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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
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.