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The 5 Most Entertaining Broadcasters In Sports

“Entertaining can mean a few things among the people on this list.”

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Texas Sports Broadcasting

Radio and television personalities have a few responsibilities to their viewers/listeners that are very critical. Yes, they need to inform you. Letting the audience know the latest information going on with the game they are covering. These folks also have a job to entertain, to keep an audience when a game is a blowout and to help the casual fan enjoy what they’re seeing or hearing. This applies to play-by-play announcers, booth analysts, studio hosts, and studio analysts. It takes a special skill to be able to keep tabs on a game and find ways to keep it light when the moment calls for it. 

After careful consideration, I’ve constructed a list of the top 5 current personalities (play-by-play, game analyst, studio host and studio analyst) that are currently working. Entertaining can mean a few things among the people on this list. Humor is obviously one of the criteria. In the case of the play-by-play announcers here, the way they are able to work laughs into the broadcast without compromising it is critical. As far as the analysts go, it’s all about personality. I think you’ll understand better as we document the folks on this list. Remember also, this is a list of those currently working in the industry. 

Kevin Harlan

He is perhaps one of the most enthusiastic of the play-by-play announcers out there. His voice screams excitement, without screaming at you. Harlan is a wordsmith. He can weave in some of his catchphrases, right in the flow of the broadcast, but the point still makes it across the airwaves. 

Whether it’s LeBron James dunking on someone, “with no regard for human life” or a play in a Ravens game featuring Lamar Jackson, where he escaped trouble. For that escape he was rewarded with a patented OHHHHH and a “HE IS HOUDINI!” I love his calls because while they are up there in excitement, Harlan always, forgive the sports cliché here, stays within himself. It’s not over the top

Another reason he’s on this list is his ability to improvise, overcome and adapt. Like this gem from a year or so ago, during a Monday Night Football radio broadcast, when a runaway cat got loose on the field. 

“Oh, and there a cat, a cat black has taken the field. A black cat is running from the 20 to the nearside the 10, from the 39 of Dallas here is a short throw down the middle caught by Engram. Caught at the 35 to the 30, now the cat running the other way and so is Ingram at the 25 near the 24-yard line of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s a catch-run of 15. Now the cat is stopped at the 50 … he’s at the eight … now he is at the five … he’s walking to the three, he’s at the two… and the cat is in the CDW Red Zone… now a policeman, a state trooper is on the field- AND THE CAT RUNS IN THE END ZONE! THAT IS A TOUCHDOWN!”

Gold, I tell you, gold!

Bob Uecker 

Uecker is as much a part of Brewers lore as Bernie Brewer, who goes down a slide into a beer mug when Milwaukee homers. The guy has had an extraordinary run, not just in baseball, but in movies and television as well. 

For those too young to remember, Uecker made numerous appearances on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Johnny Carson, who nicknamed Uecker ‘Mr. Baseball”. He starred in his own sitcom in the 80’s called ‘Mr. Belvedere’ and appeared in memorable commercials for Miller Lite beer. In one ad he exclaimed, ‘I must be in the front row’ a line uttered by many at baseball games. Of course, he is well known for his role in the movie ‘Major League’ where he plays baseball announcer Harry Doyle. 

Uecker’s announcing style is not much different than ‘Doyle’s’, in that he always seems up beat. But it’s the stories that he tells, most are self-deprecating in nature, referring mainly to his playing career which wasn’t as spectacular as his post-baseball career. Here’s one from his Hall of Fame induction speech on July 27, 2003.

“My two boys are just like me,” Uecker told a crowd. “In their championship Little League game, one of them struck out three times and the other one had an error allowing the winning run to score. They lost the championship, and I couldn’t have been more proud. I remember the people as we walked through the parking lot throwing eggs and rotten stuff at our car. What a beautiful day.”

Uecker is beloved in his hometown of Milwaukee where he was recently celebrated for 50 years behind the microphone. At the ceremony he did have a thought for the final giveaway that would include his likeness.

“My last bobblehead, this is what I want,” Uecker said. “It’s going to be a box, the top will open, I will get up, and do my get up, get up, get out of here, and back down, close the cover and that’s it. That’s the way I want to go.”

Uecker is a baseball treasure. 

Charles Barkley

The debate has been raging now for about 20 years. Was Charles Barkley a better player or broadcaster? If you watch him regularly on ‘Inside the NBA’ on TNT, you’ll likely vote for the latter choice. He’s about as real and as entertaining as it gets on television. That statement isn’t just limited to basketball either. 

The former Philadelphia 76er, Phoenix Sun and Houston Rocket, played for 16 seasons in the NBA. He was an NBA MVP, 11-time All-Star and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, enshrined in 2006. While most know him for the career on the hardwood, some know him better for sitting behind the desk on set with, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal. 

Barkley definitely keeps it real and entertaining. His opinions are without filter and his personality is endearing. He plays along well with everyone on the panel and even when he’s on a different show, hilarity usually ensues. Just like when he appeared on the inaugural Manningcast a few weeks ago. 

When Peyton Manning asked, “Hey Charles, you ever get booed at home? Never happened to you, right?” Barkley quickly responded, “I played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That was a regularity.” “You were lucky, Peyton. Everybody liked you. Eli knows what it’s like to get booed at home.”

Barkley appeared on the debut edition of ‘The NHL on TNT’ pregame show with Wayne Gretzky. The former NBA star is a big NHL fan and threw shout-outs to ‘his’ Tampa Bay Lightning on the show. But nothing was better than watching ‘The Great One’ shoot hockey pucks and arguably one of the biggest goalies ever on live television. Barkley learned how to hold a goalie stick with his blocker hand and learned what the ‘5’ hole was. He was able to stop 1 of Gretzky’s five shots. 

Later in the evening, video surfaced of Gretzky in a hockey fight with Minnesota’s Neil Broten. Upon seeing Gretzky beaten in the fight Barkley yelled, ‘you lost to a guy with a perm? Are you serious?’ Remember it was the 80’s so the hairstyle of choice for many was the ‘perm’. Great stuff. 

Barkley on air is charming and acts like a big kid, which is a lot of fun for everyone.

Peyton Manning

Courtesy: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Who knew that Peyton Manning was such a fun-loving personality when he played in the NFL? We got a glimpse of it as he was getting ready to finish up his great career as a quarterback for the Colts and Broncos. Peyton became that ‘geeky guy next door’ spokesman for several companies and left us with some memorable lines from his commercials

As a spokesman for Nationwide Insurance he had the ad where everything he said was in the tune of ‘Nationwide is on your side’. Like “Chicken Parm you taste so good…” or “that’s a first rate queso dip.” He was also known for a legendary Mastercard commercial where he plays a ‘fan’ of people doing every day tasks. Lines like ‘Cut that meat, cut that meat’ and ‘Charlie you’re my favorite accountant, come on you’re on my fantasy team’. Manning was seen leaning over a railing like some young fans that are seeking autographs from their favorite players. 

The work he and his brother Eli are doing on the “Manning MegaCast” during some Monday Night Football games is fantastic. He and Eli are funny and play off of each other well. Peyton is genuinely entertaining and not afraid to put himself out there for ridicule. Eli continues to make fun of Peyton’s forehead and it’s all good. Peyton relies on his perceived personality to take advantage of most situations. People saw him as this, ‘buttoned up’ athlete, but now he’s a must-watch whenever he appears on his own show or any other for that matter. 

Manning is almost like a ‘dad joke’ waiting to happen. 

Bill Walton

Then there is the granddaddy of them all, Bill Walton. Half the time I’m not even sure what the heck he is talking about, but I guess that makes it entertaining, right? Walton can be a play-by-play announcer’s worst nightmare, except most of, if not all of them, get it. They understand that Walton stands out in the crowd. I guess, literally (6’10”) and figuratively. 

His rants are epic. They usually have nothing to do with the game he’s calling, whether it be basketball or baseball. Yes, he got a chance to call a baseball game in August of 2019. The White Sox and the Angels played in Anaheim and what ensued was the stuff of legends. 

After a James McCann grand slam, he exclaimed, ‘What a fantastic turn of events if you love the White Sox, and I’m falling in love by the breath.’ Then after Mike Trout took Lucas Giolito deep, 

‘That’s Trout? Swimming upstream, avoiding all the flies and sending one ricocheting through the universe,’ Walton said. Then there was the Walton everybody knows and loves, just stringing together words. ‘Woodstock. 50 years. ’79. Full moon. Waterfall. Exploding volcanoes. Baseball. White Sox. Angels. Summertime. No rain on the horizon. Greg Gumbel. Sam Smith. David Axelrod. Wow.’ Walton exclaimed.  Ok, sure. 

During the typical game called by Walton, there will likely be just as much discussion about non-basketball topics than basketball topics. Walton’s rants can drive some fans crazy, but most viewers love them. Take for example a game between Colorado and Oregon in February of 2020. Mark Jackson joined Dave Pasch and Walton on the call. Going to break, Walton exclaimed, ‘Get me some grass!’. I mean Buffaloes do graze on grass, but the double entendre works so well here. It continued after the break.

Jackson politely asked, ‘You said ‘Get me some grass.’ What kind of grass do you want?’ Walton replied quickly ‘I want Oregon grass! In Oregon, when you live here… what you do all the time is you cut firewood & you cut the grass. And then you gotta get rid of both of those, so you use them all.’

That is just one example of MANY that are out there if you search the internet. It’s awesome that his bosses at ESPN let him be himself. Remember, it’s Walton’s World and we’re just living in it. 

That’s my list, hope it entertained you, as much as these five people entertain you and me, every time they open their mics. 

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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