2023 NCAA Tournament

Greg Gumbel is off CBS’ NFL telecasts; Veteran voice will remain with CBS only on college games

Greg Gumbel became the first and only African-American to call a Super Bowl on TV. He did two, 2001 and 2004. There’s never been another in the booth. He teamed with Phil Simms.

Greg Gumbel is dulcet toned and still maintains his equanimity, his greatest strength. He’s 76 and getting older. 

But we all get older and slow down, no matter what we do to put the meals on the table. For talent, be it in the studio or in the play-by-play booth. Our talent thins as our days and weeks advance.

Most have to push harder to maintain their productivity proficiently. Hosting Selection Sunday where millions of curious viewers tune in. is a challenge for any broadcasters, even the young. 

The quality of Greg Gumbel’s work was beginning to drop, sometime precipitously so. The quality of his work is simply not as smooth or error-free as it was in the past. What I always liked about him is the fact that he doesn’t get hysterical or deliver the play-by-play in a frenzied manner. No, his mistakes are occasionally corrected subtly by his stage-mates or color commentators. Football has grown enormously. Deep-dives are taken repeatedly. Sharpness is essential, more so now than ever in the past. There are lots of announcers whose names are beginning to fade.

In today’s age, preparation is critical, more so than ever. The score, the pitch clock, key stats, time remaining and more are available on the score-bug. Demonstrating your wares as an announcer is imperative, more so than ever.

Greg will be 77 in May. Two men up there in age, who are still quite current, include Brent Musburger and Al Michaels. They both bring personality and at times an edge to the mic. Michaels at Amazon Prime wasn’t given the tools he had in the past. Hubie Brown is strikingly on it and he turns 90 on September 25th. Brown will sometime subtly correct his partner play-by-player. Brown is an amazing man. 

Locally, think Bob Uecker, baseball in Milwaukee, and Al McCoy, basketball with the Suns in Phoenix.

As for CBS, Sean McManus has to be thinking about younger voices moving up. Andrew Catalon, 43, to back up Jim Nantz on golf, continues his NFL play-by-play at an elevated grade. Nantz, 63, will be missed on hoops starting next year when he’ll be followed by Ian Eagle.

Top NFL network play-by-play voices and their ages are Al Michaels, Amazon (78), Nantz, CBS (63), Tirico, NBC (56) Joe Buck, ESPN (53) and Kevin Burkhardt, Fox (49).

Average age is almost 60. 

CBS’ pre/post game show: James Brown (72), Nate Burelson (42), Bill Cowher (68), Boomer Esiason (61) and Phil Simms (67) Average age is almost 62. 

Fox’ pre/post game show Terry Bradshaw, (75), Jimmy Johnson (79), Howie Long (63),Curt Menefee (57) and Michael Strahan (51). Average age is almost 65.

Greg was always smooth, but his mood dictated his attitude which seemed to waver. It rarely manifested itself on-air. But in recent years, CBS seemed to diminish his assignments. Greg had elevated to the Super Bowl twice in 2021 and 2004. Gumbel. 

After a so-so performance as a game caller, Greg was replaced by Jim Nantz who assumed the top reins since. As the years advanced, Gumbel did studio work and later the NFL play-by-play again, but his status dropping to four on the depth chart.

It was evident that he was making some booboos. Last week, it was announced that the veteran would no longer engage in football. It was time. Sean McManus, 67, Chairman of CBS Sports, asked Gumbel to focus on his college work where he looks comfortable. Not all details though have been completed.

Brother Bryant, 73, did lots of work for NBC in its hay day of sports. He brought lots more energy and stirred it up. For one thing, when NBC produced its last NCAA title game, March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt that very day. Bryant was at NBC Sports and at the scene, hosting pre an post. In 1982, he moved to the Today Show show as the morning host.

NBC introduced a format of switching games intuitively. Not all games were carried until later. The last one the Peacock network ran was the the night of the Reagan assassination attempt.

Recently, Greg was critical of Alabama, the number one seed in America, for not engaging itself in a murder which an ex player has been charged. Greg’s best work has been in the studio and that’s where he’ll stick the rest of his career.

He’ll apparently be taken off NFL play-by-play. CBS has the talent to replace him.

 

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David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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Michael Green
1 year ago

I am an admirer of Greg Gumbel, and from all I’ve heard, he also is an all-around good guy, far more personally beloved than his younger brother is. But Streisand asked about staying too long at the fair, and it’s possible to do that. It’s easier to do with, say, MLB radio because fans know you like a member of the family and understand that your skills may have diminished a bit, but it’s still family. It’s harder at the network level. I’m glad he gets to continue with CBS.