Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported last week that Amazon Prime which will have exclusive rights to Thursday NFL games beginning in 2022 is pursuing Al Michaels as its lead play-by-play voice. Michaels’ contract at NBC expires after next February’s Super Bowl. Marchand speculated that a number of NBC production personnel might be engaged in the Amazon presentation.
Remember that Amazon Prime will need production help. To date and through the coming season, Prime takes Fox Sports’ feed. Next year, there’s no hiding. Amazon will be on its own. One thought shared by Marchand is that Al would also remain with NBC in a more formal arrangement, doing several games including NBC’s Wild Card playoffs. Mike Tirico is scheduled to take over Michaels’ lead SNF role next season.
While it’s quite possible that Amazon would pay big bucks to label their Thursday night series with a marquee name, something makes me scratch my head. Michaels has been Mr. NFL Primetime since 1986. He’s accustomed to priority treatment. Doing SNF, he gets access to anything and everything, from coaches down. But Amazon’s schedule won’t have that command. Thursday night’s schedule is not Monday night’s schedule and it’s certainly not Sunday night’s.
I still have to believe that the new ABC/ESPN package is the better option for Michaels. It’s the one that I think he would prefer, if everything else was close to equal. There are Super Bowls in the ESPN/ABC package. Why would Al want to play second fiddle to Tirico who until now has been his understudy?
Maybe the ESPN angle has been pursued and the Disney folks aren’t interested in making a move. If not, let’s hope please that they stick with Steve Levy. And pretty please, don’t move over Chris Fowler and diarrhea of the mouth Kirk Herbstreit from college football.
Sometimes, I sit here amazed by the inexplicable. Marv Albert did his last game ever at MSG where the Knicks’ season ended in game five of the Atlanta playoff series. The man has meant so much to the building. He actually started in 1967 when the Knicks played in the old Madison Square Garden. The team moved into the new building in 1968. What would it have taken to simply acknowledge Marv during a timeout?
I had asked the Knicks’ PR office prior to the game whether anything was planned and a senior member of the staff told me that the club was focused on winning the game and extending the series. Frankly, as long as Jim Dolan is in charge it’s unlikely that a well deserved banner for Marv will ever be unfurled from the Garden rafters. Marv turns 80 this Saturday. As column contributor Don Haley said about Marv, “He may be among the last of the stylists without contrivance.”
This past weekend Turner’s Inside the NBA paid a mini-tribute to Marv who will retire at the end of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Charles Barkley talked about first greeting Brent Musburger and Marv , saying to himself, “Wow, there’s Brent Musburger and Marv Albert, they’re going to mention my name tonight!” Then Shaq chimed in and threw out the names of two other legends, Verne Lundquist and Tim Brnado. If that wasn’t enough, Kenny Smith, a New York kid, went on reminiscing about listening to Marv call both Knicks and Rangers games on radio. When he was a kid, Kenny the Jet would run around the house imitating Marv, especially after a Knicks’ win.
ESPN’s current team of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson is the best trio to ever do NBA games on network television. They have a good conversational dialogue. I also enjoy their nitpicking. It’s fun. College basketball had its trio of Dick Enberg, Billy Packer and Al McGuire. They were unbeatable and remain unmatched.
I was listening to a couple local baseball telecasters who can go innings upon innings without identifying a pitch, Dan Orsillo of San Diego TV and Dan McLaughlin of St. Louis TV. Don’t these guys know the game? You would hope that they do. I don’t need to hear about two-seamers but some basic guys. It’s a disservice to your viewers.
ESPN hasn’t announced its lead play-by-play announcer for its newly acquired NHL package next season. Yet it did say that Leah Hextall, (left), a cousin of former Flyers great Ron Hextall, will be a part of the network’s announce team. Frankly, listening to women call fast paced games can be tough on the ears. When they exult or get excited they have a strong tendency to shrill. Sorry. So it is.
Lisa Byington did a better job than I expected during CBS’ coverage of the NCAA Tournament. But women’s voices have narrower ranges. So for viewers to fully accept them in play-by-play roles, they will have to temper their expectation level when listening to them.
Hextall, a 40 year young Canadian, has done broadcast work north of the boarder. The likelihood is that Steve Levy and Sean McDonough will be ESPN’s lead voices. McDonough has done baseball, football, basketball and some hockey nationally. Marv Albert is the only announcer to do both the NBA Finals and NHL Stanley Cup Finals on network television. Curt Gowdy did Final Fours, an NBA Final, World Series and Super Bowls on network television. He did some hockey but never a Cup.
Interestingly Michaels was scheduled to do a Stanley Cup Final on ABC in 1979 had it gone to a seventh game. But Montreal beat the Rangers that year in five. Had it eventuated, Michaels would have filled his resume with World Series, Super Bowls, NBA Finals and a Stanley Cup. He’s never done a Final Four. It all worked out. The winter following the ’79 Cup, Michaels presided over the upset of upsets in the Olympics when the Americans knocked off the Soviets. He famously exclaimed as most know, “Do you believe in miracles?”
Jim Lampley is out of retirement. Triller Fight Club announced that it has signed the Emmy Award-winning broadcaster as its new lead blow-by-blow voice. He will begin his multi-fight deal with the historic June 19 Triller Fight Club card at Miami’s loanDepot Park. It will feature both men’s and women’s undisputed world title fights for the first time. The highlight will be the undisputed lightweight world championship bout, matching Teofimo Lopez vs George Kambosos.
After more than three decades in network television, and nearly 30 of them as host of HBO’s flagship World Championship Boxing franchise, Lampley is one of America’s most renowned boxing broadcasters. He was host and blow-by-blow announcer for all HBO Boxing telecasts from March 1988 until December 2018 and has called some the biggest fights in the history of the sport
FITE, the world’s premier streaming PPV platform for sports and entertainment will handle the worldwide live pay-per-view streaming distribution online for the June 19 event
Will Matt Vasgersian and Alex Rodriguez ever return to the ballpark for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball? This business of having them and others call games remotely is getting old an inexcusable.
Dan Mason did a nice piece yesterday on ESPN’s Bob Wischusen. You don’t think of Boston College as a prime broadcast college but it turns out that two other ESPNers were classmates of Wiachusen, Boog Sciambi and Joe Tessitore. Wait, there’s more to it too. If you missed it, there’s another handful. Len DeLuca was a longtime programming executive at CBS and later ESPN, Kevin O’Malley, played a huge role as a production executive at CBS and then Turner; Bob Ryan, a popular columnist for the Boston Globe, Mike Lupica, (left), a New York Daily News columnist, novelist and occasional broadcaster and Lesley Visser star writer with the Globe and longtime ABC and CBS sports reporter.
In Houston, Matt Bullard is out as the Rockets’ television color commentator. Back in the 90s, Bullard was a big man in the league who lurked on the outside and took three-point shots. In May, Houston legendary play-by-play announcer, Bill Worrell announced his retirement. So it looks like there will be a new crew calling games in Houston next year. The guy I miss most was the Rockets’ stentorian radio man, Jim Peterson.
NBC Sports announced that these folks will partake calling Olympic events this summer, Kate Scott, Basketball; GOLF Channel’s Rich Lerner and Shane Bacon on Golf; Lisa Byington, Jenn Hildreth and Derek Rae will be on Soccer.
Jason Benetti (Baseball), Noah Eagle (3-on-3 Basketball), and Beth Mowins (Softball) to Make NBC Olympics Debuts Calling Events New to Summer Games or returning after an absence
Additional Play-by-Play Assignments Include: Jack Benjamin (Multiple Sports), Krista Blunk (Multiple Sports), Brendan Burke (Rowing & Canoe Sprint), Rupert Cox (Rugby), Courtney Lyle (Field Hockey), Chris Lewis (Table Tennis), Patrick Kinas (Swimming), and Matt Winer (Handball)
Benjamin is the voice of Nicholls State and Lewis does ancillary sports for Boise State. Nice to see fresh faces in the mix.
Seventy seven (77) years ago Sunday was D-Day, June 6, 1944. I always think of the greatest, Vin Scully, on D-Day. He would always talk about the sacrifice by American fighters and the Allied forces. Less than a year later after some costly and bloody battles, the Nazis were done. One June 6th, when the Dodgers were up in San Francisco, Vin read one of the local dailies cover-to-cover and didn’t see a thing written about the anniversary. Vin was not too happy. You can hear the smoke coming out of Scully’s ears when he shared what he missed on the Dodgers’ telecast that night.