an NFL TV announcer took in my household, (and apparently many others) I wanted to highlight my “fantastic four”.
I think Harlan is one of the most entertaining and versatile announcers in our industry. He has an amazing gift of making even the most mundane moments in a game electric. Many of his NBA and NCAA basketball calls are the stuff of legend.
But the NFL is where he REALLY shines.
I mean, who else can make the call of a streaker running on the field sound THIS good? (yes, I know this was on radio, not TV, but this call shows his talent and will NEVER get old).
What really strikes me about Harlan, more than anything else, is that the focus is always on the game, not on himself. As over-the-top as he can be, he never acts like he’s trying to go viral. He just does. He’s amazingly humble. I know as I’ve had the chance to have many conversations with Harlan during my time in Kansas City (where he resides). As big a name as he is, he’s surprisingly approachable and always willing to talk shop.
Like Harlan, Eagle is about as versatile an announcer as you can find. He’s led a storied career calling NBA and NCAA Basketball, boxing, tennis, and college football. He’s also been a steady voice on CBS’ NFL coverage for decades.
What impresses me the most about him is that he knows how to be exciting, without being too over the top. Think Gus Johnson…but with a governor.
It’s a challenge to make your calls stand out without sounding corny and contrived. Eagle has managed to do that repeatedly during his career.
His call of the “Miami Miracle” back in 2018 remains one of my favorite TV calls in recent memory.
Romo is planted firmly in the “love him or hate him” category when it comes to NFL announcers.
Put me in the former.
Sure, CBS paid him a king’s ransom to call games with Jim Nantz (a reported $17 million per season). And yes, he does have some goofy moments where you wonder where the hell he’s coming from.
But man…he stands out.
In a world where NFL game analysts are generally forgettable, Romo brings an amazing balance of entertainment and insight that is very rare. From his uncanny ability to diagnose plays, to his unbridled excitement in key moments, Romo is a great watch.
Anyone who feels different probably needs to lighten up.
Can he come off smug? Sure. Maybe a bit arrogant? Sometimes.
In my mind, there is no better game analyst in football than Collinsworth.
There is a reason he’s been assigned to call so many prime-time games in his career. The guy explains exactly what’s going on, pulls NO punches, and plays no favorites. He’ll tell you how he feels, plain stop. I always appreciated his candor, even if I disagreed with it.
Let’s face it, he said what we were all thinking when Malcolm Butler picked off Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX.
Dallas Cowboys: Proof That Marketing Works
“Good marketers can convince you their products are anything they want you to believe those products are.”
Why do people still hate the Dallas Cowboys? Give me a good football reason that the Cowboys are worth your time. I get that there was an era where if the NFL was Mortal Kombat, the Cowboys were Shang Tsung, but those days ended three decades ago.
It’s 2022. There are adults in their late 20s that have never seen a Cowboys’ championship. Since 2000, the franchise has been to the playoffs fewer times than the Falcons. They have won as many playoff games in that time as the Jaguars. At this point, hating the Cowboys is about as useless as hating Luxembourg.
So why do people still have such a deep-seated disdain for the star and the players that wear it? Why was a national celebration set of on Sunday when the Cowboys lost in the stupidest way imaginable?
The answer is pretty simple really: marketing.
Good marketers can convince you their products are anything they want you to believe those products are. Great marketers can get you to behave like those products are what they say they are even when you know that isn’t true.
Jerry Jones is a great marketer.
People tune in when the Cowboys play. Maybe a good chunk of those people are hate-watching, but they’re watching. That is why the team was on in primetime six times this season. Of those other eleven games, seven of them were called by either FOX’s or CBS’s top broadcast team.
ESPN completely rebuild and rebranded First Take around the idea that Stephen A. Smith doesn’t like the Dallas Cowboys. That is it. The whole promo package for the show was just Smith wearing a cowboy hat and chomping on a cigar and laughing.
Shouldn’t we be doing this to the Patriots? Afterall, in the time since the Cowboy’s last Super Bowl appearance, New England has gone to the game an astounding ten times and won six titles.
It’s easy to read that sentence and say “Well, Tom Brady isn’t there anymore. The Patriots aren’t what they used to be. It isn’t as much fun to hate them.”
Uh, dawg, who in Dallas has been worth hating since Troy Aikman retired? You know, like 22 years ago!
Jerry Jones isn’t the man that coined the phrase “America’s Team, ” so he didn’t set its initial meaning. What it became, by virtue of him leaning into the branding is something that forces you to react. Either you buy into the blue and the silver and the star and you’re with America’s team or you recoil at the branding and the goofiness of the whole aesthetic and want to watch it burn.
Notre Dame football could be doing this too. The problem is they do not have the great markerter out front pushing that slogan over and over again.
Even “how bout them Cowboys?” is a solid positioning statement. It’s easily repeatable in good times or bad. The genius of Jerry Jones embracing that statement and that clip of Jimmy Johnson shouting those four now-iconic words is that it is a question that always has an answer.
Fans can celebrate with “how bout them cowboys” when the team wins. Haters can say it facetiously when they are on a losing streak. Either way, you are saying it and the Dallas Cowboys are occupying a part of your brain.
Positioning statements work. That is why so many stations tag their imaging with the same phrase or sentence every single time. That is why so many stations are called The Fan or The Game or The Ticket.
Admittedly, sometimes we need to rethink how our listeners are receiving the message. If we are all going for homogeny, nothing can stand out. Maybe that is a reason to rethink what I jokingly call “sports radio’s magic hat of five acceptable station names”, but the larger point is that you want every message you put out to point to the brand image you are trying to portray.
Jerry Jones’s message to the NFL and the media is no matter who they root for, fans care about my team. His positioning statements reflect that. Whether you think they are great marketing or goofy corporate branding, they work. The proof is everywhere.
Three Sports Marketing Trends You Need To Know
“Sports marketing is evolving at an extremely rapid pace and you’d best know where your competition lies or where opportunity exists.”
#1 OTT’s RAPID EXPANSION
Pay TV lost more than 5 million customers in 2020 and that trend is going to continue and the number is going to increase. With nearly 30% more Americans cutting the cord in 2021 and almost 87% of adults 18-24 preferring the OTT option, you’d better dive in and understand just how fast video consumption is changing; especially in sports. Platforms like ESPN+, Amazon, Peacock, Paramount+ and Facebook are diving head first into the sports rights market so that they can deliver LIVE sports where Americans are consuming video. OTT provides that sniper riffle approach advertisers are looking for as they try to increase ROI and minimize waste.
#2 AI … DATA-DATA-DATA
Without a doubt artificial intelligence is changing the way marketers are deciding how to go to market with their messaging and their products and/or services. More data is available now than ever before and you’d better understand how your client is using it to help them make their buying decisions. Most large advertisers are not only using one, but multiple vendors and are trying to obtain as much data as they possibly can so they can better recognize trends and understand their consumers behaviors and buying patterns
#3 eSports is BOOMING
Video games aren’t just for fun and entertainment at home anymore. Gamers are now creating leagues, generating 6-figure endorsements and have multiple contests where they compete for HUGE cash and prizes. Marketers are actively looking for ways to take advantage of this meteoric rise in popularity of eSports and that includes product placement, team sponsorships, individual gamer(s) sponsorships and tournament sponsorships. If your station isn’t trying to create a sellable feature around eSports then you’re missing out on a huge and very sellable feature. There are over 234 million eSports enthusiasts world wide and that number is only going to continue to climb.
OTT, AI and eSports are rapidly changing the sports marketing landscape and these are trends that will only continue and grow over the next 5 years. Digitalization of just about everything is changing how, where, when and on what kind of devices sports fans are consuming content. Sports marketing is evolving at an extremely rapid pace and you’d best know where your competition lies or where opportunity exists.
Be the expert in the room when meeting with agencies and/or clients, it will set you apart from the pack. Understanding these rapidly evolving trends will help you have better and deeper dialog with your advertisers.
What Should Radio Be Thinking About On Martin Luther King Day?
“Shouldn’t we be doing more than just waiting for resumes with “black-sounding names” on top of them to come across our desks?”
Monday, January 17 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A lot of you will get the day off of work. Some of you will attend prayer services or civic events to honor the civil rights leader and his legacy.
Dr. King, like all humans, had his flaws but is undeniably a man worth celebrating. In a world where the divide between the powerful and the rest of us seems to be growing out of control, it is good to take a day to celebrate and think about a man that made a career out of speaking up for the little guy – whether that means black and brown people during the Civil Rights Era or it means workers in times of labor unrest.
Across the media landscape, we will see stations and networks running promos touting their “commitment to Dr. King’s dream!”. The sentiment is great, but I do wonder what it means to the people making those promos and the stations and networks airing them.
Look at the archives of this site. Think about the BSM Summits you have attended. How often have we been willing to shine a spotlight on the amount sports radio talks about embracing diversity versus actually putting plans into action? Jason has written and talked about it a lot. Every time, the message seems to circle back to him saying “I am giving you the data. You are telling me you recognize that this is a problem. Now do something about it.”
It’s something I found myself starting to think about a lot last year when Juneteenth became recognized as a federal holiday. Suddenly every brand was airing ads telling me how they have known how special this day is all along. And look, I hope that is true. It seems like if it was though, I would have been seeing those ads in plenty of Junes before 2021.
I am going to put my focus on the media because that is what we do here, but this can be said about a lot of companies. So many brands have done a great job of rolling out the yellow, black, red, and green promo package to acknowledge that it is Martin Luther King Jr Day or Black History Month or Juneteenth. I worry though that for so many, especially on the local level, that is where the acknowledgment ends.
That isn’t to say that those stations or brands actively do not want more minority representation inside their company. It just isn’t a subject for which they can say they have taken a lot of action.
Look, I am not here to debate the merits of affirmative action. I am saying in an industry like sports radio, where we thrive on fans being able to relate to the voices coming through their speakers, shouldn’t we be doing a better job of making sure minority personalities know that there is a place for them in this industry? Shouldn’t we be doing more than just waiting for resumes with “black-sounding names” on top of them to come across our desks?
WFAN went out and found Keith McPherson in the podcasting world to fill its opening at night after Steve Somers’s retirement. FOX Sports added RJ Young, who first made a name for himself on YouTube and writing books, to its college football coverage. 95.7 The Game found Daryle “Guru” Johnson in a contest. JR Jackson got on CBS Sports Radio’s radar thanks to his YouTube videos and when it came time for the network to find a late-night host, it plucked him from Atlanta’s V103, one of the best-known urban stations in America.
That’s two guys in major markets, another on national radio, and a third on national television. In all four cases, the companies that hired them didn’t just sit back and wait for a resume to come in.
Some of you will read this and dismiss me. After all, I am a fat, white Southern man. If I were a hacky comedian, I would say “the only four groups you are allowed to make fun of” and then yell “Gitterdone!”.
In reality, I point those things out because I know there is a large chunk of you that will call this whole column “white guilt” or “woke” or whatever your talking point is now.
Whether or not we are about the be a majority minority nation is up for debate, but here is a fact. America is getting darker. I look at the radio industry, one that is constantly worried about how it will be affected by new innovations in digital audio, and wonder how anyone can think doing things like we always have is going to work forever.
I’m not damning anyone or saying anybody should be losing their jobs. I don’t know most of you reading this well enough to make that judgment. What I am saying is that our industry has lived on the idea that this business is always changing and we have to be adaptable. I think it is time we do that, not just with the content we present on air, but in how we go about finding the right people to present it.
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