Grading the March Madness Announcers Heading Into Weekend Two

It is almost time for the remaining 16 teams to get back at it in my favorite sporting event. First, here is a look at each crew that called tournament games last week:

1. Spero Dedes/Steve Smith/Len Elmore or Jim Jackson/Ros Gold-Onwude:

I start with this crew because they were the worst. We were subjected to Spero calling First Four games. Jim Jackson joined the crew. I guess they wanted him to get extra work since this was his first time doing these games, but it was strange because he worked with two different crews. Smith and Jackson sound alike. I could not tell the difference. Elmore replaced Jackson on Friday. Those guys either did not listen to each other or were competing. All three announcers made the same point in a span of about five seconds.

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Awful Announcing‘s Ken Fang tweeted that he would take AT&T announcer Phil over Spero. Dedes remarked that a player would be shooting two free throws. I had no idea why he said that when it clearly was not a shooting foul and there was no double bonus situation. He eventually figured it out and corrected himself after about a minute. The biggest mistake for this crew was made by their reporter. Actually, two of them. Ros mistakenly said that UC Irvine was 0-9 in close games. Five points or less. She obviously meant 9-0. Although UC Irvine’s coach let the incorrect record slide, he did call out her math skills. They won 70-64. He mentioned that the margin was six points.

2. Brian Anderson/Chris Webber/Allie LaForce:

Although he is not the only person to struggle with this, Webber finds himself thinking or at least saying that day games are being played at night by using the word tonight. I did hear Webber catch himself once. When Washington played Utah State, Webber combined the two names and mentioned Washington State. They did not qualify. He also said that they had a good one going as the broadcast headed to break during a game that was not especially close at that particular time.

Virginia and North Carolina each trailed at halftime Friday. Two top seeds were down at halftime against 16s in one day for the first time. Anderson either misspoke or simply got the information wrong when he said that it was the first time a 16 held the lead over a top seed at halftime. It had just happened hours earlier. A March Madness TV twitter account then tweeted the same mistake. Probably because Anderson said it.

3. Brad Nessler/Steve Lavin/Jim Jackson/Evan Washburn:

Around the same time that Spero botched the call about a shooting foul, Nessler did it twice. One time for each team in Ohio State’s game against Iowa State. Brad called Buffalo Bulls games, too. Somebody tweeted that he called them the Braves more than once. I saw a shot that did not hit the backboard, but Nessler thought it hit glass. Maybe he borrowed Marv Albert’s glasses. Chemistry seemed to be an issue with this crew, and Nessler seemed to lose focus. I remember him complaining about the long days of calling games when he replaced Uncle Verne.

4. Carter Blackburn/Debbie Antonelli/John Schriffen:

I’m still salty (that’s what the kids call it these days) that Antonelli replaced Mike Gminski. Although a friend complained to me about her last week, I did not think she was terrible from what I heard. They had some horrible games. Especially Saturday. I did not hear them a whole lot. She should do at least one regular season game with Blackburn. Antonelli broadcasts the women until March Madness. Then, she comes to the men. I don’t get it. They should leave her with the women if she knows them well and is praised for her work on those broadcasts.

5. Andrew Catalon/Steve Lappas/Lisa Byington:

A Seinfeld reference by Andrew about sending soup back went over well. There was an awkward moment when the person in charge of graphics erroneously advanced Syracuse instead of Baylor in the bracket. Catalon called them Butler at one point, but corrected himself. Probably because Baylor had a player named Butler. It also could have been because Butler knocked out Syracuse in Salt Lake City nine years ago. The Baylor-Syracuse game was in Salt Lake City. Catalon knows the history. He attended Syracuse.

6. Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner/Dana Jacobson:

This crew got off to a rocky start with the First Four. There was a strange transition from Harlan to Jacobson before the tournament even started, but that was more of a camera thing. Prairie View A&M’s head coach is Byron Smith. Bonner referred to him as Byron Scott. Kevin confused the substitution signal for a travel call in one game. He has made that mistake before.

7. Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel/Jamie Erdahl:

I am a big fan of all three. They were excellent. Four of their six games were close, and the Seton Hall game against Wofford was tight before a late run by the Terriers. They had two weekend games with no others at the same time. I listened to them a lot. They were fantastic calling the exciting Maryland-LSU contest.

8. Jim Nantz/Bill Raftery/Grant Hill/Tracy Wolfson:

CBS has to be thrilled with their top crew. I still think Hill is coming along slowly, but Raftery is amazing and Nantz does a very solid job. The energy and knowledge from Raftery is unreal. However, his humor takes the cake. I like when he compares basketball contact to a New York subway ride.

Grading Each Team of Announcers In March Madness

Jim Nantz / Grant Hill / Bill Raftery // Tracy Wolfson:

I didn’t really think Grant Hill was needed when they put this team together. Raftery is more than capable. I think CBS was reluctant to hire Bill for the A team based on his age, but he is definitely a fan favorite. Raftery, approaching 75, has not lost a step. Hill seemed shaky at first, but I think he is finding his way. Raftery will not last forever, sadly. CBS wanted someone they did not have to worry about after Greg Anthony was charged with soliciting a prostitute.

Hill provided them with a name, good reputation, and youth compared with other analysts. Raftery often praises Hill and sets him up well. It works. Nantz has been calling the title game for about 30 years. I kind of like him as a studio host (he did this years ago for football and basketball) because he’s good with knowledge but doesn’t really have a golden voice in my opinion.

Greg Gumbel holds things down in the studio these days. Nantz does a solid job. Gus Johnson isn’t walking through that door. There is nothing we can do. Nantz finally got to call a Houston game during their conference tournament. In fact, two of them. He waited more than 30 years. Jim attended Houston, and Tracy’s Wolverines knocked them out on a buzzer beater this past weekend.

Brian Anderson / Chris Webber // Lisa Byington:

Brian Anderson is an up and coming announcer. I was annoyed when they elevated him above Ian Eagle, but so be it. During his first March Madness tournament, he aggravated me by continuously pointing out that these games are win or go home. We know. We’re not new to this. You are. I think he is great at baseball, and I’m glad that he now does the LCS on TBS over Ernie Johnson.

Chris Webber doesn’t impress me. I don’t think he is good doing NBA games. I’d like to see him do a Michigan game and have to talk about getting in trouble. Not that he would. Lisa Byington does not say the announcers’ names when doing a report. Somebody else will thank Ian or whoever is throwing it over to them. I feel like she is afraid of saying the wrong name because she isn’t used to these guys.

Kevin Harlan / Reggie Miller / Dan Bonner // Dana Jacobson:


Kevin Harlan has been doing the tournament for many years. I miss him on radio. He still does football on the radio, but used to call some basketball games there as well. Recently I was disappointed when he thought a travel had been called. The official was just signaling that there were substitutions but no timeout. That’s a college thing. He should know that. I’m a hard marker.

Reggie Miller is okay. Not my favorite analyst, but I guess I’m just used to him. Dan Bonner is good. When these guys swoop in for the tournament, CBS wisely likes to mix in someone who knows the college game. Jacobson hasn’t really bothered me too much. Sometimes that is the best thing you can say about a sideline reporter.

Ian Eagle / Jim Spanarkel // Allie LaForce:

This is an excellent team. Ian is one of the best. He finally gets to do the second weekend on television. We’ll see what happens next year. Verne Lundquist could be returning after back surgery. I miss Verne. So many legendary calls. Spanarkel is terrific. He has chemistry with Ian because they worked together on Nets games. They were paired together longer than any other team until Greg Anthony was suspended. Raftery moved up, and Spanarkel joined Verne to replace Raftery.

This wasn’t the first year Ian talked about how more tournament games have been played in Dayton than any other location. That is one of my few pet peeves with him. Many were played there years ago, but of course, there are four every year now. I don’t even consider them tournament games. Allie played basketball. She knows what is going on, and isn’t bad to look at either.

Spero Dedes / Steve Smith / Len Elmore // Ros-Gold-Onwude:

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I have been bashing Spero for years. I’ll leave it at that. I’m not a big Steve Smith fan, but at least we’re not stuck with him saying BA all the time because he’s not with Brian Anderson anymore. Len Elmore is the typical college guy who is there to educate the announcers who don’t know much about these teams, although Spero has done some college games.

Back in 1992, Len called Duke-Kentucky with Verne Lundquist. Len tried to reference it, but said Louisville instead of Kentucky. That’s not good. It was a classic game. You have to get that right. Ros is the best part of this team. She did a good job interviewing Sister Jean from Loyola-Chicago.

Brad Nessler / Steve Lavin // Evan Washburn:

Brad Nessler didn’t seem to be overly enthusiastic. I’m still mad that he does SEC games now instead of Verne. The Dick Neer twitter account knocked his enthusiasm, so I felt vindicated. He had complained about doing four games in one day before the tournament started. Occasionally I would flip on Gary Cohen. He did it on radio. His call was the local Seton Hall broadcast, so it’s a little different. Still, that was quite a contrast.

I liked Nessler years ago. They replaced Verne with another fairly old guy who has less energy. Lavin isn’t terrible. He does studio work. I think he is probably better there. I’m not big on male sideline reporters. Evan took over for Jenny Dell on NFL broadcasts. I’m still holding a grudge.

Andrew Catalon / Steve Lappas / Jamie Erdahl:

I like Catalon. He just tries too hard sometimes. Occasionally he’ll yell a little too loud. Or late. It’s like he realizes he’s not quite excited enough or should put more into his call so it goes viral. I also noticed this when he was calling an NFL game. He’s lucky. This is what I say about someone who does a good job. Others are not as fortunate. Catalon and Lappas are both local guys. I have heard them on WFAN. Lappas definitely knows his stuff, and I enjoy listening to him.

Jamie Erdahl works the sideline for this crew. She is one of the top NFL reporters. Erdahl works with Greg Gumbel and Trent Green on football broadcasts. However, she is only my second favorite Jamie from Minnesota. NHL and MLB host Jamie Hersch takes the cake.

Carter Blackburn / Debbie Antonelli // John Schriffen:


I have been listening to Blackburn for years. He does a good job calling basketball and football, but for some reason, it has not translated well into the tournament. His games are usually not great. I used to like Mike Gminski. Last year it seemed awkward when Antonelli was inserted into the crew.

Now it looks like CBS was just phasing out Gminski, who did not return this year. I have not seen enough of Schriffen to really make a judgment, but there are reasons this crew is ranked below all others.

The top four teams will work again the next couple days and this weekend. You know what they say during infomercials. But wait…there’s more! I have other media thoughts. Expect an article very soon.

Joe Buck Hates The Yankees…And Every Other Team

***Follow Joey Backdoor on Twitter @FootballNHoops***

Fans of the Yankees have complained that Joe Buck is rooting against them. Apparently Astros twitter thinks he is rooting for the Yanks. This happens all the time. Buck has talked about how different cities think he does not like their team. I have heard that his football partner Troy Aikman supposedly is so biased against the Giants and saying good things about Dallas. Meanwhile, he is constantly saying that a Dallas penalty was the correct call or they should have been hit with a penalty when they were not called for one. Aikman often praises Aaron Rodgers, and with good reason. He is awesome. Some of his best and most memorable performances have come against the Cowboys. I have heard that people in Dallas now dislike Aikman because of his comments against the Cowboys.

Bob Costas had a great interview with Bill Simmons. He mentioned how Cris Collinsworth supposedly hates all 32 NFL teams. When an announcer called the World Series he would get letters from both cities. They were pretty much identical, but the names would be reversed based on where the letter came from. You are so biased against my team and rooting for the other. I can remember when Costas called playoff games involving the Yankees nearly 20 years ago. He grew up rooting for the Yankees. Huge Mickey Mantle fan. Costas even carried a Mickey Mantle baseball card in his wallet as an adult. I’m not sure if he still does to this day, but I think I’ve made my point.  People called WFAN to say how he was rooting against the Yankees and how bad his broadcast was. Bob had the nerve to say that many times whatever team had the best record did not win it all. Before we give them a championship, we’re actually going to play these games. Such venom. Nothing annoys delusional fans like facts and neutral commentary.

I would say 99 times out of 100 the fans are wrong and irrational. There might be one time where criticism is justified, but usually people are just crying wolf. I remember Josh Lewin calling Yankees-Tigers in 2006. This was a dumpster fire. A-Rod was slumping and hit eighth. Detroit won easily and wrapped up the series. Lewin seemed to focus on things like payroll. Maybe the topic can be addressed in between games or early on in a season. I knew Yankee fans would not want to hear this. Josh seemed biased to me, and he seemed to enjoy seeing a Yankee meltdown. I called WFAN and mentioned this, without knowing about his background. I’m the one who would rip fans for bashing Costas, so I feel like I’ve got some credibility when it comes to the subject. Funny how Lewin used to call Tigers games and is now a Mets broadcaster. I sensed something. Perhaps my hunch was right.

However, this was a rare occurrence. Just because an announcer does not scream when the Yankees win or shout that a home run is high and far doesn’t mean that he wants them to lose. People outside of New York always assume that the announcers and officials are cheering for the big market. Just enjoy these games. Mute it if you want. Maybe listen to the radio. You have a couple different radio broadcasts. Chances are you can find one person out there who doesn’t despise your Yankees. Have fun listening to John and Suzyn calling it down the middle if you so choose. With today’s technology, it is possible to sync up the sound accurately. Pause the TV. Use an app. Do whatever it takes. There is enough sadness and hatred in this world. Don’t let Joe Buck ruin your life and the happiness that comes with Yankees playoff baseball!

Enjoying Opinionated Analysts, Except For Tony Romo!


***Follow Joey Freshwater On Twitter @FootballNHoops***

The opening Sunday concluded with a brutal Giants-Cowboys game. I was very frustrated at the ridiculous play calls. Early on the Giants were conservative. You could make a case for that. Still close. Time left. Had trouble protecting Eli. One of my real pet peeves is a short pass when you have third and long. At 19-3 in the late stages, there were more short passes from the Giants. Cris Collinsworth was also frustrated. He talked about how they needed to throw a Hail Mary, get an onside kick, and score again. Plus two conversions. They continued to dump it off short. A stunned Collinsworth first stated that the short pass would not get it done, and after another dump off he gave up and confessed to not knowing what they were doing

Jon Gruden likes to complain. He is a grumpy old man. So am I. Therefore, I’m cool with this. Usually he is complaining about penalties and confusing rules. One of his rants this year was about moving the extra point back. Actually, he referred to it more than once. One time stood out though. Basically he said that people find missed extra points exciting. I have totally been in this corner, and point to the Pats-Broncos AFC Championship game that ended 20-18. New England missed an extra point and trailed 20-12 instead of by seven when driving late. I complained that moving extra points back resulted in a missed kick, and that ultimately prevented us from seeing an overtime classic.

Then we have Tony Romo. I can’t stand him. First of all, he does not shut up. You would think somebody could whisper in his ear (or smack him in the head) and tell this fool to let the game breathe. Luckily I was out Thursday and watched the game without sound. Listening to him urging on Aaron Rodgers was tough to take when Green Bay rallied against the Bengals last month. He’ll spike the ball. Don’t worry about it. Not to mention talking about where he could have or should’ve gone with a pass. Yeah, throw it completely across the field. That always worked well in your career. Romo asked Jim Nantz to go out on a limb and predict whether or not Green Bay’s overtime field goal would be successful. Nantz, who usually kisses Tony’s ass, confessed that it was from just 27 yards out. Jim liked the chances of this one. He correctly predicted it. Of course predicting plays has been Romo’s signature trait so far. When Nantz asked how he knew what was coming after one play, Tony arrogantly stated that he has been around football for many years. Oh, you’re the one. Simms and Aikman are newcomers.

I wonder what Phil thinks of his work. It seems a little awkward when the studio breaks in with an update and throws it back to Jim. Phil was often knocked on social media, but he obviously knew the game. Simms put in 19 years at CBS, and was on NBC’s number one team before that. Even Collinsworth has mentioned Romo and seems bothered by him. I’m sure Romo will improve, and I’ll probably get used to his annoying behavior at some point. For now, I’m glad that I will be spending Thursdays out at a bar not listening to Tony’s commentary.

Reviewing The Announcers Around The NFL From Week 1


As we hit the second NFL weekend of 2017, it’s time to look back at some of the announcers from last weekend. Specifically the new crews, but also NBC’s team. Al and Cris are back for another season. I love Al Michaels, but he seems to be losing a little bit off the fastball. For years he was all over the rules. Lately he seems a little confused. It’s hard to keep up with all the changes and evolving interpretations, but he has not been sharp like previous seasons. Forgetting there is a penalty or incorrectly predicting one. I hold him to high standards. Hopefully this is just a blip on the screen. I’m also upset that Bob Costas is largely out of the mix. He apparently did something before the game on opening night, but unfortunately I missed it. Costas will host the Super Bowl in February because Mike Tirico will already be gone for the Olympics. Tirico is taking over for Costas in that role as well.

The new CBS pairing features Tony Romo replacing Phil Simms as Jim Nantz’s partner. Apparently Romo is into predicting what play will be run. I saw highlights of their calls and a little bit of that game on RedZone, but can’t really give an informed opinion until I see more of them. Of course Sunday afternoons will still feature Joe, Troy, and Erin working many big NFC contests.

Finally, there was Monday Night Football on ESPN. I think Sean McDonough is an excellent announcer when it comes to college football and basketball. Over the years I have enjoyed him doing baseball for the Red Sox, and also his national work for ESPN. He just doesn’t seem like a great fit calling NFL games. I’m not sure why. Other people have shared less than complimentary thoughts with me. I’m trying to keep an open mind. It took me some time until I became used to Tirico on Mondays, and again I’m a big fan of McDonough.


The huge story coming in was Beth Mowins. She became the first woman to call an NFL regular season game in 30 years, and the first to call one nationally. Twitter was filled with support from numerous people. I thought ESPN sideline reporter Allison Williams captured it best. In addition to offering praise, she added that it felt normal. I am familiar with Beth. She has called college football for years on ESPN, and also preseason NFL games for the Raiders. Despite being overdue, Beth’s performance did not seem like a big deal to me. I thought she did pretty well, except for a minor stumble before halftime when she didn’t realize that the clock was going to run out before a punt was required. Amazingly, Beth was almost an afterthought. She mocked Rex Ryan before the game even started because he moved around and didn’t stand on his spot for the opening camera shot.

I thought the social media highlights of this game would come from Rex, but sideline reporter Sergio Dipp had an awkward debut covering an NFL game. Twitter went nuts over his introductory comments, and some became upset that we were not treated to more later in the broadcast.


Enjoy Week 2!