Rudy Martzke wrote one of the more powerful sports columns for USA Today; during the national daily’s circulation heyday. He began long before Smartphones and the Internet; yet the column was still relevant during the growth of electronic news.
Martzke’s pieces were read by broadcasters and network executives alike; often with a bit of trepidation. Many in and out of the the industry asked, “What will Rudy say today?” To put it mildly, his opinions carried lots of weight.
Today, a reiteration of The Rudy’s, a once regular and concise Martzke feature of coveted awards, sprinkled occasionally with unflattering recognition.
This edition of the Rudy’s covers the first half of 2018 and includes college basketball, the NBA and golf. We hope to get to get Rudy’s football review at the end of the year.
Here we go:
Play-by-Play Jim Nantz (CBS/TNT)
Color Team of Bill Raftery and Grant Hill (CBS/TNT)
Sideline Tracy Wolfson (CBS/TNT)
Studio Host Ernie Johnson, Jr. (TNT/CBS)
Studio Analyst Charles Barkley (TNT/CBS)
Both Nantz and Raftery have done an excellent job of working Grant into a lead role. Jim is a steady voice; comfortable, warmly anticipated and by now an NCAA broadcast institution. He’s part of the tournament’s tapestry. Raftery brings lots of humor. Tracy is a growing asset; very comfortable, familiar with the game and has improved her ability as a reporter.
Ernie is very pleasant to listen to and has risen to #1 in the studio. Barkley is who he is; he makes outlandish comments and stirs things up entertainingly.
Rudy’s other comments:
Brad Nessler had a strong debut doing the NCAA Tournament. He knows basketball, has a moderate voice and doesn’t dominate the microphone. Andrew Catalon is fine, a reliable utility player and Carter Blackburn is solid.
Jim Spanarkel is very well prepared and has earned his elevated visibility. Debbie Antonelli talks from experience, has been on the job a sufficient time and did a nice job on the tournament telecast.
Before Martzke shares golf’s Rudy’s, the retired USA Today columnist comments on the Phil Mickelson controversy during the U.S. Open (as told to Sports Broadcast Journal’s Dan Mason):
Fox was too lenient in its reporting/coverage of Mickelson running after and hitting a moving ball on the 13th hole.
But that’s not surprising because Fox is in the midst of a long-term contract with the USGA for the U.S. Open tournaments and likely not willing to put that into jeopardy with heavy critical comments about one of the two most well known names in golf, along with Tiger Woods.
Example: Popular CBS analyst Gary McCord, saying ‘’there are body bags down there,’’ referring to a ball rolling toward an Augusta National water hazard. And he described the greens as ‘’bikini-waxed.’’ Augusta National banned him from further Masters telecasts and CBS has remained the tournament’s telecaster
18th Hole Host Jim Nantz
16th Hole Tower Gary McCord (CBS)
Humor Award David Feherty NBC/Golf Channel
Lead Analyst Sir Nick Faldo CBS / Golf Channel
Nantz knows the sport, played it at the University of Houston, injects a human touch and doesn’t get in the way of his analysts. McCord has a unique sense of humor and brightens things up when things are slow. Faldo has tightened up his commentary. Feherty brings a sense of humor to golf coverage that was lacking.
Rudy’s other comments:
Host Dan Hicks on NBC has graduated nicely into his role. The best days of Johnny Miller, 71, NBC’s longtime analyst, are behind him. Several years ago, Miller took a shot at the U.S. participants in the Ryder Cup and players took it out on him. He hasn’t been as outspoken since. With Feherty having moved from CBS to NBC/Golf Channel, and Peter Jacobsen on NBC/Golf Channel, Miller is less visible than he once was.
Play-by-Play Marv Albert/ TNT
Color Chris Webber/TNT
Having watched Marv during post season broadcasts, he’s the best NBA game announcer. Webber has come a long way. Early on, he talked a bit too much. He’s impactful, his phrasing is now consolidated and he’s pleasing to the ear. Chris educates viewers.
Rudy’s other comments:
Staying with TNT, Reggie Miller has also gotten better. Kevin Harlan, known early as a screamer, has tempered his tone and focus the last few years. Brian Anderson is good too. He’s understated and unsung. Spero Dedes is doing well and should be higher up the depth chart. I have always liked Ian Eagle. He’s climbing the ladder.
Kevin McHale is still looking for a niche to be effective. Brent Barry is soft spoken and doesn’t over talk. (Brent won two NBA championships with the Spurs, one more than his dad, Hall of Famer Rick Barry who won his only title with the ’75 Warriors.) Mike Fratello has a good sense of humor.
David Aldridge serves the audience well in his role as a reporter. Reporter Allie LaForce is moving over to TNT from CBS. She’ll do the NBA.
On the ESPN side, Mike Breen’s status is beginning to swell. He was once an extra. Now his persona is up many notches. He’s earned his #1 status on ABC/ESPN. Mike can be clever.
Jeff Van Gundy’s best asset is his offbeat humor. He’s earned his stripes. I also like Mark Jackson. I learn from him. He makes impactful comments. Hubie Brown, who does ESPN TV and Radio, is still amazing as he closes in on 85. He’s “Mr. Basketball #101.” The man has great staying power!
Sideliner Lisa Salters knows the inner-workings of the game, is a good interviewer and reporter.
As for NBA studio shows, TNT is clearly better. Ernie Johnson Jr. is a great moderator/host. Barkley is off the wall and Kenny Smith is a solid analyst ready to offer opinions. Shaquille O’Neal, while he doesn’t say as much as the other two, is good too. I like him better though on commercials when he’s scripted.
ESPN’s studio participants fall short of TNT’s. Michelle Beadle has been around but has little identification with the NBA. Chauncy Billups comes across as a nice and knowledgeable guy but provides little impact. Paul Pierce does a very fine job and makes good points. Yet, it’s Jalen Rose whose opinions sink in, so you listen.
Most underrated; CBS basketball analysts Debbie Antonelli and Jim Spanarkel
Most surprising Move; ESPN’s Joe Tessitore replacing Sean McDonough
Most underused; ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla and the dean, Dick Vitale
Most Missed; Tom Hammond on horse racing. (Tom’s last year hosting NBC’s Triple Crown coverage was 2016 but he did do a lengthy feature for the network last year. This was the first year that Hammond had no horse racing presence on NBC.)