Halby's Morsels

Halby’s Morsels: CBS’ Tuesday Night Football, NBA ratings, Tony Dungy, Kirk Herbstreit and Steve Albert


Delighted that CBS will use Tom McCarthy and Jay Feely on tonight’s Tuesday Night Football. The network could easily have shipped its top crew, Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, for this prime time showing. Kevin Harlan and Trent Green are due too. The duo haven’t worked in two weeks because the games they were assigned were both postponed by the pandemic.

105211_D0173b.jpgTom (left) and Jay don’t work in the booth every week. Feely reports from the sidelines and is promoted to the booth when needed. McCarthy is hired for only a few games every year. He’s one of the television voices of the Phillies and does some football and basketball on national radio. McCarthy is solid and brings personality too. Don’t get nervous, Tom and Jay. There will only be some ten million people listening to you. The telecast was originally only to go to 10% of the country.

In network radio’s glory years in the 1930s, Bill Stern and Ted Husing were considered America’s biggest sports broadcast voices. Their names were bigger then than Nantz’ and Romo’s are today, combined. But Stern got addicted to drugs. His play-by-play career essentially ended when he opened the ABC telecast of the 1956 Sugar Bowl, stumbling, stammering and barely being able to identify the two opponents. Ray Scott took over in the booth and made an immediate name for himself. He would go on to become one of the key voices of the NFL on television in the 60s and 70s. Can tonight’s broadcast become an epochal moment for McCarthy to show his wares? He’s staring at a glorious opportunity.

Because it’s a national game, AJ Ross is being brought in as a field reporter.

Some media members are already exploring the possibility of an NFL Tuesday night series. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Random Thoughts:

  • Along the lines of this bizarre, anxious and unsettling year. Early Soviet leader, Vladimir Lenin: “There are three decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen.”
  • Lots of playoffs during this busy intersection of sports. In 1966, Bob Prince was on NBC Radio with Vin Scully for game #4. The Dodgers were down 3-0 in games, facing the Orioles who eventually swept. The Gunner: “The Dodgers need a win like a dying man needs a breath”
  • Gus Johnson working college football this past weekend, screeched himself weak on Texas-Oklahoma. He was unlistenable. Tony Petitti ran CBS Sports when Gus screamed his way through high wire finishes during the NCAA Tournament. Petitti told me that he heard from several viewers with this suggestion. Don’t assign Johnson to any games. Just have him sit in the studio. When a game tightens late, let him call the finish. Oh, yes. I’m sure Jim Nantz would gladly have turned over the end of the title game for Gus to empty his lungs.
  • John Sterling called the end of the Yankees loss in game #5 to the Rays with zero emotion. He sounded somewhere between resigned and uncaring. Maybe angry? John, there will be another spring.
  • According to Sportico, “The ’78 Yankees-Dodgers series remains the most-watched Fall Classic in history, averaging 44.3 million viewers and a 32.8 rating on NBC. The Yankees-Rays ALDS through the first four games averaged 2.47 million viewers and a 1.5 household rating on TBS, while none of the other four rated Division Series games managed to top the 1.5 million-viewer mark.” With the Bronxites out, baseball ratings are likely to finish with some feeble numbers the rest of the post season.
  • NBA ratings have fallen off a cliff. Game #3 was the lowest rated NBA title game on record. We’ll have to wait for the final numbers which will include the game #6 blowout. But overall they’re down somewhere about 50%. The two key reasons from my humble perspective.
  • One, the finals faced unprecedented competition. The NFL and MLB ran against the championship series, plus a heated election captures the spotlight day and night. (The preliminary data for Sunday night demonstrate the NFL’s dominance. The Minnesota-Seattle game on NBC did twice the number that the NBA title clinching game produced.)
  • Two, the NBA telecasts are plastered with political messaging that’s bold and inescapable. Sports are a diversion. Many watch to get away from anything that’s left or right. Enough already! The league realizes it too and you won’t see this over the top endorsement next season. If you don’t believe me, read this opinion piece in the liberal slanted Washington Post. I always watch the NBA Finals. But this year all the politics pushed me away
  • Is Kirk Herbstreit openly campaigning for his colleagues’ jobs? He went public saying how much he enjoyed his NFL assignment on the opening weekend and would consider more NFL work. I‘m sure that Louis Riddick and Brian Griese appreciated hearing that Kirk might have an interest in their jobs. I’m still waiting for Herbie’s admission that he was wrong after predicting in the spring that there was no way college football would be played in the fall. In my view, Herbstreit remains a self-righteous, blithering blowhard.
  • Bob Costas worked with Joe Morgan on NBC years ago. The Hall of Famer, who passed at age 77, also introduced Bob when he got the coveted Ford Frick Award. Costas shared this quote after Joe’s passing. “At his peak Joe wasn’t merely a Hall of Fame level player, he was one of the greatest all around players of the last half of the 20th century. He was a very good broadcast partner. And we remained close friends through the years.”
  • Tony Dungy used a poor choice of words when talking about the impact of the horrific injury to Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott. He called it a ‘blessing in disguise,’ suggesting that under backup QB Andy Dalton, schemes and strategy could change. The old coach was taken to task for his comment, although there was absolutely no mal-intent. Dungy issued an apology on Twitter. Had Bob Costas been on the set  with him he would have likely used his emollient verbal power to tweak or tighten what Dungy meant. Mike Tirico, Mr. Everywhere, sitting to Dungy’s right, didn’t do so.


Steve Albert, 70, is now retired. He’s the youngest of the famed Albert brothers. There’s Marv of course, the most known of the three. He’s 79. The middle of the boys is Al, 74, who played hockey in college. He later did some NHL on radio and loads of NBA on both TV and radio. He’s also remembered for doing lots of boxing for USA Network. Al too is retired.

Steve broke into the business, doing the Cleveland Crusaders of the old World Hockey Association. He did boxing, the Mets, Nets, Jets and Islanders in the New York area. That’s right, five different sports. He later did the Warriors, Hornets and Suns.

Steve tells the story of how he got his first pro gig at age 22 in 1972.

In Steve Albert’s words:

Phoenix Suns Televison Voice Steve Albert Retires | Phoenix SunsI was ecstatic to land the job of radio play-by-play for the Cleveland Crusaders of the WHA. It was particularly thrilling because I had graduated only months before from nearby Kent State where I had broadcast hockey.

For their first ever game, the Crusaders had Joe Tait on the call while I did an audition tape at the opposite end of the old Cleveland Arena. I should mention that the press boxes were in the end zones, so it was an extra challenge calling hockey from that vantage point, particularly when players were coming towards you and you couldn’t see their numbers. You had to memorize their faces. Thank goodness most weren’t wearing helmets and face guards back then.

Anyway, the next morning after opening night, they had me meet team owner Nick Mileti. I walked into this long, dark office in the arena and couldn’t see anybody or anything. Suddenly, this big leather office chair swings around at the far end of the room. It was like something out of an old black and white film noir movie.

Mileti is sitting in the chair.  He says…”kid, I’ll give ya 9500 bucks to announce the games.” I said, “Mr. Mileti, I’ll take it.” It may have been the fastest negotiation, if you want to call it that, in sports broadcasting history.



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
3 years ago

I’m reminded of Bob Elson telling Milo Hamilton that if you go pell-mell for the first 8 innings, where do you go in an exciting 9th? When I hear Gus, I’m reminded of Robin Williams’s routine about wanting Andrés Cantor, the great soccer announcer who yells, “GOOOOAAAAALLLLL,” to do golf, just to liven things up.

And it’s fun to think of Messrs. Scully and Prince working together, and the Gunner saying something you might expect Vin to say!