It’s Veterans Day, 2019! On Veterans Day we honor those who served including many broadcasters.
Jerry Coleman, two wars, a great American hero; Bob Elson, aptly named The Ol’ Commander. Jack Whitaker, seriously injured in the D-Day invasion, Vin Scully was in the Navy; Curt Gowdy was a Second Lieutenant, Jack Buck sustained major injuries in Germany, serving with the 9th Infantry Division. Marty Glickman was active in the Pacific Theater.
There are so many other voices, including Bob Murphy, Howard Cosell and Lindsey Nelson. Dale Hansen, a dean of Dallas sports announcers, is a veteran of the Vietnam War. Rich Chvotkin, Voice of the Georgetown Hoyas for 45 years, has been in the Military Reserve and took months off in the 90s to fulfill his obligations during the Gulf War .
I couldn’t possibly list all names because I don’t know everyone who’s served. There are many, many others, I’m sure.
In our little world of fun and games, outside the critical importance of our mighty military, Veterans Day might trigger thoughts of veteran broadcast voices, those who have not been honored by our distinguished Halls of Fame, institutions charged with managing the ultimate citadels of sports, the vaults of heaven.
No issue with baseball. You couldn’t ask for a more transparent process of selecting winners. The National Baseball Hall of Fame has a nominating committee to select those on the ballot for the coveted Ford Frick Award. The nominees are announced in early November and the voting takes place at the end of the month. The winner is announced at Baseball’s Winter Meetings in December.
But the process by which Pro Football’s Rozelle and Naismith’s Gowdy Media Awards are selected remains guarded in great secrecy. Neither institution will reveal how it chooses its yearly winners.
Both Halls release their winners’ names without any notice to the media. That’s that. No build up and no anticipation. Arguably I suppose it’s their prerogatives. They function independently and are not accountable to either the NFL, the NBA or the NCAA. Are they accountable to the fans or those who’ve toiled at growing their careers? Is there an issue of fairness and openness? Most broadcasters have told others and me that they find the processes somewhat maddening.
By instituting a timeline and releasing information on the selection process, football and basketball could build helpful excitement and suspense. When it comes to players, we know who’s eligible so there’s some sense of expectancy and uncertainty. Similar stimulating parallels can be built around the Rozelle and the Gowdy. But who can read minds?
The Halls’ mandate is to immortalize and perpetuate the greats, those who excelled on the field or in other invaluable, contributory roles.
In 1990, at its own initiative, the Nasimith established a Gowdy Media Award and in 1989, the Pro Football Hall of Fame began the Pete Rozelle Award. The intent of bestowing these awards is to honor those who’ve enriched the airwaves and enhanced the way fans consume broadcasts.
You would hope that the good people who run these two institutions and do so with the best of intentions will readdress and reconsider their current practices. Only good could come of a streamlined system.
Football and basketball names to demonstrate those M.I.A.
It’s 11/11 and football has 11 players on each side. These eleven are top of mind names who merit consideration by their respective Halls. There are many other broadcasters too in addition to these eleven. I list these eleven only to demonstrate the depth of those missing from the annals of the Rozelle and Gowdy. I have no horse in the race except one, Transparency.
I’ll continue to lobby for fairness with the powers that be, as long as I can dial a phone, dash off a missive or get on an airplane.
Pro Football Hall of Fame
In alphabetical order (11):
I know. He has years ahead of him. But why wait? Are his accomplishments to date unremarkable? Joe will call his sixth Super Bowl in February. A prodigy, Buck was the youngest to ever voice a SB on network TV, 35, in 2005.
A Pro Football Hall of Fame without a Tom Brady wouldn’t be legit. You’d agree. Right? The very luster of the Rozelle name is dulled without Cosell. He fashioned primetime football and sculpted the NFL’s most lucrative revenue source. Prominent broadcasters have used the words shameful and indefensible to describe Cosell’s exclusion.
Costas is indisputably the best sports studio host in network television history. He’s boldly raised uncomfortable issues like damaging injuries. Still, for 27 seasons, Bob presided over NFL studio programming for NBC and HBO. Viewers were eager to hear what he would say.
Marty’s riveting radio calls from the 50s to the 90s are part of Giants and Jets lore. In his early years, home games were blacked out on television, radio was it and Glickman was appointment listening. The HOF has only one Rozelle winner who was a team play-by-player, Buffalo’s Van Miller. Where are the others?
(Let me preface this. Historically, The Rozelle Award has not been lmited to on-air broadcasters. Key executives have been recognized, from ABC’s Roone Arledge to NBC’s Dick Ebersol and from Fox’ David Hill to CBS’ Bill MacPhail.)
For over four decades, Katz has been a critical, behind the scenes executive, starting with the telecasts of the old World Football League, to EVP with ESPN, President of ABC Sports and later running the NFL’s broadcast department and NFL Films. In semi-retirement, he still retains the unenviable task of structuring the NFL schedule, nimbly piecing it together to please all the league’s network partners.
Already a Ford Frick recipient, King was a phenomenal football voice who presided over Raiders broadcasts in the halcyon days of the team in both Oakland and Los Angeles (1966-92). “Holy Toledo!” Is he not in yet?
You might say that she’s the most visible NFL woman reporter and studio host in network television history. Suzy’s a true pioneer, following in the footsteps of Lesley Visser and others. Through hard work, she earned a spot on the NFL sidelines where she’s excelled and now hosts many of ESPN’s NFL studio shows.
Lewin was an ABC Sports fixture during the glory years of Monday Night Football. He joined the NFL as its broadcasting chief in the 90s, engaging in contract negotiations with the league’s network partners and its early digital and vertical initiatives. He was influential on NFL TV decisions for over three decades.
If studio shows are the bookends of NFL game day, all networks should have Brent’s picture in expensive frames on the doors leading onto their sets. He created NFL Today and the other networks followed.
Longest consecutive tenure with one team, an institution in Philadelphia. He’s been the Eagles’ Voice since 1977.
Time in grade is an important measuring stick. Only one announcer has done more NFL play-by-play on network TV, Al Michaels. Dick has been a solid NFL, Sunday presence through five decades.
Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame
In alphabetical order (11):
On 11/11, we’ll stick with the theme, 11. Remember that the Naismith Hall represents both the college and pro game.
Charles Barkley. Ernie Johnson Jr., Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith (as one group)
Asking anyone today to list NBA announcers and it will start and end with this marvelous quartet who deserve to get the Gowdy as a single group. These Turner fellows bring smiles to millions.
This is George’s 44th season calling the Pistons. He’s the club’s telecaster and when the networks roll in, silencing local TV, he moves to radio. Blaha has worked for only one club, the Pistons, and is synonymous with it.
You might say, it’s already overdue. Breen has more insight and depth of understanding about the inner-workings of strategy and game prep than any of the play-by-play voices who’ve called NBA games on network television. Mike has done 14 NBA Finals on network TV, more than anyone else.
Mike qualifies for both his college and NBA resume. This is his 39th season with the Celtics and he covered the Big East for ESPN in the league’s heyday. He has a deep grasp for the game and presents it magnificently on television.
Greg’s done his share of basketball play-by-play covering the NBA and college on CBS, NBC, Knicks and Cavaliers broadcasts. It’s the studio where he’s defined himself. Greg’s name is interchangeable with CBS’ coverage of the NCAA Tournament. He’s hosted it in studio and on-site for the past 22 seasons, including each Final Four.
Another candidate who deserves the recognition for all his national work covering both the NBA and college basketball, on Turner and CBS. He brings natural excitement to every broadcast over which he presides. Moreover, he did the T-Wolves games for nine season and spent one year with the Kings while they were in Kansas City. His experience is rich.
A model of endurance and accomplishment, King earned a Frick Award for A’s broadcasts. Bill also did the Raiders. When the Warriors arrived in San Francisco from Philadelphia in 1962, he began a string of 21 seasons doing their games. He did TV/Radio simulcasts by himself. Enormously popular, he introduced the Bay Area to pro basketball. In the early years, he actually recreated many road games. Yes, radio recreations for basketball! He also did Cal basketball in the 1950s in addition to his 21 seasons with Golden State.
The belly laugh was intoxicating. He lifted viewers’ moods as few can. Spent decades covering NCAA Basketball and the NBA, tournament and playoffs included, for both Turner and CBS. He and Bill Raftery were an inseparable pair. Remember Hill to Laettner! Verne called it.
How about 6 NBA Finals and 6 Final Fours on CBS Television, plus 9 NBA Finals on ESPN Radio. That’s a total of 15 NBA Finals between radio and TV. No one has done as many combined. In addition, he presided over tons of regular season broadcasts on CBS, ABC and ESPN. Why isn’t he in?
Deserving candidate who was ESPN’s top college basketball play-by-play announcer from 1982 forward, during the sports network’s first decade. Mike covered some of the biggest college games for ESPN in a span of some 35 years, including the ACC Tournament. For 14 seasons, he was the Voice of the Women’s DI championship.
Stephen A. Smith
Like him or not, he’s watched and watched a lot. While Smith covers a range of sports and subjects, he’s first associated with the NBA. At ESPN, Smith is now the face of the network’s shoulder programming leading into NBA game broadcasts. Many of the calls into his national radio show focus on basketball.
I spoke with David Baker a couple weeks ago. He’s the President of the Pro Football Hall. It was our second conversation. In so many words, he said that the Hall would make progress on this front. He made the same promise ten months age and nothing has materialized yet. I asked whether progress would occur in my lifetime. He assured me, yes, it would. I promised to fill him in each year on the results my annual physical. We both chuckled.
Decisions at the Naismith eventually land on the desk of Jerry Colangelo. He and I talked about this subject twice. Jerry asked some good questions and I answered them. I will continue to try to follow up with him. No luck yet, none at all.
Jerry said one thing that resonated. We talked about ‘time in grade.’ He said that all it really means is that someone can hold a job. I don’t fully disagree with him. Broadcasting excellence isn’t manifested by a journey toward survival. More is needed than just showing up!