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Remembering 2023 in sports broadcasting; Memorable voices, including Suzy Kolber and others

A REVIEW OF 2023 SPORTS BROADCASING

STEPHEN A. SMITH IS THE WINNER, AN INTRESTING CHARACTER 

TAKE HIM MORE LIGHTLY

After the terrible firings this past summer, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith was seriously concerned for his own future. It’s been assessed at some $10 million. 

Stephen A. Smith is honored by Sports Broadcast Journal with the Sportscaster of the Year.

He comes across as honest, embracing, entertaining and a man of his own style. At 56 he is prudent, sharp and unassuming. When ESPN trimmed its talent last July, Stephen A was spared and told his audience that he himself was concerned for his own future . It’s understanding, given the fact that it’s reported he pulls down $10 million a year.

Yes, he earns unimaginable money with ESPN. He started as a writer in Philadelphia and New York, Stephen A is sometimes described as a mix of an entertainer, critic and simply angry.

His own rating has seemed to pick up. His guts, sharpness and  ability engage in polemics can go 24/7. Whether he believes himself or not, Stephen A. is a showman. He reminds me of a modern day Howard Cosell.

But why too would he show fear for his own job? He’s never shown vulnerabilities before. His cockiness  Stephen A. Smith is pointing attention at himself, telling a publication that he too can be fried.

He can spin himself into a character of confusion, which turned into a part of his charm, babbling ear to ear.  He  often leaves the set with an entertaining smirk. What I like is he makes  gives the sense that the program this is only sports, unless it’s something that really bugs him. When he leaves the set, there’s often a smirch, like ‘don’t be too serious.’ It took some time for him to catch on with me. Remember that Stephen A wrote in Philly and New York.

****

50 YEARS AG0 – 1973

Major League Baseball – The Oakland’s A’s beat the New York Mets in seven games. NBC had the rights exclusively. Curt Gowdy did every game. In New York, Curt was joined by Lindsey Nelson. In Oakland Gowdy’s partner was the wonderful and still full of life, Monte Moore, now 93.

The NFL wasn’t anywhere near the popularity point they are today, but growing threateningly. Don Shula led the Dolphins to an undefeated season, one no club has duplicated  since. The Fins finished 14-0, straight through the Super Bowl, (1972 season ended with the 1973 Super Bowl). TV Voices on NBC-TV were Curt Gowdy and Al De Rogatis on NBC national radio were the announcers were Jim Simpson and Kyle Rote.

The Knicks beat the Lakers in five to win their second title. Since then, it’s been an ignominious and painful stretch for the New Yorkers. Yes, 50 years, without a championship. On ABC TV, it was Keith Jackson and Bill Russell.

The Montreal Canadiens knocked out the Chicago Blackhawks for the NHL Stanley Cup.

 

Noah Eagle (left) and analyst Todd Blackledge will be calling the Notre Dame-Ohio State game for NBC on Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.

NOAH EAGLE – IMPRESSVE YOUTH OF THE YEAR 

Deserves the respect. He’ll likely get even better than he is today, some three years deep. Like dad Ian, Noah Eagle attended Syracuse University. Took the mic with confidence and sounded sharp. Imagine, at 26 he’s the Voice of NBC’s Primetime College Football. Sonorous, consistently well prepared and pumped when calling a game. There are more telecasts now than ever. He reminds me of a young Bob Costas, Al Michaels or Jim Lampley and others.

Noah Eagle is the son of veteran Ian, and analyst Todd Blackledge are pictured above. 

*****

SPORTS BROADCAST EXECUTIVE OF YEAR

Chief Executive Sean McManus has in essence presided over CBS Sports’ Group since 2011. With the help of Mel Karmazin, drumming up approval internally to reacquire the NFL rights. CBS was without pro football from 1994 to 1997. In 1998, the NFL was back in the CBS cradle. Sean had tons of accomplishments there including signing Tony Romo as its top NFL color commentator in 2017. The network has the Bowl again this February. Sean has been dedicated to CBS for 27 years. He leaves next Spring, on his own volition. The CEO will leave after the 2024 Final Four. His dad was the wonderful and late Jim McKay who worked Olympics and so much more.

*****

2023 NEW VOICE OF THE  YEAR JJ Watt

J.J. is in CBS’ NFL TV studio schedule. A rookie broadcaster, the man is unafraid with a mic and he banters comfortably with ease. A 300 pound defender is perfectly sharp. After his wonderful NFL playoff career, mostly in Houston, he was hired by CBS TV. So far, so good. He’s made quick adjustments to feel a part of the group, (including James Brown, Bill Cowher, Nate Burleson, Phil Simms and Boomer Esiason He quips and quirks and makes the audience laugh. He should make it for a while. 

****

BILL RAFTERY IS BACK AT AGE 80

It’s nice to hear the dulcet toned and uplifting ex-LaSalle player and head Seton Hall coach. Through the season, he’s fully with Fox, TBS and CBS on major events including the Final Four. Raf still brings it all together, sharing strategy, entertaining humor and and an understanding of what the audience wants to hear. He’s also made one of his partners Grant Hill much better too. How far back does Raf go? In 1985, 38 years ago, he and Len Berman were in MSG calling The Game of the Century at the Garden. Raf still looks the same now as did then.

****

ESPN PRODUCED THE SADDEST AND MOST GUT-WRENCHING DEVELOPMENT IN 2023

The July 4th extended Holiday turned into an ESPN broadcast massacre. Best of luck to all victims. Still tough to digest: 

Ashley Brewer – Married to NBA Center Frank Kaminsky who makes some $22M per year.

Vince Carter – Vince Carter played an NBA-record 22 seasons.

Chris Chelios – He took stage at ESPN in the studio. More evidence of massive cuts.

Jordan Cornette –  Staff writer in the studios. He previously worked for Bleacher Report

LaPhonso Ellis – Picked by the Denver Nuggets in 1992 and played in the NBA through 2003.

Neil Everett – The man cracked jokes whether in Bristol or SoCal

Nick Friedel – A Syracuse University voice who covered the Bulls and Warriors

Jason Fritz – Fitz joined ESPN in 2016, hosting College Football Daily on ESPNU.

Matt Hasselbeck – Former QB had been with ESPN since 2016. His voice was hardly stimulating.

Mark Jackson – Can be acerbic and educational on-air but  debates with teammates Breen and JVG 

Keyshawn Johnson – A puzzling character in Bristol, he did some too in LA

Max Kellerman – Diversified, Max went to Columbia. In recent years he has focused on boxing

.Suzy Kolber – This story is a killer. She’s so associated with ESPN’s and so committed. Nasty!

Doug Kezirian –  A sports betting insider. Kezirian lives in Las Vegas

Joon Lee –  Staff writer at ESPN. He previously worked for Bleacher Report

Todd McShay – Works the football draft for ESPN doing so in 2006.

Ron Ninkovich – Played for New Orleans and Miami before flourishing with New England

David Pollack – A former star with the Georgia Bulldogs, became an analyst with ESPN in 2009.

Jalen Rose – He’ll be remembered for his his snappy threads. Not much depth on hoops.

Jeff Van Gundy – This requires deeper investigation

Andre Ward – The Boxing commentator sparkled as a fighter, and later for ESPN.

Steve Young – Led Niners to ’94 S/B Title; Had been with ESPN since 2000.

 

 

ESPN’s ex Suzy Kolber is missed by NFL fans this season after she was dismissed with some twenty others last summer.

*****

We mourn the loss of these broadcasters in 2023:

Bill Schonley -Jan 24 – Trailblazers radio

Billy Packer – Jan 27 – NCAA nationally (pictured below with Dick Enberg in the middle and Al McGuire on NBC)  

Tim McCarver – February 16- Networks/Locally

Dave Wills – March 5 – Tampa Bay – MLB Radio 

Rick Wolff – April 10 – Writer / WFAN

Dick Groat – April 29 – U Pitt -Basketball Radio

Jim Brown – May 19 – NFL TV

Jim Price- Tigers – August 7 – Tigers Radio

Johnny Lujack – July 25 – Notre Dame Football

Rick Jeanneret – January 26 – Buffalo Sabres

Gil Brandt – August  30- Executive Dallas and NFL 

Dick Butkus – October 5 – Commentator and actor

Bob Knight – November 1 – Championship Coach and ESPN Commentator

Tony Roberts – Notre Dame – August 26 – Mutual and Westwood One

Ken Squier – November 15 – NASCAR Broadcasting

Announcers/Writers/ who turned precisely 80 in 2023:

Mel Karmazin (Head CBS)

Bill Raftery (Current Fox and CBS analyst)

Jon McGlocklin, (Longtime Milwaukee Bucks color voice)

Rick Barry (One of the early NBA TV analysts)

Peter Vecsey (He’s still so related with the NBA) 

Jimmy Johnson (NFL studio man on Fox)

 

Here’s to a wonderful Holiday Season, and to a great 2024!

David J. Halberstam

Publisher

December 20, 2023

 

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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
5 months ago

And to our website boss!