I really try not to do what have come to be known as “listicles” – – “articles” that are put on the Internet as lists of things labeled as “The Ten Best Things of This Kind” or “The Worst Sports Decisions Known to Man”. The reasons I try to avoid them as much as possible are that everyone and his/her maternal grand-aunt does them and because most of them are nothing more than contrived clickbait. Having said that, I am now about to do a “listicle” because it came to my mind that I could make some potentially relevant comments relative to the list. This came to my mind as a result of Jason Witten resigning his positon with ESPN and returning to the Dallas Cowboys and subsequently reporting to one of the team’s OTAs where he received universally positive reviews for his drills as a tight end.
The fact of the matter is that I was very VERY wrong about Jason Witten as a color analyst on MNF. Early on, I thought that he had insight to reveal to the audience and that he would ooze his way into a broadcasting style that would allow for him to transmit that insight. Granted, one year of time in the MNF booth is not a huge sample size; nonetheless, Jason Witten was not significantly better at the end of the 2018 season than he was on Day One. My conclusion at the end of that 1-year tour of duty is that Jason Witten is not cut out to be a TV color analyst.
Upon reflection, he got the job offer because he was a logical invitee into the fraternity of retired football players who enter the broadcasting booth because of their fame/recognition on the field. Howard Cosell railed against this fraternity as long as 45 years ago; Cosell called it the “Jockocracy”; we the audience were subjected to the verbal stylings of former jocks without regard to their ability to communicate whatever knowledge they may have had. And so, I began to think about the current former jocks who inhabit positions behind microphones in various sports. [Not to worry; I am not about to regale you with how good Dandy Don Meredith or Tom Brookshier used to be or how Dan Dierdorf paired well with Al Michaels.] This is not an exhaustive list; these are the ones that have come to mind over a period of about 24 hours – – and this is what I think of them.
Let me break the list down by sport – and let me do football first:
- Troy Aikman – He works with Joe Buck and the two of them are greater than the sum of their parts. I think Aikman might have a short shelf life if he had to change broadcast partners. As things stand with FOX, Aikman is more than adequate as a color analyst.
- Cris Colinsworth – – He and Tony Romo are today’s gold standard for TV color analysts. And no; he does not hate your favorite team whichever team that may be. When he criticizes them, they almost always deserve it – – and more.
- Dan Fouts – He was a HoF level QB and he turned himself into a solid color analyst over time with hard work.
- Trent Green – I like his work, but last year, he was paired with Bruce Arians and a play-by-play guy that I do not remember. Problem was that I found Arians to be annoying to the max. Neither Green – nor any other analyst will have to put up with the burden of having Arians in their booth this year since Arians is back into coaching in the NFL.
- Tony Romo – He took to the broadcasting booth as fast as a kid learns to play the card game, War. He and Jim Nantz have only been working together for a couple of years, but their interactions and banter makes it seem as if they have been partners forever. It was probably Romo’s “instant success” that led to the idea of throwing Jason Witten into the deep end of the pool on MNF so quickly.
- Mark Schlereth – If FOX gives him exposure, I think he can capture audience attention. Problem is that he has been relegated to low-exposure games most of the time.
I neither like nor dislike Ronde Barber and Chris Spielmann in the booth. When they are on, I do not sit up and take notice of their comments nor do I reach for the mute button.
Moving along to baseball:
- Ron Darling – He must be an acquired taste. Several friends think he is the “best in the business” and they love his candor. I think he is OK – – and nothing more. To each his own…
- John Kruk – I like him because I never know what he might say/do next – – and that is entertaining even if the game he is doing is 11-1 after 7 innings.
- Alex Rodriguez – He knows the game and he is articulate. He is also hugely unlikable AND he will take a small thing and beat it to death over the course of a game. There is talent there if he can develop it and/or if broadcasting mentors can get him to change.
- Frank Thomas – When he points out something a player is doing well – or poorly – at the plate, you should pay attention. The man was a great hitter and he understands what hitting is about. Usually, whatever observation he might make about a hitter is reinforced by visual evidence later in the game.
- Bob Uecker – Yes, he does play-by-play more than analysis, but here’s the deal. If you can listen to an entire Brewers game done by Uecker without enjoying the experience, you are an irretrievable grouch.
And now for the basketball analysts…
- Charles Barkley – I love Sir Charles; I think he is funny, and I like the way he is perfectly willing to put himself out there on the island of his own opinion. Since he always picks against the Golden State Warriors, I can understand why fans in the Bay Area may not have the same opinion that I have. Your mileage may vary …
- Jay Bilas – A former colleague hates Bilas because he thinks Bilas “talks down to me” and because Bilas “always thinks he’s the smartest guy in the building”. Since I believe that both of those statements are possibly true, that is why I like Jay Bilas.
- Reggie Miller – If you can laugh at his malaprops – – like the time he compared LeBron James to a fullback with a full steam of head – – he is interesting to listen to.
- Jalen Rose – Once I got used to his voice, I grew to like him more and more. He is insightful and he is very direct in his analytical comments about what is happening on the floor. He is even better in a studio setting.
- Bill Walton – He is the worst; I would rather gargle with razor blades than listen to him do an entire basketball game. He is the reason that God invented the mute button…
- Chris Webber – I think he is awful; I have several friends who think he is brilliant. You can take him for whatever you think he is so long as you do not demand that I listen to him for any protracted period of time.
I am sure I have left out some analysts that you enjoy hearing. There was little to no “research” done to compile these 3 lists; these are people who came to mind as I was setting out to fill out the lists and these are my reactions alone.
Finally, let me close with this observation from the Twitter account of Brad Dickson:
“The U.S. Postal Service is experimenting with self-driving mail trucks. What could go wrong? The challenge is programming the trucks to deliver the mail 3 days later to the wrong address.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………