Revolutions in sports television sometimes come with little fanfare. Fox initially thought Pereira, the former vice president of officiating for the NFL, would make his biggest impact on the web. But the opening week of the NFL season featured one of the more controversial plays of the year -- Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson's
Viewers have longed for broadcasters to provide accurate explanations from the NFL's byzantine rule book, and Pereira, thankfully, has taken the burden off ex-jocks and announcers, who can come off as befuddled as fans. He has correctly predicted the outcome of 49 of 50 replay challenges this season (he disagreed with the judgment of the refs on a Jeremy Maclin reception that was ruled a catch and fumble; Pereira predicted the refs would overturn a play to an incomplete pass), but more importantly, he has imbued viewers with added knowledge.
"My goal was not to be controversial, but to be educational," Pereira said. "I have been somewhat successful in letting the fan know what the referee is looking for under the hood, but have I educated people as much I would have liked in rules? I probably have not done that as well as I would have liked yet. But I'll work into that as the years go on."
Pereira has been added to Fox's coverage of the Cotton Bowl and NFL playoffs and will sit behind broadcasters Joe Buck and Troy Aikman during Fox's coverage of Super Bowl XLV. His pioneering role will assuredly prompt another network to add an officiating analyst, whether in football or another sport.
"The fan has become so much more sophisticated, and has much more invested in the game," Pereira said. "Fans deserve the right to know the rules. They deserve to know when officials are right and deserve to know when the officials are incorrect."
Michaels and Marv Albert remain the gold standard for television play-by-play broadcasters: They prepare, understand the moment and allow their partner the freedom to express himself. Collinsworth remains the best in the class of ex-players-turned-NFL analysts because his opinions carry the objectivity of a man not beholden to the league apparatus. He's also not fanatically smitten with certain players (Yes, I'm talking to you, Jon Gruden) or the institution of football. Such skepticism is a good thing for announcers.
The three-man booth, especially in basketball, can be a lot of noise, signifying mostly ego. But this trio produced humor, insight and a big-game feel to each broadcast, even with Jackson's over-the-top hysterics for his favorite players (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James) and Van Gundy's uber-fondness for all things coaches.
Breen said the reason for the chemistry of the group is the length of the relationships. (Breen called Knick games when Van Gundy was the head coach of the team and coaching Jackson). "Jeff is passionate about the game and the NBA so much that he will not cheat it with his comments," Breen said. "He feels the need to be honest, whether it's about players or coaches -- well, maybe not coaches so much because every coach is a great coach -- but his love for the game keeps him to high standard."
Added Van Gundy: "I don't think there is much we could say to each other on the air that would offend each other. As a secondary career, you want to enjoy your work with the people that you are doing it with."
When a show creates news merely by its appearance at a locale, it's reached significant cultural relevance. Unlike some of ESPN's college football studio analysts who specialize in vapidity and coach-friendly speak (Craig James and Lou Holtz), the GameDay crew is unafraid to offer opinion that scolds some sacred cows. Most impressively, ESPN allowed Corso to work himself back into to the show
He's not exactly a newcomer in the business, but Darke's exceptional work during the World Cup further confirmed the thesis we've urged ESPN to follow for the last decade: Soccer fans don't need an American voice in the booth. They simply want a broadcaster who understands the rhythms and pace of the sport. Darke does, and ESPN wisely
Dungy and Harrison have become more comfortable broadcasters this season, engaging each other in discussion often without the help of facilitator Dan Patrick (whom both Dungy and Harrison praised for aiding their development). Dungy is a much more provocative voice than anyone expected and Harrison seems committed to working to become a quality broadcaster. His comments
"Last year I felt like a total rookie just like my first year in the NFL, and it was almost worse because when I entered the NFL, I felt like I knew something about how to play football," Dungy said. "I really did not know anything about broadcasting. But we have a great group and they've taught us a lot. Most people make a big improvement between their first and second years playing and I feel like that we have made an improvement there, too, but we still have a long way to go."
Bright, thoughtful and always prepared, Bilas never cheats viewers with his analysis. His opinions can be polarizing but he backs them up with substance. Last month he called for Bruce Pearl to be fired from Tennessee, a remarkable stand by a broadcaster on a network so closely aligned with a sport. "I have serious concerns about some of the NCAA's rules and the fairness of the process," he said at the time, "but not in this case. I believe the NCAA is likely to hit Tennessee harder with Pearl still in place, and if I were in charge in Knoxville, I would not put short-term wins over the long-term best interests of my athletic program."
One wishes the ESPN Communications Department would blow some of its famous and voluminous hot air toward these gentlemen instead of some of the network's higher profile and higher volume radio talents. You can hear this quartet throughout ESPN Radio, including on the flagship SportsCenter Nightly show. Along with the quality of their voices, what stands out here is the diligence and professionalism that each man delivers daily. Names are correctly pronounced, setups are done intelligently. It's a pleasure to listen to radio professionals who care about quality.
The Two Escobars was spectacular filmmaking, a thrilling exploration of the rise and fall of Colombian soccer during its era of narco-fútbol, the deadly marriage of the country's cocaine cartels and soccer clubs that contributed to the death of Andrés Escobar, a defender for the 1994 Colombian World Cup team (and no relation to Pablo). It was the most ambitious of ESPN's terrific 30 for 30 series.
"From the onset, we were less interested in who pulled the trigger that fateful night for Andrés in Medellín than in the question: What circumstances could lead to a beloved athlete and national hero being murdered for a mistake made on a playing field?," said co-director Jeff Zimbalist, who made the film with his brother, Michael. "We feared ESPN wouldn't get behind a 100 minute, subtitled, Spanish language documentary that was arguably more about politics and national identity than it was about sports, not to mention that the sport was soccer. To our surprise, ESPN loved it and approved a primetime airing of the full 100 minute cut."
In November E:60 aired
In a misguided and spectacularly irresponsible character assassination of a quality kid, Cowherd went off on Wizards rookie guard John Wall, a 20-year-old
After Wilbon suggested
• It's worth repeating what I wrote about ESPN's broadcast of "The Decision" last July because it remains true six months later:
"In all my years of writing media columns for SI and SI.com, I have never been contacted by more ESPN staffers than I was last week, all of whom were universal in their message: They were disappointed (some used the term disgusted) with the program above. I've always tried to be measured and reasoned in this column. So I say this with much thought and contemplation: The Decision is the worst thing ESPN has ever put its name to, and it will take a long time for some viewers to get over it...Plenty of great work gets done by people every day at ESPN, especially on the newsgathering and production side. Even more so than viewers who endured this self-aggrandizing, selling-out-our-journalistic-soul, narcissistic shamathon, those ESPN staffers are the ones who deserve an apology."
In a fitting coda to this nefarious untidiness, the broadcaster
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• Showing an inexplicable tin ear for its audience, The NFL Network added
• With NFLN's draft coverage improving annually, ESPN's first-day NFL Draft coverage needs a makeover. Those who worked the second and third day of the draft provided viewers with the best insight and content. Again. As this column
• Having lived in Michigan in 2009, I know firsthand the animus the sports base has for Millen, the former GM of the Lions and current ESPN analyst. I don't subscribe to the notion that a failed GM can't be a good broadcaster --- the skills are not parallel -- but that ESPN assigned Millen to multiple University of Michigan college football games this year goes down as one of the strangest personnel decisions in some time. One of the sure things of 2010 was typing
• The MLB Network (with an assist from
• In what might be the first (but won't be the last) example of a fan-based Web site leading the coverage of a national story, Orangebloods.com, a Rivals-owned site that focuses on the University of Texas football and recruiting, owned the Big 12 realignment story thanks to columnist
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What the hell are we waiting on? What are we waiting on? Do you want it or not? Do you understand there's a price to pay? Can we have fun? You're damn right! I demand that we have fun. Now there's a difference between having fun and being a jackass.
Our defense was a jackass when we went to Hofstra, eating a bunch of f------cheeseburgers, before we go stretch and all that. That's being a jackass. You'll be a world champion but not like this. We won't win it. We'll sit back and say 'Why didn't we do it?' We didn't do it because where were our f------ priorities?
How about our offense? When are we gonna put it together? When are we gonna put it together? Can we not run the ball down their throats every snap? Can we not throw anytime we wanna f------ throw it? Let's make sure we play like f------ New York Jets and not some f------slap---- team. That's what I wanna see tomorrow. Do we understand what the f--- I wanna see tomorrow? Let's go eat a goddamn snack!"
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-- ESPNNewYork.com reporter
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