The 5 (or 6) Best Hometown Radio Calls In Super Bowl History
“I tried to narrow it down to 5, but it just couldn’t be done.”
Sunday the NFL will crown its champion for 2020-21, in Super Bowl 55. The game will be seen nationally on CBS, with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo calling the action. No knock on the network guys because they are excellent at what they do. I’ll be tuned in since I have no skin in this game. It might be different if I had a rooting interest.
For those that do have that interest, there’s a better than average chance you’ll be watching, but with the hometown radio call on somewhere close by. Chiefs radio play-by-play man, Mitch Holthus hopes to belt out his signature “Touchdown, KAN-ZA CITY!” and longtime Bucs radio guy Gene Deckerhoff is hoping to shout out “Touchdown Tampa Bay!” a few times. It’s the local radio calls that bring the emotion, be it on the winning end or losing end of things. Fans crave it, especially in these huge moments.
With that in mind as we get ready for the NFL Title game, here are, in no particular order, the best local radio calls in Super Bowl history. I tried to narrow it down to 5, but it just couldn’t be done.
Helmet Catch–Feb. 3, 2008: Super Bowl XLII, Patriots vs. Giants
New England was trying to complete a perfect season, but the Giants stood in their way. Eli Manning’s pass to David Tyree may be one of the most spectacular in Super Bowl history! With the Giants on the move, Manning evaded lineman and let loose a deep ball in the direction of receiver David Tyree, who was mainly a special team’s guy in those days. The hook up was legendary and so was the call. Bob Papa, Dick Lynch and Carl Banks had the radio duties that day.
Papa: “Manning takes the snap, back to throw, under pressure, avoids the rush and he’s going to fight out of it, still fights out of it, now throws it deep down field, wide open Tyree who MAKES THE CATCH! What a play by manning, he eluded three sacks and what a catch by Tyree with 58 seconds to go.
Lynch: They had Manning by the back of the shirt and he was able to evade that and get away from it. How did he get away from that?
Banks: I have no idea. I am still flabbergasted with what Eli Manning was able to do and it’s amazing that he didn’t go down.
Papa: Tyree had Harrison all over him, the ball was on his helmet but he got his other hand on it and pulled it in.
It works because you can tell the utter amazement in all of their voices. It was real emotion in that moment. The description of Papa, assuming Manning was going to get sacked two or three times, was spot on. It didn’t go too over the top, I felt after listening back to it again and again, they nailed it.
Marcus Allen, 74-yard TD run, Los Angeles Raiders win Super Bowl 18:
In Super Bowl XVIII, Los Angeles Raiders Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen put the game out of reach on the final play of the third quarter. Allen improvised his way to a 74-yard touchdown run to put away Washington. His run was filled with cuts and a reversal of field and was a thing of beauty. So was the hometown call by play-by-play man, the legendary Bill King.
King: “Plunkett giving to Allen, sending him wide left. He has to reverse his field…and he gets away for a moment. Cuts up the middle to the 40, runs across a man to the 50, down to the 40, picking up a blocker, gets up to the 20. To the 10. To the 5. Touchdown Raiders! Holy Toledo! 74 yards. The Raiders are mobbing Marcus Allen, who has just stood a crowd of 72,000 on its collective ear.”
I only wish I’d been able to listen to King more, living in the Midwest, I didn’t really get the chance. The smoothness in which he delivers his words, the inflection at just the right moment and the descriptions makes this a call of legends. King doesn’t get the credit for being a multi-sport icon that he was. Tremendous call here, not a thing is missing from it.
Devin Hester returns opening kick of Super Bowl 41, 92-yards for a Touchdown:
In 2006, Bears rookie kick returner Devin Hester had the reputation of a guy you don’t kick to, at all. He would return kick after kick that season, which made it hard to believe that to start Super Bowl 41, the Colts would even think of letting Hester get his hands on the ball. They did and the opening kick resulted in a 92-yard return for a touchdown. Jeff Joniak and former Bear Tom Thayer had the call that evening.
Joniak: It sails to the far side around the 8-yard line to Hester under it and to the middle at the 15 to the 20. Breaks free at the 25, to the 30 to the OUTSIDE, 40, midfield, 40, 30 of the colts, 20, 15, Hester 5, (OHHHH!) touchdown Bears!
Thayer: NO WAY! Adam Vinatieri kicked the ball so high in the air it gave time for the protection to get behind him and create a running lane and Devin Hester followed his blockers. He caught the ball first and then went to work.
Joniak: A fast start delivered by the Windy City Flyer, the man they called “Anytime” here in South Florida while he played at Miami. Devin Hester you are ridiculous!”
Hester’s return game made Joniak’s phrase of “Devin Hester you are ridiculous” one that was featured in commercials and on NFL Network promos. Even though it had become “old hat”, the energy brought to this call is spot on. The analysis by Thayer of “why did they kick to him?” was a great question at the time. This Super Bowl first was described nearly perfectly by these two gentlemen.
James Harrison’s pick 6–Feb. 1, 2009: Super Bowl XLIII, Steelers vs. Cardinals
Heading into halftime, Pittsburgh was trying to stop an Arizona team looking to take a lead into the locker room. The Cardinals were down 10-7 and had the ball at the Steelers 2-yard line. James Harrison then made a read on a play and picked off Kurt Warner’s pass at the goal-line. He then started the longest interception return in the game’s history, rumbling 100 yards for a Pittsburgh score. Bill Hargrove had the call on Steelers’ radio.
Hargrove: 18 seconds left of the 2nd quarter, 1st and goal Arizona. Steelers show blitz he throws the pass, it’s going to be picked off, James Harrison has it, he’s running up the sideline, 35, 40, still on his feet at the forty-five, and down, NO he’s still on his feet, here comes Harrison jumping over people to the 20, the 15, the 10, the 5 and it’s a touchdown!
Hargrove seemed as stunned as anyone that this big burly linebacker was going to return this interception for a touchdown. In the call there were a few moments Hargrove thought the play was over, but just as Harrison was running out of gas, Hargrove put the pedal to the metal with the exclamation of “NO!” he’s still on his feet. The call mirrored the pacing of the play to that point. There was a trepidation on the field and Hargrove handled it carefully trying not to disappoint an audience if he got too into the play as it developed. I loved listening back to this call with video attached.
Joe Montana Passes to John Taylor to Win Super Bowl XXIII
Joe Montana worked more of his magic, engineering a drive to win Super Bowl XXIII for the 49’ers. San Francisco went on to a 20-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals thanks to Montana’s brilliance. He drove his team down the field in the waning seconds of the game and capped it off with a game winning TD pass to John Taylor.
On the call that day on KGO-AM in San Francisco were, Lon Simmons, who was calling his final game as the 49’ers play-by-play announcer, Wayne Welker and Joe Starkey. As Montana put San Francisco in position for the final score, this is what it sounded like.
Starkey: It’s such a sight to watch this, whether it happens now or not to watch Joe Montana do this so many years and to watch this absolute surgeon on the football field and one of the all-time greats do his thing again it’s almost like poetry.
Simmons: At the 10-yard line, 39 seconds remaining. Montana at quarterback in motion comes rice. Back to throw Montana steps up throws…TOUCHDOWN 49’ers! Taylor is in for the touchdown. A 10-yard pass and the 49’ers have scored with 34 seconds remaining.
Welker: They brought Jerry Rice in motion and a couple of guys followed Rice, one man was on Taylor and he ran a post pattern and Montana hit him in stride.
Great set up to the eventual outcome to start this particular call. Detailing the previous exploits of Montana, creating the drama for the moment to come. Was awesome to hear Lon Simmons too, forgot about that unmistakable voice. The play was a huge one in the legacy of Montana and it was given more than the appropriate level of deference. A good solid call by Simmons and company.
Joe Gibbs Goes for It in Super Bowl XVII
Washington Head Coach Joe Gibbs decided to make a gutsy call in the Super Bowl. With his team trailing the Miami Dolphins 17-13 in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XVII, he went for it on fourth-and-1. The decision would pay off. Using his workhorse running back, John Riggins to convert the first down. He got that and more as the Skins would eventually win the game 27-17 thanks to this game changing play.
Frank Herzog had the play-by-play with analysis by both Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgensen.
Jergensen: Here comes “The Diesel” (Riggins’ nickname), here comes “The Diesel”.
Herzog: There’s the snap, hand to Riggins, good hole, he’s got the first down at the 40, he’s gone! The 35, the 30, the 20, he’s gone, he’s gone, touchdown Washington Redskins!
Jurgensen: Woooo hoooo!
Herzog: Holy cow what a play, 42-yard touchdown run on 4th and a foot. John Riggins has given the Redskins the lead in Super Bowl 17!
Huff: That, gentlemen might be the nail in the coffin.
This is the epitome of a hometown call. Jergensen referring to Riggins by his nickname at the beginning of the call. Then the former Redskins’ QB lets out the joyous cackle, folks not fans of the Washington Football Team wouldn’t appreciate it, that’s what makes it great. Herzog nailed the call too. Ecstatic that the first down was picked up, then he gets almost melodic with the “he’s gone, he’s gone” part of the call. Perfect execution and intent.
Hometown, home team calls are personal to fans. They feel a connection with the broadcasters, especially when a former player is a part of things. On the national stage, remember that local is still so important and always has a place at the table.
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at Andy@Andy-Masur.com.
Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?
“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”
Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career.
Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff.
Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.
Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.
Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country.
Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.
Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.
Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.
Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!
A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.
FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan. MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team. I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”
JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions.
“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).
“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”
MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?
The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.
Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.
But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.
The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.
As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.
Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.
The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.
Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!
But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)
That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?
We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!
The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.
Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.
Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)
Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.
We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.
When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?
If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle
“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”
Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.
The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.
Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark.
It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.
Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.
Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.
One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.
It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.
It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.
One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.
Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”
There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.
We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.
The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.