In a new Extra Mustard feature, SI.com's Jimmy Traina will periodically check in with a sports blogger to get his or her thoughts on a wide variety of issues. In this first installment, Traina spoke with Brian Powell, who runs AwfulAnnouncing.com.
Traina: How long has AA been around?
Powell: The site will actually be turning 3 years old this month. I started it as a hobby back in 2006, and took it full time last November.
Traina: Why a site focused on announcing/announcers?
Powell: Well, at the time, the blog was really just an outlet to complain about things that got on my nerves. I really only imagined friends and relatives reading it, but it has evolved into an "all things media" site over the years. That certainly wasn't my intention, but obviously there was a place for it in the sports world.
Traina: How much time a day do you spend on the blog? And what is your taping/TiVo schedule like?
Powell: On the blog itself, I spend anywhere from eight to 12 hours searching and posting. The TiVo is something that is actually always running, so if a game is on and something funny or random is said, I can just press record and grab the video.
Traina: Who would you say are the three most disliked and the three most well-liked announcers today?
Powell: Well, that's a question that changes all the time. It usually depends on what sport is in the limelight, but there are some personalities that just constantly annoy. I think the one that will always be at the top of the list is Chris Berman.
Traina: I think I'm the only person who likes Berman.
Powell: I think everyone liked Berman at one point or another, and he certainly has his moments, but his shtick has just run its course. As far as others, if this were last year I'd say Billy Packer, but he was bumped from CBS. Actually, the person I've gotten the most complaints about lately is Digger Phelps. On the opposite end of the spectrum are Bill Raftery and Marv Albert.
Traina: Why do you think networks refuse to listen to fans or take forever listening to fans (in the case of Packer) when it comes to announcers?
Powell: Well, the thinking has always been that people aren't tuning in/out because of the announcers. While the first part of that is certainly true, I think people will turn off a game in a heartbeat if someone is getting on their nerves. If a regular-season college basketball game is slow, and Dick Vitale is talking about Rays baseball, people will definitely look for something else. I think CBS has done an amazing job of listening to fans in both getting Gus Johnson to the Sweet 16 and sending Packer out to pasture.
Traina: Have you ever heard from anyone at any network about something you've posted?
Powell: Oh, definitely, all the time. I welcome it, too. I've never thought of AA as the authority on announcing, but rather a forum for people to discuss it. That's what makes sports so great -- the debate. And the same thing can be brought to the media side of things.
Traina: Can you give an example of someone getting mad about something you posted?
Powell: The only person ever to get mad was [CBS college football analyst] Spencer Tillman. A while back, a quote was wrongfully credited to him instead of Charles Davis (or vice versa), and he came to his friend's defense. Other than that, people are usually cool about things. I talk to personalities at ESPN all the time, and if I post something that's wrong or missing some info, they'll let me know.
Traina: Ever hear from Berman?
Powell: Nope. I don't think anyone has. Plus, I think he is ultra-protected by the "Leader."
Traina: Who are some of your favorite announcers?
Powell: As far as play-by-play guys, I grew up liking Keith Jackson. There was just something about his tone that kept me glued to the action on the screen. I also have always loved Marv Albert and recently became a fan of Mike Tirico. There were never that many analysts who I thought were good growing up, but I think the best these days are Jay Bilas, Troy Aikman (when he's not covering a Cowboys game) and Ron Jaworski.
Traina: How do you think the Web has changed what announcers do, if at all?
Powell: I think the majority are aware, but once you develop a certain style, it's hard to change. I think they are just more aware now, that the mic and camera are always on. But that's no different for anyone these days.
Traina: Do you have a favorite gaffe? One that you laugh at no matter how many times you watch it?
Powell: Hmmm, that's a tough question. There have been so many! I would say the ones that stick out for being goofy are the Mike Patrick/Britney Spears one/Britney Spears one, the USC Song Girl [who exposed her rear end by accident] and anything that Rob Stone does (dumpster diving, eating the hot pepper). As far as the negative ones, or rather not so funny, Suzyn Waldmancrying on-air, Dana Jacobsonat the roast and the Chris Berman tapes. Oh, and the Matt VasgersianEl Camino incident.
Traina: Speaking of Vasgersian, what are your early impressions of the MLB Network?
Powell: I've always like Vasgersian personally, and I think that the MLB Network needed someone with a different perspective. They recently tried to discuss sabermetrics, and he was the only one who would give the theories a shot.
Traina: ESPN has added Steve Phillips to its Sunday Night Baseball booth with Joe Morgan and Jon Miller. Thoughts?
Powell: Phillips is an enigma to me. At times, he sounds like a baseball genius, but in the back of my mind, I still think of him as the guy who saddled the Mets with all of those horrible deals (Mo Vaughn!). I guess in the end, if anything gets Joe Morgan to talk less, I'm all for it.
Traina: Let's talk about the Web and blogging. Do you feel competitive with other blogs or do you just try to do your own thing?
Powell: I've really always just done my own thing. There are pros and cons to having such a narrow focus, and one of the pros is not really worrying about what other blogs are doing or what they're posting. I read a ton of sites, but most of the time it's just for personal enjoyment and to keep up with sports as a whole.
Traina: What are some of your favorite sites?
Powell: Oh, man, you had to go there, didn't you?
Traina: I hate when people ask me that question, so it's good to turn the tables.
Powell: Ha, fair enough. The daily reads these days are as follows: Ball Don't Lie, On The DL, Hugging Harold Reynolds, Fang's Bites, The Sporting Blog, Pro Football Talk, Watchdog and Sports by Brooks.
Traina: What's the best thing about blogging? What's the most frustrating?
Powell: I guess the best and worst thing about blogging is the freedom.
Traina: What's the negative in freedom?
Powell: It's great making your own hours and work schedule, but at the same time that can be extremely repetitive and draining. I feel like a jackass when I tell friends that watching television at home isn't as glamorous as it seems.
Traina: What kind of stories and what personalities draw the most traffic to your site?
Powell: I think you know the answer to that one, Mr. Traina. Of course, Erin Andrews is the biggest draw, or any female for that matter, but the best discussions come from topics some wouldn't necessarily consider that interesting -- salary caps, TV deals and ratings are among the more thought-provoking topics.
Traina: A lot has been made of the blogs vs. mainstream media battle. What are your feelings on it?
Powell: For a while, I was at the forefront of that whole "battle," but it took a bit of growing up and the Buzz Bissinger incident for me to come to an understanding of things. All in all, it's really just a generational gap, and just because you don't understand something doesn't mean it's not a worthy medium. Blogging has always gone through growing pains in other industries -- technology, politics, etc. -- but for some reason mainstream media members in the sports community have taken longer to come around. I have always said, and so has every other sports blogger, that this medium isn't trying to take "true journalism" jobs away. It's just another, and different, way to gather information. And more information is always a good thing.
Traina: There definitely seems to be plenty to go around.
Powell: The disconnect certainly seems to be with sites that actually post real news, and those attempting satire.
Traina: What's one thing you'd like to see the mainstream media do differently?
Powell: That's easy -- listen to the fans. The reason why newspapers and traditional media sites have taken a hit, while blogs and Internet sites have flourished, isn't just because of the computer. For the longest time, sportswriters were just going through the motions and suddenly became lazy. You could tell when certain voices didn't care about the sport or team they were covering, and fans caught on. When the majority of your readers tell you that they despise a certain ex-newspaper writer from Chicago, and they are canceling subscriptions because of him, you might want to listen.
Traina: Lastly, what has been your highlight/greatest moment as a blogger?
Powell: Hands down, having the Web site being mentioned on SportsCenter. Oh, and of course, this interview.