Monday, April 22, 2013

goodbye to the greatest ...

"I found a box of memories.
Read a letter,
Dropped a tear where you signed your name.
And turning the page,
Smearing the ink into love always.

Girl, I always start this way.
And then I end up in a bottle
Screaming out your name.
Punching the walls, 
Carrying on like I've gone insane.

And in the mirror?  I can see
The man who just shook his head
With no remorse,
Watching an angel cry her tears,
Stepping over my beers as you walked out the door.

And there ain't nothing like a memory,
When it's coming on strong like a hurricane.
How can love like that just up and walk away?
Killing me baby.

Got me pouring up another drink,
Bourbon's hitting me hard like a freight train.
With my back against the wall or on my knees?
The worst of your memory
Gets the best of me ..."

-- "The Best of Me" by Brantley Gilbert.


The sports world lost a giant last week, with the sad passing of legendary broadcaster Pat Summerall.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Pat Summerall was the voice of my generation ... and my parent's generation as well.  Every major NFC game for thirty years?  Summerall had the call.  A lot of the most memorable Super Bowls?  Summerall had the call.  Every meaningful Masters for twenty years, including the greatest one ever staged (1986)?  Summerall.  Hell, the dude even had US Open calls during the glory years* in the late 1980s / early 1990s for men's tennis.  It is safe to say that every meaningful event not staged by Major League Baseball, had Pat Summerall's voice as a part of it.

(*: as the only person I know who loves men's tennis that isn't referred to as "mom", I don't care if you make fun of me or not.  Watch one major match at Arthur Ashe come early September, and you tell me that sport isn't awesome.)

Since I watch far too much sports ... and out of respect for the greatness that was Pat Summerall ... and since with his series of strokes, Dr. Z doesn't do his annual NFL commentator rankings anymore ... here are my 27 favorite announcing teams, both dearly departed and still with us, as well as my five most despised commentating teams.  (One of these teams that I thoroughly despise, will probably surprise you.)

Just as a note up front: if you don't have the NBA League Pass, or have never had it, you won't recognize a solid 5-6 teams on this listing.  In one special case, you truly missed out on greatness.  (That would be numero five on the "Awesome Twenty Seven" portion of this post.)

* The Sh*ttacular Five.

The Honorable Mention: Don Criqui and (pick one) Steve Tasker or Steve Buere"lein King", NFL on NBC / NFL on CBSMy critique of Criqui and Tasker can be read here.  (Warning: if language offends you, don't click on the link.  I hold nothing back.)  My running diary of a Criqui / Buere"lein King" broadcast can be read by clicking here.  (Not nearly as offensive to the language-sensitive.)

And just in case those two links don't give you proof as to how clueless, aloof, and incompetent Don Criqui is as a broadcaster, neither of those two broadcasts, were his worst "mail it in" effort I've ever watched.  Criqui and Bob Wischusen had a Louisville / Syracuse game at the Dome back in the 2008-2009 season.  Criqui welcomed us to the broadcast "coming to you from Louisville, Kentucky", and then referred to the "Louisville Wildcats and the Syracuse Orangemen!"  Don?  The 'Cuse dropped the "men" part out of their nickname fifteen f*cking years ago, the Carrier Dome is in Syracuse, New York, not Louisville, Kentucky, and I'm pretty sure the Cardinals nickname, is not the Wildcats.  And that was inside the first thirty seconds of the broadcast.  Poor Bob Wischusen (who is the New York Jets play-by-play guy and a damned good basketball announcer too).  He didn't deserve that garbage from his partner.  And frankly, neither did I, and any other fan of college basketball.

5. Tom Hammond and Pat Haden, Notre Dame football.  Good God, was this pairing eight layers of awful.  And it was all because of Haden, who may be the worst color analyst in television history not named "Bob Trumpy" or "Joey Sunshine".  (Don't worry -- we're getting to Ol' Bob and Ol' Joe here momentarily.)  Haden couldn't get the down and distance right, could never figure out how to pronounce Bob Davie's last name, routinely had no clue what the score was.  And he was worse on the old Sunday Night Football package that TNT used to air.  Nothing said "second rate sh*tty throwaway prime time game" like having Pat Haden attached to it.  Let's just all thanks the sports broadcasting gods, that Pat Haden is now employed as USC's athletic director, and no longer struggling to pronounce "Jerome Bettis" or "Lake Dawson".

4. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, NFL on CBS.  Surprised?  I DESPISE Jim Nantz calling anything other than golf.  And nowhere is his cheezy, fake friendly persona more irritating than when paired with the wooden personality of Phil Simms, a man who seems to think he's God's gift to broadcasting.  You're not Phil.  No, really -- you're not.  You're boring, you're dull, you act like a freaking arrogant ass on the air, and it's annoying as hell.  If there's anything us Chiefs fans should be thankful for over being god awful the last couple years, it's that Nantz and Simms haven't called a game involving the Chiefs since the playoff defeat to the Ravens three years ago.

3. Fred White calling anything, especially Big 8 / Big XII hoops.  Look it, as a Royals fan, I should be "brand loyal", but for God's sake, he referred to Drew Gooden as "Dwight" or "Doc" all three years he played at Kansas.  Nothing said "Big 8 / Big XII game that no credible network wants to air" like seeing Frank White attached to the broadcast.  Excuse me -- Fred.  Fred Black.  No, wait -- Frank Blue. 

2. Dick Enberg and Bob Trumpy, NFL on NBC.  If you never had to suffer through Bob Trumpy "broadcasting" a game, or don't remember any of his less-than-memorable calls, you are a very lucky reader.  Jesus, Trumpy was so awful, I once threw a glass at the TV, as my mom was sitting there next to me, and even my mom -- not exactly the biggest football fan you'll find -- even my mom responded with "wait, isn't Joe Montana out hurt today?  Isn't that Sonny Bono starting today for us?"  Yes, mom -- Sonny Bono started for us.  For God's sake, if you're so damned stupid you can't tell Joe Montana apart from Steve Bono, you have no business being in a broadcast booth.  Which probably explains why NBC fired Trumpy after the 1994 season, and replaced him with Phil Simms and Paul Maguire.  (Pause).  Well, one out of two ain't bad.

1. Mike Patrick, Paul Maguire, and Joey "Sunshine" Theismann, Sunday Night Football on ESPN.  If you never suffered through this threesome, count your blessings.  Put it this way: when The Sports Guy manages to mock Pat Morita's passing by using your broadcasting techniques?  (It's the fourth question.)  You are three awful, awful announcers.

(But you're still using the Theismann Rating Scale for every movie and cd released that you review, right?)  Hell yes I am.

* The Awesome Twenty Seven.

27. Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, and Paul Maguire, College Football on ABC/ESPN.  These two three usually get the 2:30 Big Ten (plus four) game, and do a phenomenal job.  Nessler is, in my opinion, one of the three or four best broadcasters in the business (he still has at least one more appearance coming up).  Maguire is freaking hysterical to listen to.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love people who can make fun of themselves.  The only reason this pairing is so low is due to Bob Griese's presence.  He's atrocious.  But Nessler and Maguire are so excellent, they at least merit a mention.

26. Joel Meyers and Stu Lantz, LA Lakers basketball.  Meyers has since moved on to handling play-by-play duties with the New Orleans (soon to be) Pelicans, and does a great job with David Wesley.  But he gets this mention for one reason, and one reason only: a game he covered at the Key Arena between the Lakers and Sonics back in 2005.  For some reason that night, the Lakers broadcast didn't go to commercial when the play on the court stopped; you got an inside look instead at what announcers do while off the air. 

So there's a stoppage of play, and the camera pans to this extremely attractive blonde chick, who had some assets and wasn't afraid to flaunt them.  The camera stays on her, and then out of nowhere you hear "aww sh*t", said in the most sleazy, dirty old man voice imaginable.  Then Stu Lantz chimes in with an extremely distasteful, off-color joke about a sex act he'd like to perform on this chick, and Meyers and Lantz both lose it.  They finally come back live, and I sh*t you not, the camera dude or dudette then focuses on a little 6, 7 year old kid eating cotton candy, and Meyers chimes in with a "aww, isn't that nice", and Lantz replies with something about how great that moment is.  One minute, they're talking about how they want to go down on an attractive blonde, the next, they're praising a kid eating cotton candy.  I don't know what that says about me, but I could not stop laughing.  And I wasn't the only one watching that night, that lost it as well.  "Aww sh*t".  Daddy likey!

25. Brad Sham and Dale Hansen, Dallas Cowboys radio broadcast.  If you live in Dallas, you know who Dale Hansen is, and odds are, you love the guy.  (I know I do).  You also know Dale Hansen hates -- with a passion -- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  It made for really interesting radio back in the day.  (Mr. Jones fired Mr. Hansen during the 1996 season, and let's just say, Mr. Hansen still isn't over his poop-canning.)  Mr. Sham also handles the radio call for the Final Four, and has broadcast various other basketball games, as well as being the former lead announcer for the Monday Night Football radio broadcast.  Mr. Hansen is still the lead sports anchor at WFAA, and is best known as the man who brought down SMU Football with his investigative work.

The man Mr. Hansen replaced as WFAA's lead sports broadcaster?  Who else? Verne!

24. Verne Lundquist and Scott Hamilton, figure skating.  Sadly, this duo is no longer paired up, since CBS hasn't broadcast a Winter Olympiad since 1998.  But man, were these two awesome together.  They were so good, so well loved, that they made a cameo as themselves on a classic episode of "Roseanne", where they are calling the "sock skating on linoleum" finals from the Conner's kitchen.  (Their scene is in the closing credits of the episode linked ... but any scene with Roseanne and Jackie in the supermarket, is laugh out loud hysterical, especially their epic meltdown near the end of the episode.  Well worth a click.)

23. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts, NFL on CBS.  I love, love, love Ian Eagle (who is also the Brooklyn Nets play-by-play announcer).  And I love, love, love Dan Fouts, dating back to when ABC put him in the Monday Night Football booth for two years.  Two rock solid pros that always present an enjoyable broadcast.  You can tell these two are friends outside the booth, and their chemistry is beyond entertaining to watch.  Yo, Les Moonves?  You wanna promote these guys to your top team, I can think of at least one NFL fan who'd be beyond ecstatic.

22. Mike Patrick and Todd Blackledge, College Football on ABC/ESPN.  Mr. Blackledge has developed into one of the best analysts in the sport.  Mr. Patrick is a total wildcard -- one week, he's on top of his game; the next, he's wondering out loud, prompted by nothing, how Britney Spears is doing at that moment in time.  Either way, he's beyond entertaining and enjoyable, and he has at least one more appearance upcoming.

21. Paul Page, Scott Goodyear, and Eddie Cheever, Indy Racing League.  I love Mr. Cheever, who as a driver / owner, once not only called his fellow teammate an "assh*le" live on the air after his teammate caused a wreck that took out their two cars, but he also fired that driver, live, on air.  The driver?  You guessed it -- Frank Stallone!  Nah, just kidding -- Tomas "Crash" Scheckter.  Mr. Goodyear is the best color analyst in motorsports.  And Paul Page?  Well ... he's lovable.  Clueless, incompetent, inept, talentless, and utterly and totally unaware for 92.4% of the race what the hell is going on ... but lovable.  Sadly, this team was downgraded on the comedy scale when Mr. Page was demoted, and Marty Reid promoted, to the lead analyst's chair.  This is not the only IRL broadcasting team, that will be appearing in my rankings.

20. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, NFL on FOX.  A solid broadcasting team that usually turns in a solid, professional effort every week.  Mr. Buck is better calling baseball (and will still appear for his work in a few more spots).  Mr. Aikman is improving every year.  These guys grow on you.

19. Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds, and Michael Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR on FOX.  Hard to believe this is their 13th season paired together ... and it's damned near impossible to pick a single criticism of any of them.  Combined with Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond in the Hollywood Hotel, this broadcasting crew is as good as it gets.

18. Frank Gifford, Al Michaels, and Dan Dierdorf, Monday Night Football.  Frank, Al, and Dan.  Had a nice ring to it back then.  Still has a nice ring to it, even if "it" hasn't happened since 1997.  Lord, do I miss this threesome.  Frank Gifford -- clueless, inept, aloof, ten years past his has-been, thirty years past his prime, still there on your screen every week, like the drunk party guest who doesn't realize it's 2am, and all you want to do is go to sleep and be done with the evening.  Al, trying to keep this three ring circus from drawing multi-thousand dollar FCC fines.  And Dan.  Oh man did (do!) I love Dan Dierdorf, openly rooting for the Chiefs in the booth.  Not "favoring" -- openly rooting. 

In just a six year span, you got these gems out of Dierdorf, showing how much he loved (loves?) the Chiefs.  Here are eight quotes from Chiefs games spanning 1991 to 1997.  You tell me which of the eight, did not come out of Dierdorf's mouth:

* "I have never been inside a finer facility" -- welcoming us to Arrowhead, October 7, 1991, for my favorite game in Chiefs history.

* "The drive in, the smell of the smoke and the barbeque coming from the parking lot, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven" -- from October 7, 1991.

* "How's it feel, john!" -- from the Greatest Monday Night Game ever played, at denver, week 6 1994, as john elway stood powerless and helpless on the sideline, watching Joe Montana willing the Chiefs to victory.

* "Lord, you can take me now, I have seen it all!!!" -- from the Greatest Monday Night Game ever played, at denver, week 6 1994, after Joe Montana found Willie Davis for the game winning score with :08 remaining.

* "Aw.  Poor Wade.  He did everything ... but win!" -- from the Greatest Monday Night Game ever played, at denver, week 6 1994, as a discombobulated and stunned Wade "Son of Bum" Phillips was shown on the sideline.

* "How (could they not rule that a catch)?  You can't even tell the definition of the sideline (from up here)!" -- at oakland, week 2 1997, on the Chiefs final drive.

* "I wonder how al (davis) feels about that!" -- week 10 1997, after Marcus Allen threw a touchdown to secure a victory over the Steelers.

* "(Joe) Bugle is apoplectic.  (Camera pans to Carl Peterson)  There's the president of the Chiefs.  (Camera pans to al davis)  And Andre Rison has just about burned al davis' house down, if you know what I mean" -- week 2 1997, after Andre Rison caught a 33 yard bomb as time expired to beat the raiders 28-27.

The answer?  The last one.  Al Michaels said that.  But Dierdorf's comeback was priceless.  (pure sarcasm voice) "Unfortunately, we do!"

17. Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson, NBA on ABC / ESPN.  Mr.'s Breen and Van Gundy are still the lead NBA announcing crew, but they were so much better with Mark Jackson.  I miss that guy.

16. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, MLB on FOX.  I like Mr. Buck, as mentioned earlier.  I'm probably the only person in America who feels this way, but I actually like Tim McCarver too.  He'll be missed once he retires after this season.  Unlike Billy "Fudge" Packer, whose retirement set off wild mass celebrations amongst every mass of college basketball fans.

15a. Mike Breen, Kenny Smith, and Al Trautwig, along with
15b. Gus Johnson, Walt "Clyde" Frazier, and Al Trautwig, New York Knicks on MSG / YES.

It sucks that these two all star rotations are no longer calling Knicks games.  It also sucks that I shut down Stevo's Site Numero Uno, and lost my running commentaries of Knicks broadcasts during the 2007-2008 season.  (Also known as "the season James Dolan gave Isiah Thomas total control of the franchise".  Yeah, that didn't work out well.)  Those things were comedic gold; they wrote themselves.  Every night, poor Al Trautwig would welcome us to more misery at the Garden.  He'd spend 20 minutes setting the mood, before finally interviewing Isiah before introductions.  These things got so ugly, that by midseason, poor Al was interviewing Isiah in pre-taped segments, the fans' anger against Zeke was so pronounced.  And then, you'd have four of the best broadcasters in the sport (one pairing was MSG, one pairing was YES; I don't remember which was which, but I'm 85% certain GuJo was YES, and Breen was MSG) broadcast yet another 103-79 beatdown of the Knicks, in which the entire second half was nothing other than 19,000 plus p*ssed off New Yorkers chanting "Fire Thomas!", "Zeke Sucks!", and other non-family friendly phrases.  (classic sitcom theme song voice) Ain't we lucky we got 'em?  (Na na na na na) Good Times!!!!

14. Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock, NFL Network.  I've already praised Nessler earlier.  I flat out love the guy.  Mr. Mayock has been a godsend, both on NFLN and on Notre Dame football.  You want to know how sh*tty the people he replaced were?  He bumped Joey Sunshine (aka Joe Theismann) and Matt Millen to the curb on NFLN, and the beyond awful Pat Haden on NBC's broadcasts.  On behalf of football fans everywhere, thank you, management at NFLN and NBC Sports!

13. Gary Thorne and Bill Clement, NHL on ESPN.  God, I miss these guys.  There were three things that always let me know, (brantley gilbert voice) back in the day, that summer was rapidly approaching.  (1) Bill McCreary becoming a part of my life for two months.  (2) Gary Thorne and Bill Clement calling a crucial Stars / Avs, Stars / Wings, Wings / Avs game in the Western Finals, and (3) Thorne marvelling in amazement that the ice in Dallas melted at the pace of 2-3 inches per period.  Ol' Gar, ol' buddy, ol pal?  It's 100 f*cking degrees outside, in an arena in which the air conditioning rarely worked.  Of COURSE the ice is going to melt!  That's what ice does when it encounters heat -- it melts!  Good Lord. 

12. Marv Albert and Mike Fratello, NBA on NBC.  Ol' Marv finally checks in, as part of my favorite national NBA broadcasting tandem of all time.  (There's still two local broadcasting pairings upcoming.)  He's had a solid recovery from being known as "that guy who wears a horrific toupee, enjoying wearing women's panties, and likes to bite women while he's having rough sex with them".  To be fair, those are three fetishes I don't enjoy, but hey, whatever's clever.  As for Mike Fratello, come on.  He's the damned "Czar of the Telestrator" for crying out loud!  The man is awesome!  No word on if he enjoying wearing panties though.  My guess is no ... but who truly knows?

11. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse "The Body" Ventura, WWF.  Ooh, forgotten about this broadcasting classic duo?  Eventually Bobby "The Brain" Heenan replaced Jesse "The Body" Ventura when he left to run the state of Minnesota, and the broadcast was just as solid.

What also made it a great pairing?  Is the golden, soothing pipes of "Mean" Gene Okerlund.  What kid -- and I'm being serious here -- what kid DIDN'T beg their parents to "contact your local cable or satellite provider" to order WrestleMania (insert roman numeral here)?  God knows I did.  And what parent DIDN'T sign off on "contacting your local cable or satellite provider" to order WrestleMania (insert roman numeral here)?  God knows mine did.

And since I really haven't gone off tangent yet, here's another thing from my childhood that really doesn't exist anymore, and it's infuriating.  What the hell happened to quality wrestler nicknames?  Sure, you still have some, but they're the actual name of the guy now, not an adjective.  Now it's "The Rock", "The Undertaker".  Consider what we used to have:

* "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan.
* "The Macho Man" Randy Savage.
* Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat.
* Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
* "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.
* "Classy" Freddy Blassy.
* Jimmy Hart, the "Mouth of the South".
* "Ravishing" Rick Rude.
* Bobby "The Brain" Heenan.
* Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
* "Cowboy" Bob Orton.
* Bret "The Hitman" Hart.
* "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan.

We need quality wrestling nicknames back in our lives, fellow readers.  We need quality wrestling nicknames back in our lives, stat.

Here we go, the Top Ten!!!  (kazoo voice) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

10. Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery, and Jay Bilas, ESPN Big Monday (Big East Game).  My favorite moment with this crew, had to be during the epic six overtime UConn / 'Cuse game, when Raftery noted that he was "going to miss my midnight table time" in Atlantic City.  But honestly, my favorite game they've ever called, was when Villanova rolled the 'Cuse in the Big East quarters in 2007.  Some memorable one-liners that afternoon:

Bilas: "What would you tell your team ('Cuse trailed 2-23)"?
Raftery: "Everybody plays today!"
(laughs all around)
Raftery: "No, really -- if you can't get in today, you might want to rethink why you play this game!"
(laughs all around)
Bilas: "So you'd even put me in?"
Raftery: "I'd at least think about it!"
(laughs all around)

McDonough: "Coach, in all seriousness, how do you handle a defeat like this?"
Bilas: "Because honestly, Coach, nobody's been in this spot more than you"
Raftery: "Which is probably why I'm sitting here!"
(laughs all around)

Bilas: "As Dick Vitale would note, get the bus started!"
Raftery: "Why?  They way (Syracuse) are playing, they'd wind up under (the bus)!"
(laughs all around)

9. Bob Davis and Max Falkenstein, University of Kansas football and basketball.

Let's just acknowledge the obvious.  Bob Davis is a horrible broadcaster, whether it be calling KU athletics, or Kansas City Royals baseball.  And Max Falkenstein ... my God, he stuck around at least 22 1/4 years too long.  But I don't care.  I see nothing wrong with clueless homers broadcasting my team's games, and that's exactly what Bob and Max are / were: clueless homers broadcasting my team's games.

Bob has never seen a call or play go against KU, that wasn't an outrage.  Max ... well, he's probably never seen a call or play go against KU; he wasn't all there for the last 22 1/4 years.  Here's how clueless Max Falkenstein is -- whenever the defense makes a big stand, or faces a huge play, or the offense takes the field, the opening bells from "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC always plays.  Just the "clang!  clang!  clang!  clang!" part of it.

Max, the loveable clueless homer, responded to the canned music by joyfully exclaiming "even the bells of the Campanille are ringing over that play!"  How ANYONE can confuse the opening of "Hell's Bells" to the (much quieter) clanking of the Campanille, I have no idea.  But he said it.

As for Bob?  This about sums it up.

8. Chris Marlowe and Brian Bosworth, XFL on UPN.  Unless you watched the XFL, you have no idea why this team, that lasted only a season, is ranked this high.  If you did watch the XFL, you know exactly why this team is ranked so high, and that reason is Brian Bosworth.  He had a catch phrase that my friends and I still yell out or tweet anytime there's a fumble on the field.  "That's a live ball!"  Half of the time, it wasn't a "live ball"; it was an incomplete pass or the runner was already down by contact, but still, anytime a ball started rolling around the field, "that's a live ball!"

Mr. Bosworth also got into a boatload of trouble for this classy comment: "It's like prom night at the Mustang Ranch: everybody's getting banged!"  Yes, that was said on a live football telecast to describe the action in the trenches.

7. Bob Jenkins, Larry Rice, and Jason Priestley, IRL on ABC / ESPN.  I will grant you, there is probably nobody who lives outside the state of Indiana, who loves the Indy Racing League as much as I do.  Which helps explain why ratings are non-existant for any race other than Indy ... or Texas.  It's that Texas race in 2001, that earns these three this high honor and distinction.

First of all, yes -- it is THAT Jason Priestley, aka Brandon Walsh from the original "90210".  Believe it or not, he wasn't half bad as a race commentator. And Bob Jenkins has replaced the dearly departed Tom Carnegie as "The Voice of Indianapolis Motor Speedway".  It's Larry Rice, that made this trio work.

The man was like your crazy drunk uncle.  He'd just say stuff out of nowhere, that would make no sense, and then you'd just laugh when his predictions or comments came true.  

This Texas race in June 2001 is my favorite race in IRL history.  It was insane, to put it mildly.  There were only two cautions as I recall.  And for most of the race, the top three drivers were running three wide around the entire track -- Eddie Cheever (solid driver), Greg Ray (anything but), and Scott Sharp (still has the distinction of being the only pole sitter at Indy to finish in 33rd ... because he failed to get out of the first turn before wrecking his vehicle.)  Somehow, this worked.  All night long.  And so Larry and Bob and Jason had to keep coming up with new ways to say "three wide", and it got hysterical.

"Look at this!  Three abreast!"  "This'll never wor -- yes it will!"  If someone has a copy of that race, share it with the world; I couldn't find any true highlights on Youtube!, unfortunately.

I really, really, really miss the old IRL.

6. Dan Hicks, Johnny Miller, Mark Rolfing, Roger Maltbie, Judy Rankin, and assorted others, PGA on NBC.  Some people hate Johnny Miller.  I love him.  I wish NBC would use him on the Sunday Night Football telecast; I think a booth of Al, Cris, and Johnny would be the best since the number one ranked team on this list.  Mark Rolfing and Judy Rankin are among the best in the sport at covering the course.  Roger Maltbie is the comic relief, and somehow, Dan Hicks holds this all together.  I wish every major was on NBC ... provided they let Jim Nantz still call the 18th at Augusta.  You know spring has arrived, when Mr. Nantz is dropping a crappy play on words regarding the name of the winner.

5. Ralph Lawler and Bill Walton, Los Angeles Clippers television broadcast.  This, along with number two, is why I buy the NBA League Pass every year.  There has only been one better local broadcast team, than Lawler and Walton (and they're at number two).  Now, the Clippers were terrible back in the late 1990s and really well into the 2000s.  (They did have one solid season in 2005-2006, when they took Phoenix to seven in the divisional round.)  But this being the Clippers?  Of COURSE they were the six seed, yet had home court advantage over the third seeded Nuggets!

The beauty of this pairing, apart from the obvious love and admiration they had for each other, was that they knew the Clippers sucked ass, and didn't try to hide it.  Instead, at some point, they'd simply stop calling the action, and go off on some tangent for ten minutes that was far more interesting than the game itself.  Case in point: the night Ralph and Bill debated how to properly pronounce the letter "W" ... in German.  Bill noted it's pronounced like a V (which is true), and so he and Ralph for the rest of the night, and the entire season, would refer to him as "Villiam Valton".  Hey -- you try covering a 65 loss team for 82 nights, and see how creative you get to keep people tuned in.  Sadly, Villy moved on due to his health issues, but he still pops up from time to time on the Sacramento Kings local broadcast.  Ralph Lawler?  Still the only man to ever call the play-by-play for the Los Angeles Clippers.

4. Good Ol' JR and Jerry "The King" Lawler, WWE.  If this was the only great call they'd ever had?  They'd still be ranked fourth.  

3. Kevin Harlan, Len Dawson, Mr. William Grigsby, and Bob Gretz (sideline), Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network.  Chiefs fans?  We once had THE best radio team in the business.  Look at that talent.  It's an embarrassment of riches.  Mr. Harlan left after the 1993 season to join FOX (and eventually join CBS) as one of the lead announcers for the NFL.  You also no doubt recognize him from his fantastic work doing the NBA on TNT, as well as doing play-by-play for the Minnesota Timberwolves television broadcast.  Len Dawson is an icon in this town, and isn't afraid to say what he's thinking.  The late, great Bill Grigsby is sorely missed.  Seeing our Ol' Pardner slowly fazed out over the late 1990s and into the early 2000s was tragic and outrageous.  And people forget how great a reporter and sideline guy Bob Gretz was once upon a time.  Nobody -- nobody! -- in Kansas City had more to do with Lamar Hunt finally cleaning house after the 1988 season than some reporter employed by the KC Star named Bob Gretz.

My favorite moment for each of them:

Harlan, week 17 1992, as 9-6 denver visited 9-6 Kansas City, with the final playoff berth in the AFC on the line -- "Not even Santa Claus can save the denver broncos today!!!"  The Chiefs won 42-20 in a game that wasn't even that close.

Dawson, week 8 2004, with the Chiefs leading the Colts 45-35, after Greg Wesley intercepts peyton manning's desperation pass: "Get down.  Get down!  Jesus get dow -- ooh good block!" 

Grigsby?  I have three.  (1) 1990 season, after Dave Kreig escapes what would have been Derrick Thomas' eighth sack on the afternoon, and hits Paul Skanzi on a Hail Mary heave to beat the Chiefs 17-16: "I'm too old to cry, I'm too sick to puke".  (2) Anytime it was thrown to him in the Pavilion for the postgame.  You never knew what you were gonna get, other than (a) he was drunk, (b) he had no filter, and (c) he'd offer friendly advise to every Chiefs fan listening to "don't take it out on the dog".  I miss Harry.  I might need to pour myself a stiff libation over some Mountain Valley Spring Water bought at Price Chopper to go along with my gumbo from Jazz.

And (3) -- the moment when they took the keys away from Uncle Bill, when he asked a Chiefs Hall of Famer "how the f*ck are ya!" live, on the air, during the pregame.  

2. Mike Gorman, Tommy Heinsohn, and Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics television broadcast.  Sadly, Cousy moved on a few years ago, but trust me -- if you have never heard Tommy Heinsohn call a game, you MUST check him out next fall when the League offers the League Pass for free for a few days to open the season.  For starters, you can't understand a word he's saying 92.6% of the time, because (a) he truly struggles to pronounce player names because (b) he's fall down drunk hammered by the time the game gets underway.  And he goes downhill from there.  You can almost picture the stiff bourbon and pack of Marlboro Red's at the broadcast table.  He also has this thing called a "Tommy Point" that he gives whenever someone does something good.  It's like the "Circle Me Bert!" Bert Blyleven thing -- it's absolutely retarded, but it's absolutely awesome.  Mr. Gorman is about as solid as they come on play-by-play, and quite frankly, anyone who can manage to (somewhat) reign Tommy Heinsohn in?  Is one helluva broadcaster.

1. Pat Summerall and John Madden, NFL on CBS / NFL on FOX.  They're the best.  Period.  Nothing will ever top this pairing.  I should instinctively hate John Madden -- after all, he coached the raiders for ten years, won a Super Bowl, reached a couple others.  But I can't.  Mr. Madden loved the NFL, he loved the sport, and it showed through in every broadcast.

And Pat?  There will never be another who ever approaches his greatness.

My favorite Summerall / Madden call of a Chiefs game, was the 44-9 ass whipping we laid on the 49ers, Thanksgiving Sunday 1997.  Both teams would wind up with home field advantage throughout the playoffs (and both would lose to the eventual Super Bowl participants).  

The 49ers are forced to punt.  The Chiefs lead 30-6 at that point late in the third quarter.  They aren't risking anything; they send one.  Here's the call:

"The 49ers to punt and ... the punt is blocked!  Thompson's punt is blocked by ... (Tony) Gonzalez?!?!"

And then, after some back and forth after the change of possession (Chiefs got the ball at the 49ers 4), Pat Summerall simply summed it up:

"Allen.  Standing up.", as Marcus Allen scored the touchdown.  Which led to John Madden's classic rebuttal:

"Pat?  The Kansas City Chiefs are taking to the 49ers today, and they are giving them the business!"

But my favorite Summerall / Madden call, was the final play (for all intents and purposes) of the greatest NFL game played in my lifetime.  

"And the pass is caught by Owens!  Owens made the catch!"  (The 1:00 mark of the embedded clip.)

One of the rarest of moments: Pat Summerall getting caught up in the moment, beyond excited at what he'd just seen.  John Madden, literally speechless, just cheering like a fan.  Which is what they both were.  They were fans of the game.  And damn did it show.

Rest in peace Pat.  This world is a far, far worse place, without you ...

No comments:

big brother power poll 1.0

"Here you come again. Just when I'd begun To get myself together. You waltz right in the door, Just like you've done befor...