Ways to Improve Announcing

In today’s sports world, there’s really only two types of fans: the people that know a lot about the sport and people who are barely watching the event. Which group of people is television announcing for? As a knowledgeable fan, announcers become something to make fun of or a source of continuing frustration. I don’t think casual fans pay any attention to them.

There has to be a few things that can be done to spice things up, right?

Why are we slaves to the straight guy and color guy format?


(Voice from the heavens) “This is the way it has always been.” NBC has Al Michaels and Bob Costas. Michaels calls the games and Costas is relegated to this extremely part time segway role between Dan Patrick in the studio and the action on the field. I think we can all agree Michaels and Costas are the two best announcers NBC has. At this point Michaels knows just as much about football as Chris Collinsworth (even though Collinsworth is the only football color guy I like). Why not put them together? They can switch off who does play by play by quarter.

Is it just me or are there zero interracial booths?


Even with basketball, a sport with many black announcers, there are few that end up working with a white counterpart. Len Elmore gets paired with Verne Lundquist from time to time. Mike Breen worked with Mark Jackson except they had to put Jeff Van Gundy in between like a white buffer zone. Reggie Miller works with corresponding white play-by-play dudes except that he’s part of a three-man team most of the time (although that’s because he’s terrible).

The most egregious example of this is Gus Johnson. Johnson is one of the very few black play-by-play announcers (like unicorn, cyclops, midget-riding a unicycle level rare) and he always gets paired with a black guy. Even when he does soccer! He called Premier League game with a guy who’s cockney accent was so thick that he was incomprehensible. Gus Johnson can’t work with Steve McManaman?

Again, another easy example from NBC. NBC has Tony Dungy, an extremely articulate former black coach (actually the first in league history dating all the way back to the dark ages … 1996). Why not put him in the booth with Al Michaels?

Contradicting my last point, how about a different type of athlete?


I like Charles Barkley when he is the color guy for TNT. I know he’s not that good but I know that because he doesn’t care enough to want to be good. But, he speaks his mind and he has a different perspective than somebody like Reggie Miller. Each sport needs to use it’s natural personality resources. With basketball, there are guys with strong opinions. I would like to see someone like Allen Iverson or Kevin Garnett be a color guy. With baseball, football and hockey use the crazy people. I love Lance Berkman A. because he has one of the biggest hits in Cardinal history and B. because he once ranked the top bubblegum cities in the U.S. AJ Pierzynski is another guy. He’s pretty good on air and he’s a little crazy.

Football has maniacs more like Ray Lewis; guys who are very intense (and possibly murderers). No reason Ray Lewis can’t yell all game next Mike Tirico (I just realized Tirico works with Jon Gruden as an interracial announcing team).

Can we try a comedian again?


It was a disastrous, failed experiment to try Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football in the early 2000s. But, I don’t think Dennis Miller was the right choice. I don’t want somebody being snarky when I’m watching football — screw that guy. I want someone like Bill Burr — a down to Earth guy who knows sports and will make fun of everyone. The other problem with Miller is that they stuck Dan Fouts in there too, who hated Miller and would talk over him every chance he got. You would need to pair Burr with a play-by-play announcer amenable to the situation. ESPN also kind of tried this with Tony Kornheiser. I think Kornheiser would have worked if he would have ever gotten comfortable.


2 thoughts on “Ways to Improve Announcing

  1. They definitely need to get the colorful personalities in the booth. I’d much rather hear a former player who has a strong divisive opinion than hear these guys they have now apologize for refs and take the corporate line on everything that happens. Every now and then you’ll hear a local color guy get combative about something and its gold. Even if you disagree with the opinion it adds to the experience and starts conversations. Not a big fan of intentional comedy in the booth, it never works for me. Kornheiser I love on PTI but found him to be a nuisance in the booth. He was always trying to add the human interest side and also made a lot of pop culture references that didn’t work and overall came off as out of place. Barkley is always gold. I wish HBO had a show called Barkley and Friends where they sit around drinking beer and call a game with no censorship. It will never happen but I’d watch.

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