1. There isn’t a more versatile play-by-play caller working today than Sean McDonough, who was just named the lead play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s NHL coverage, which begins next season.
McDonough also has one of the most impressive résumés in sports broadcasting.
On that lengthy résumé is a two-year stint calling Monday Night Football with Jon Gruden.
Things did not go well for the duo, and ESPN quickly made a change–ironically, to a booth featuring Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland on a crane, which was received as poorly as any NFL crew I can remember.
McDonough appeared on this week’s SI Media Podcast, and I asked him why he thought his partnership with Gruden and the gig with Monday Night Football didn’t work out.
“When I was hired, part of what I was instructed to do was to try to make it more conversational. Make it a little lighter, bring out more of Jon Gruden’s personality that you used to see from time to time on that quarterback show that he did, QB Camp, and get into more storytelling. ...
“I think, to be totally candid, Jon Gruden enjoyed the X-and-O part of it. He loved the telestrator. He told me when I first got the job, ‘I don’t like stories.’
“So he didn’t want the stories and he didn’t want to engage in conversation. There were times when I would ask him a question or make a point and he didn’t respond, and I think it was just because he was so focused on, ‘I’m gonna dive into this play,’ and he just didn’t want to do it.
“There were times it came across as being awkward, and it was awkward. It was awkward for me. You’re standing there next to somebody wondering, ‘If I ask him a question about this, is he gonna answer it or is he gonna be annoyed that I asked him?’ So it was uncomfortable.
“The part of it that bothered me was the narrative of some people in your line of work, ‘Oh, well that was a little too big for McDonough.’ I did the World Series when I was 30. I don’t think anybody thought I was nervous or out of place. ...
“This is not meant to be critical of Jon Gruden. He was great at that aspect of it. It’s what he wanted to do. When you’re putting up the replays, he needs to talk about them. It was the direction [the producer and director] chose to go in most of the time, which I understand. Jon’s the analyst. TV is an analyst-driven medium. It was his strength. They played to his strength. It made sense. It just didn’t match with what I was there to do. ...
“Again, not meaning to be critical of Gruden, or anybody else, I understand why it went the way it did, I just think it was not a great dynamic based on his strengths, my strengths and the way the broadcast went. It wasn’t great, but I’m glad I got the chance to do it. Did I think we were bad? No. I thought it was fine. But it could’ve been great, in my opinion, and it wasn’t.”
McDonough also revealed that it was during the first Monday Football Night game that he called with Gruden when he realized it might not work.
Other topics I discussed with McDonough over the course of the podcast was how and why he pursued his new NHL gig, his famous voice cracks and whether he feels underappreciated as an elite play-by-play man.
McDonough also shared a must-hear story about his longtime college basketball partner, Bill Raftery.
2. This is what happens when LeBron James and Steph Curry aren't in the NBA Finals. You get a ratings disaster.
3. I'm not sure how many people were convinced that they should watch the upcoming movie about Kurt Warner's life after watching this trailer that dropped Wednesday.
4. Tom Brady is still getting mileage out of his famous Super Bowl boat parade mood.
5. Broncos quarterback Drew Locke had one hell of a scare Wednesday. I can't recall ever seeing this happen before.
6. Much respect to Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley for going in the complete opposite direction of "I was hacked."
7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: Now that we're knee-deep in the middle of summer, you should make it yours, just like George.
Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.