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Home / Articles / Columnists / Sports Feature /  So Good, They Make Us Watch – and Listen
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Friday, May 5,2017

So Good, They Make Us Watch – and Listen

By Mark Tudino  

The news that now former Dallas Cowboy QB Tony Romo has retired, and moved directly to CBS to become the lead color announcer for their NFL telecasts, brought to mind a couple of thoughts. First, apparently the honchos at CBS think it’s easy to make a jump from the field to the booth, but in truth, it’s very difficult. Just ask Joe Namath, Fran Tarkenton or O.J. Simpson (if you can get the Nevada Board of Corrections to let you). You see, as a former practitioner in the broadcast field, I can tell you first hand that to speak in coherent, 15-second sound bites is in itself an art form that takes years to perfect. One must be knowledgeable, entertaining and brief – a trifecta that even the best have a hard time doing on a consistent basis. Not only that, the person chosen must have chemistry with his (or her) partner. It’s much like a blind date, in that you hope for the best but prepare for the worst. So, let’s just say good announcing teams are hard to find.

Which brought to mind a second point, that is who are – or were - the best announcing teams who’ve graced our air over the last, say, 50 years? A few disclaimers before I give you my top five. First, this is totally subjective, I get that. Who I] may like – and why …- may have nothing in common with your choices but hey, that’s why we have these discussions. Secondly, I selected only national broadcast teams. And finally, no individual broadcasters may be considered (sorry, Vin Scully). With that, here’s who I’ve got, in order from five-toone.

5. Ray Scott and Pat Summerall.

Years as a team, 1970-1974. I know a lot of people just went, Huh? Who? I get it, especially the part where people do not recognize Summerall as a color commentator. But yes Virginia, a long time ago the man who is considered a legend as a play-by-play guy started off as the analyst. And he was very good, so good in fact that when Ray Scott left in 1974, CBS simply elevated him to be the play-by-play guy - and you know the rest. As for Ray Scott, he was “the King of Minimalism”; a style far too few modern day broadcasters keep in mind when doing a game. He was a consummate professional and did almost every big football game in the 60’s and early ‘70‘s. Very underrated, but not forgotten by some.

4. Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver. Years as a team, 1985-1989. Another short-term comet which graced our TV sets, but my favorite baseball crew ever. The combination of the cerebral pitcher (Palmer) and the eloquent catcher (McCarver) was matchless. And Michaels was the perfect PBP guy.

3. Pat Summerall and John Madden. Years as a team, 1982- 2001. The gold standard for NFL broadcasters. Summerall is the only one to make the list twice, both as a PBP guy and as an analyst.

2. Al McGuire, Billy Packer and Dick Enberg. Years as a team, 1978- 1981. Al McGuire had just retired after winning the title in 1977 and was a life force not previously seen on TV. Unscripted, impulsive and passionate, he would argue with Packer who was the cerebral by-thebook guy. Dick Enberg said he felt his job was to referee - and stay out of the way, which he did quite well. My personal favorite team.

1. Frank Gifford, Don Meredith and Howard Cosell. Years as a team, 1971-1973, 1977-1983. Really no debate here. They were unlike anything ever seen on TV and were a cultural phenomenon which changed football, broadcasting and television forever.

Those are my guys, feel free to disagree.

Take tape.

 

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