Woe Nelly! You make my head hurt


The Rose Bowl was quite a game. It had drama, stars, controversy and some really bad commentary. Keith Jackson’s pitiful sportscasting during the game inspired me toward today’s topic.

Some rarely consider the sportscaster. A good one doesn’t stand out, but draws a viewer in to the sporting event, provides background and perspective. The best ones accentuate each moment the way an HDTV accentuates the picture.

There have been many a great sportscaster in the past century on both radio and television. There was no specific style to being a great sportscaster. Some would be subtle and say exactly right things at the right times, some would become a bigger spectacle than the game itself. Which one is the one that best suits you?

Its hard to define what makes a good commentator, but its easy to know a bad one when you hear it. I give a pass to athletes that sit in the booth. They can be very bad – see Bill Walton, George Ravling or Sean Salisbury. They aren’t journalists, they’re the meat heads that can say “I know how it feels to…”

For what its worth, I submit my top and bottom five. There have been other rankings in other places, but these are mine. Enjoy.

My top five
Marv Albert, minus the biting
Mike Patrick, must have the patience of Job to regularly tolerate Vitale. A little Dicky V goes a long way, but I credit Patrick with changing “annoying” to “energetic.”
Bob Costas, can be cheesy, but I don’t mind.
Jon Miller, just makes every game better.
Steve Stone He calls a baseball game like he’s already seen it. Pinpoint analysis is almost eerie, and completely shatters the former-athlete stereotype.

My bottom five
Keith Jackson – As good at his craft as Brett Favre will be at his … in 10 years.
Tim McCarver
Harry Caray
Chris Berman – He deserves special recognition.
Reason 1) His “WHOOP!” noise
Reason 2) Lack of preparation. He’s ad-libbing half the time and doing so poorly, stuttering and stammering while barely concealing his head-tracking read of the teleprompter.
Reason 3) Nicknames
Reason 4) He calls himself “The Scwham”

And now for the worst sportscaster of all time… This guy.

6 Responses to “Woe Nelly! You make my head hurt”

  1. Whitney Says:

    That’s TOO funny! Painful to watch, but SO funny.

  2. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I put Jack Buck in my top five, and I put Joe Morgan in my bottom five.

    If there’s a grammar expert on the blog (Mikey?), I’d appreciate a clarification. It was grating to hear Keith Jackson keep referring to how many “times-out” a team had left, instead of “time-outs.” If he was grammatically correct, maybe I could give him a little leeway in his attempt to shape tomorrow’s youth or something, but everyone who has ever watched sports in life says “time-outs” instead.

    Great post, DeJon!

  3. Terry Austin Says:

    Jon Miller is slipping rapidly into Berman territory for me. He has a great voice and cadence, but he — like Joe Buck — would be so much better if he didn’t try so hard to be funny. Or maybe, like Al said, it’s a result of being leg-ironed to Joe Morgan.

    I’d put Vin Scully in his place, even though Vin doesn’t do national broadcasts any more. Jack Buck was great, too. Mike Shannon, on the other hand… well, Bottom Five isn’t low enough. That he’s a “St. Louis treasure” speaks unfortunate volumes about St. Louis.

    I accidentally caught a few minutes of the OSU/FSU game this week. I swear I thought Mike Tirico was doing a Keith Jackson impersonation. He was so-o-o-o-o terrible. Tirico’s great at golfcasting, but football isn’t his sport. (Nor should it be: I think he’s like four feet tall.)

    “Times out” is interesting. Kind of like “RsBI” in baseball. The great thing about English is that if you get it wrong consistently, it eventually becomes right.

  4. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Oh, and I forgot to comment on Brent Musburger. I caught some of his big bowl game the other night, and is it just me, or does he say “uh” more times than my teenage daughter????

    I’m relatively easy on sportscasters, but I almost had to turn the sound off! Has he always been like this, or is this a new thing for him? Maybe it was just me…

    Good to hear from my old friend/roomie, Terry Austin. Terry sort of reminds me of that old joker, Wednesday Housefly, only Terry isn’t THAT much of a goofball.

  5. DeJon Redd Says:

    Al, I noticed KJ’s “timeout-vs-times out” delimma myself. It was especially noticable once in the third quarter when he change his mind mid-word.

    And for the sake of full disclosure, I was mostly ruffled by what I percieved as a distinct pro-Trojan bias. He regularly commented how a USC runner could have scored a touchdown, “if it hadn’t been for just one or two Longhorn tacklers.” I know the guy doesn’t travel east of the Mississippi anymore, but he sounded a little like Ken Harrelson doing a White Sox broadcast … “And LenDale White scores for the Good Guys!”

    Also, I do think there have been some voices in baseball that are absolutley devine. Vin Scully being one. And Jack Buck was a real gem for the evil Cardinals franchise.

    At the risk of losing all credibility, I admit I wish I could have heard more of Howard Cosell.

    “But I’m just telling it like it is.”

  6. Joe Longhorn Says:

    My favorite Keith Jackson moment from the Rose Bowl: Him trying to decipher how much time was left for USC to score after Texas made the two-point conversion. He was trying to read the clock and finally came to the realization that the clock still had :19 remaining, the same as before the extra point attempt. He said, with astonishment nearing outrage in his voice, “The clock didn’t even move on that play!” Dan Fouts replied without missing a beat, “Well, it was an extra point attempt, so it’s probably not going to.”

    If ever there was a time for Keith Jackson to go, it was when he retired after the BCS championship game in 1999.

    There is only one phrase that accurately describes Vince’s performance on Wednesday: “BOOM! goes the dynamite!!!”

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