Halby’s Morsels: Kevin Burkhardt, Baseball on Fox and ESPN; Greg Olsen unsigned, Still – dots to connect
Mr. Information man, the NY Post’s Andrew Marchand, projects that Kevin Burkhardt is the winner. He’ll succeed Joe Buck as the number one NFL play-by-player for Fox. A gutsy move for a man with a limited resume. Burkhardt has showed promise and has moved up the Fox charts quickly. It wasn’t that long ago that that he was selling cars in New Jersey. And now Kevin sits in Fox’ proverbial palatial booth as the company’s number one NFL play-by-player. The company’s jewel, the NFL golden microphone is his. At 48, he’ll sit on top of the world. Two of the next three Super Bowls will be aired by Fox.
Buck is following ex-Fox teammate Troy Aikman to partner with him at ESPN. Burkhardt got his start in sports radio on WCBS in New York, the same station where NBC’s Mike Tirico interned, under the tutelage of Ed Ingles. For decades, Buck was atop the Fox chart calling the NFL and MLB. No baseball successor for Joe has been announced yet. His reign over baseball began in 1996. Joe has done 22 in a row and a total of 24.
The last World Series voiced by anyone other than Joe was Bob Costas in 1999 on NBC which raises a question of Fox. Bob is still sharp and would be wonderful on Fox’ baseball package. Why not? Baseball is Bob’s love, through and through. We would get more than analytics, stats and the nuances between a two-seamers or a four-seamer.
Burkhardt fashions a cheerful and lighthearted style. He’s an easy and soft listen. Kevin grew quickly on network television, after all sorts of diverse work over the last ten years or so. He presents games in a relaxed manner and there’s little of his work about which to be critical. On the radio front he broadcast for Compass Group which owns some sectional rights to the NFL including the Dallas Cowboys’ outside network. Early in his New York TV years, Burkhardt had the Mets’ pre and post game shows under his belt on SNY.
Fox surprised me with its decision. Back in 1994, it shocked the industry, uprooting CBS outbidding the network for the NFL’s NFC rights. With the NFL in its grip, Fox built a monster of a global network, encompassing a multitude of entertainment.
At first, Pat Summerall and John Madden presided as the number one crew, coming over together from an NFL desolate CBS. The foundation of their popularity continued to swell further. (will they work together this yea as number one team on Fox?)
As for baseball, Burkhardt will likely host post season in studio or on the field. He did it in previous seasons. Mr. Two or Mr. Four Seamer, John Smoltz, will continue in the analyst’s role. With Smoltz, we’re taught, we don’t enjoy. We lose the essence of baseball, storytelling . Baseball is a game of stories.
ESPN didn’t deny that Buck will do more than just the NFL, but not immediately. The Bristolites haven’t maintained that Joe will do more than the NFL, down the road. Perceptibly boring Joe Davis is being considered to do baseball at Fox or at least a chunk of it. Will he be coronated with the Series, I can’t tell you. But I would be disappointed.
Back to football, no confirmation yet about Greg Olsen, whether or not he’ll be moving from #2 to the #1 analyst. There’s already some chemistry, the two were in the same booth last year.
On ESPN last night I watched a competitive women’s basketball game, a double overtime UConn win over North Carolina State. UConn head coach Gene Auriemma set a record for his 14th straight trip to the women’s Final Four. Ryan Ruocco called the game. When I first heard him a few years ago, he was unimpressive. His scratchy voice was strongly redolent of a New York accent. He’s gotten somewhat better. For one, he mixes a richer assortment and combo of words into the broadcast and sounds confident. But like young voices doing pulsating finishes, he overdoes it.
How many times within the last couple minutes of a thrilling finish does a play-by-player have to repeat the few key elements at stake? First, all the fundamental data is on the screen. How many times were we told that Auriemma will make it to his 14th straight Final Four? Whose record was he about to break?
The best lesson broadcasters can learn from Al Michaels is the multiple times he broadcasts a Super Bowl. It’s, “Less is more.” Like the best umpires or refs, he does his job impeccably and quietly. He then leaves. He avoids being disruptive or a source of attention. He doesn’t do a broadcast open the way Howard Cosell did a world heavyweight championship, Like -“80,000 on hand here in Cleveland to witness a public education.”
Too many play-by-players today overdramatize most everything. They’re not paid by their speed, by the number of words they belt out or the decibels by which their speech is measured. They don’t learn to calibrate the natural range of their timbre.
For instance, you can argue that Kevin Harlan is blessed with a wide breadth that fills the room. Curt Gowdy told others that many thought Lindsey Nelson’s tone has a limited range. Lindsey trained himself to work around it. How much screaming, graphics, stats and information can fans absorb? Telecasts have turned into a smorgasbord of nonsense, brimming with way too much for our tummies and too many numbers for even Ted Williams to consume. During the NFL playoffs, we heard Mike Tirico and Ian Eagle, two fellows who are well liked by most fans go over the top late.
In one of those mindboggling Saint Peter’s wins, instead of letting fans enjoy the captivating without much disruption, Ian Eagle who puts his heart into the broadcast, talked right over the celebration. Ian is loved by many for his wonderful energy, but he breaks rules.
We talked about everything broadcasting these last few weeks. What we missed during the tournament is a usual staple, one of our perennial early rounders, Carter Blackburn.
Commentators and networks:
Ryan Ruocco, Rebecca Lobo and Holly Rowe as a sideline analyst
Fri, Apr 1 7 p.m.-Women’s Final Four: Semifinal #1 and # 2 – 7 and 9:30 PM – semi-final
Sun Apr 3: 8 p.m.-Women’s National Championship
Saturday, April 1, 6:09 p.m.
TBS-New Orleans, LA-(2) Villanova vs. (1) Kansas-Jim Nantz / Bill Raftery / Grant Hill // Tracy Wolfson
After Game 1-TBS-New Orleans, LA- (8) North Carolina vs. (2) Duke-Nantz / Raftery / Hill // Wolfson
A Comment from ex-writer:
Got this unsolicited comment from a former sports media journalist:
Joe Davis on baseball? What could be duller?