Shooting from the lip/Jan. 17th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
I've said it time and time again: broadcasters are in the ear of the beholder. Maybe you loved Howard Cosell, maybe you hated hearing him. Some folks enjoy Brent Musburger, some can't stand him. A few have established themselves as so good that they are liked by practically everyone -- Al Michaels and Bob Costas, for instance. Some, such as Joe Theismann, are liked by very few. But is there a correlation between how much a broadcaster talks and how well he is received by the public?
The Wall Street Journal did a study to find out which NFL broadcasters talk the most. It was a very small sample -- just the first 15 minutes from every game of the first week of the NFL season. It found out that CBS's Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots talked the most with an average of 189.20 words per minute.
Personally, my favorite broadcast team is Michaels and NBC partner Cris Collinsworth. Perhaps it's not surprising that they talked the least, averaging only 137.33 words per minute. Fox's Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, my vote for the second-best team in the business, were just ahead of Michaels and Collinsworth with 138.33 words per minute. Both teams were well below the average of 158.44 words per minute. CBS's lead team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were in the middle of the pack with 151.9 words per minute. Interestingly, I rank them about the middle of the pack among NFL broadcast teams.
Of the analysts, no one talked more than Fox's Daryl "Moose'' Johnston, who spit out 99.3 words per minute. That's surprising considering he is a part of three-man booth with announcer Kenny Albert and analyst Tony Siragusa. It's also stunning that he can talk that much and never really say anything, as he displayed once again with Siragusa in Sunday's Bears-Seahawks game. No analyst spoke less than ESPN Monday Night Football's Ron Jaworski, who also is in a three-man booth with Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden. It seems as if Jaworski always has something relevant to say, proving he makes the most of his 30.4 words a minute.
Good move by Fox to put NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira in the booth for both of the network's weekend games and yet not force him into the broadcast. Pereira correctly anticipated that a call in the Packers-Falcons game would be reversed and it was. In Sunday's game, there were no controversial calls, but Pereira sat in for a moment when Seattle's Marcus Trufant took a blow to the head while making a tackle. Pereira pointed out how the league might force all players to wear hip, thigh and knee pads and, perhaps, that kind of padding will not only protect the player wearing the pads, but those they might accidently knee in the head, like Trufant.
Maybe viewers cannot expect former players and coaches to be entirely objective when they move to the booth or studio. (Then again, you would never know that Cris Collinsworth played for the Bengals or Troy Aikman played for the Cowboys or Kirk Herbstreit played at Ohio State.) But viewers should not be subjected to out-and-out rooting from analysts. At the end of CBS's halftime show Saturday, analyst Shannon Sharpe, the former Ravens tight end, yelled out for the Ravens to hang in there and that they had only 30 minutes to go to beat the Steelers. It got worse after the game when Sharpe not once, but twice griped about the officiating. It's one thing for the host of a local radio station to do that, but a national analyst? Come on.
In case you missed it, Whitney Johnson was let go by WDAE 620-AM because of budget cuts by Clear Channel, which owns WDAE. Johnson was known mostly as being the news update guy and his signature line of "WDAEEEEEEE.'' When looking to make cuts, perhaps the trend among stations will be to lay off update people. But WDAE had plenty of other candidates -- on and off the air -- it could (and should) have lopped off before Johnson. Those who made this decision might not have realized how popular Johnson was among listeners as well as those he covered. No one at WDAE was more connected with the local teams than Johnson, who was a fixture in the locker rooms of the Bucs, Rays and Lightning.
Marc Benarzyk, the former afternoon drive host on 1040-AM, has a new gig. Let go by 1040-AM last August, Benarzyk is now co-hosting an afternoon drive show at WFNZ 620-The Fan in Charlotte, N.C. He is now going by the on-air name of Marc James.
Anyone catch former Browns coach Eric Mangini on ESPN over the weekend? And is anyone else surprised at just how good he was? Mangini sat in with the NFL Live crew on Friday and then had an interesting piece during Sunday NFL Countdown about how to shut down the Patriots. You wouldn't guess that Mangini would make a good TV analyst because he doesn't seem to have a dynamic or charismatic personality. But Mangini was really good. He isn't prone to hyperbole. He makes quick, thought-provoking points and speaks with confidence. Keep an eye on him because he could turn into one heck of a broadcaster.
Talking about the Patriots-Jets trash talk that created lots of juicy headlines, ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman said that looking at the headlines was "like reading different countries talking about the war.''
Actually, it was nothing like that. Berman wasn't comparing football to war, but it still wasn't the best analogy he ever uttered. You get the impression that Berman just started talking without thinking about what he was going to say next and ended up with a real clunker.
ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer lambasted the Ravens following their second-half meltdown against the Steelers, and criticized them for having a bunch of "big mouths'' who choked at the most critical point in the season. It's that kind straight talk, as well as how Dilfer expertly breaks down plays, that makes him one of the must-see football analysts on televisions. He is the analyst you want to hear most immediately after a game because of ability to take a game and, within minutes, put it all in perspective.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Right now seems as good a time as any for the Lightning to get its act together and start playing like a playoff spot isn't sewn up just yet.
2. Since winning back-to-back national titles in 2006-07, the Gators basketball team is a pedestrian 83-40 while playing in a basketball conference that really hasn't been that strong or deep. And they have not won an NCAA Tournament game since winning the 2007 title. If coach Billy Donovan had to do it all over again, think he would've stayed in Gainesville?
3. Like him or not, the NFL is a lot more fun when Jets coach Rex Ryan is standing behind a microphone.