His analyst brethren include Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks (Troy Aikman, Phil Simms) and coaches (Jon Gruden) and former standout players (Chris Collinsworth, Ron Jaworski). Asked to describe his broadcasting career, Mayock said, "I'm a grinder."
A little-used safety for two seasons with the Giants after being selected by the Steelers in the 10th round of the 1981 NFL draft, Mayock's road to the top of his profession includes calling Arena League Football and Canadian games, and even a stint as a sideline reporter on NCAA basketball games for CBS. His break came in 2005 when the NFL Network hired him, and he soon separated himself as television's most authoritative draft analyst, praised by critics and fans for his attention to detail and endless film work. Last year NBC assigned Mayock to its Notre Dame broadcasts, and this year the NFL Network named him as the analyst for its
Mayock talks a lot during a broadcast but unlike many others, he speaks from a prepared place, a broadcaster with a qualified opinion about his subject matter. Writing about him for
I didn't catch Eagle and Fouts often in 2011, but when I did, I loved what I heard. It's a duo that doesn't take itself seriously but still delivers a thoughtful, smart broadcast for viewers. Humor is an underrated element of sports broadcasting and both men are adept at it. Eagle, in particular, seldom gets listed among the best working sports broadcasters, but he's regarded that way here.
Albert and Kerr were sensational on the NBA and they carried that chemistry over to the NCAA tournament when they did games for CBS and Turner.
This category is usually a toss-up between ESPN's
Filling in for Tim McCarver for the first two games of the American League Championship Series, Francona was insightful and genuinely funny, both valuable commodities in broadcasting. He laughed at his own clichés and was unafraid to question managers' strategy. He drew raves from fans and critics (Yahoo! Sports baseball writer Jeff Passan tweeted, "Is Terry Francona Wally Pipping Tim McCarver?"). Francona won't be Pipp-ing McCarver, but the former Boston manager has been hired by ESPN to replace new Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine on
Webber has become a sharp studio analyst. Watching him this month on NBA TV's preview shows, he has great depth about the league and doesn't sugarcoat his opinions. He's a smart guy who acts like someone who takes broadcasting as a profession rather than a hobby.
While I listed Desmond Howard in the honorable mention category, he received the most votes when I asked people on Twitter which sports broadcaster had improved the most. Indeed, he looked far more comfortable on the set of
If I were to single out an individual for this award, I'd likely give it to Chuck Wilson, the ESPN Radio host whose thoughtful work nightly on a variety of topics is first rate and makes that network look very good. But I've really come to appreciate the above group of professionals who provide
"Football was an excuse to get in the door," said Pete Radovich Jr., the director and co-producer of
It should be noted that the film does shoot its subjects in overtly heroic fashion.
The best sports documentarian is a subjective crown, but Jonathan Hock rates very high on any list.
"To me, games are play-dramas unto themselves, self-contained," Hock said in November. "But the story really begins once the game ends. Real redemption -- what we pretend the games are about but what real life really is about -- can only happen for the athlete after the game is over and real life begins."
The superhero physique he had during his days in the WWE is long gone. Scott Hall is now 53 and says he takes 11 heart and seizure medications daily. He has a pacemaker and says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He looks shockingly frail. In October,
Reporter Paula Lavigne's work on
Russo uttered the most inane sports-talk-radio comment of the year when
Compounding his inanity, Russo in the following weeks called Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia
Philadelphia has seen its share of epic battles -- Rocky Balboa versus Apollo Creed and General Howe versus General Washington to name a pair -- but this year the rough-and-tumble city saw two writers who cover the Eagles (Les Bowen of the
In addition, a couple of months earlier, David Murphy (
• With anarchy swirling around him on the booze-soaked streets of downtown Vancouver, CTV British Columbia senior reporter/anchor Rob Brown provided a riveting live account of the post-Stanley Cup riots for Canadian viewers and for those of us watching from the States via streaming video. It was visceral, scary stuff, and so close was Brown to the action that you wondered at times if he'd be engulfed by some of the hooligans. Brown and his cameraman, Jazz Sanghera, never lost their cool, even though Sanghera suffered a broken nose from flying debris. Here's
• ESPN reporter and producer Colleen Dominguez and producer Justine Gubar offered compelling reporting for
• ESPN feature producer Scott Harves produced a
• For an example of talent and production working in perfect coordination, we cite the NFL Network coverage of the Ryan Mallett selection during the NFL draft. NFLN insider Michael Lombardi, clearly tapped inside the Patriots' draft room, tipped viewers 10 minutes before the selection that New England was going to pick the quarterback in the third round. Lombardi later explained that Mallett was the top quarterback on the Patriots' board and that Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino had texted him how surprised he was that his player had fallen so far. NFLN analyst Kurt Warner even texted Tom Brady about the pick. Brady responded: "I'm here for 10 years." Fantastic.
• Props to Zack Meisel and James Oldham, the duo for Ohio State's student-run daily,
• Yahoo! Sports investigative reporter Charles Robinson and contributor Rand Getlin dropped a bombshell in August
• During a vacation with his wife, Erin Cox (a reporter for
• Lisa Wilson became the lone black woman leading a sports section at a metropolitan daily newspaper when the
• ESPN landed the rights to Wimbledon (a 12-year deal) after NBC's nonsensical taped semifinals coverage in recent years. It was welcome news for tennis fans.
• Jim Palmer delivered a
• The CBS/Turner partnership for the NCAA tournament was a great viewer success, especially the airing of every game in its entirety. It gave viewers the power to toggle between multiple channels and program the tournament themselves.
• From March 12 (the beginning of the NFL lockout) through July 25 (the end), SiriusXM NFL Radio conducted 1,089 interviews ranging from players to NFL negotiators. Nice work.
• In June, ESPN reporter John Barr and producer Nicole Noren won a national Investigative Reporting Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association for their 2010 exploration into the sex industry trade in South Africa before the World Cup. This month, HBO
• Asking point-blank questions and limiting opinion during his query, Bob Costas was brilliant and thorough during a
• Of the many terrific sports-related features that aired surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11, ESPN's
• TNT debuted its
• ESPN college basketball analyst Bob Knight failed to apologize, nor was he disciplined by ESPN management, for calling his colleague Jeremy Schaap "
• The Poynter Review Project, in
• Former ESPN broadcaster Ron Franklin was pulled from the radio broadcast of the Fiesta Bowl after he allegedly referred to colleague Jeannine Edwards as "sweet baby" before the start of a meeting with Florida State coaches. Edwards told Franklin that she did not appreciate being addressed that way. That prompted Franklin to allegedly say, "OK, then, a--hole." Franklin, via an ESPN spokesperson, told SI.com: "I said some things I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry. I deserved to be taken off the Fiesta Bowl." The story was first reported by the Sports by Brooks website, which also was the first source to bring Feldman's suspension to the public.
• It took Fox until 5:14 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday to report on one of the major stories of the Super Bowl,
• Earlier that same afternoon, Fox's celebrity red carpet segment hosted by Maria Menounos and Michael Strahan produced the kind of awkward, train wreck television that we've come to expect when Fox heads down this sycophantic path. The
• Charles Barkley was badly miscast as an analyst for the NCAA tournament selection show, a spot that should be held by a college basketball insider. Turner Sports president David Levy told SI.com that a change will be made in 2012. "I don't think we need six guys on the selection show," Levy said. "Charles was wrong for the show in the sense that there is so much information that we are trying to get out."
• The Longhorn Network.
• "This is for all the Tostitos."
• "Ernie always said: 'A man is really lucky if God gives him a job he enjoys.' That is what I found, and that is apparently what Ernie found, too."
• "I was literally the first hire on what became ESPN.com when I was in Bristol in my mid-20s. This is the way they treat you. To watch them sit there and try to spin their way out of this and only make it worse. They made such a mess, and then they never cleaned it up."
• "I could argue that
• "Date and marry 7's and 8's."
• "I haven't really thought about a philosophy. I'm not Kant or Descartes, though I feel I was a better weakside rebounder than either."
• "I wish I was 50 years younger and I would kick your ass!"
• "The committee has gone against its own principles. UAB, VCU, why are they in? They were never mentioned [as a possibility] for a reason. ...These are horrible decisions. We need more basketball people on the committee. These are bad, indefensible decisions."
• "Abby Wambach has saved the USA's life in this World Cup!"
• "ESPN basically has to have one of their talent talk about Hitler or put a picture of their d--- on a phone -- which is what that [Sean] Salisbury guy did -- before they'll do anything about any of these various crazies because they don't have to. Nobody can touch them."
• "[Tim] Tebow trying to fit into a conventional offense is a square peg into a round hole. Regardless of how successful he is during this stretch, if Tebow is going to be a productive NFL quarterback, it's not going to be in Denver. The reason is the general manager. Could you imagine John Elway wanting to run a spread offense? That's not the quarterback he envisions moving forward with this franchise."
• "I'm a simple guy. I don't watch TV. I don't go on the Internet. So I never watched
• "S--t, you have to get rid of that ball just a split-second quicker."
• "It's a five letter word: S-T-R-I-K-E."
• "So our suggestion here is a more modest one: Hey, knuckleheads, is it too much to ask that you confine your buffoonery to situations that don't directly damage your team? Week after week, game after game, we see guys who think nothing of incurring penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, costing their team's valuable yardage, even late in close games. Today's most conspicuous culprit: Buffalo's Stevie Johnson, who, after a TD catch versus the Jets, thought it would be a good idea to go Marcel Marceau, pantomiming, among other things, Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg. But in this case, it was Johnson who shot himself in the foot, as his display cost his team a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff."
• "God's been awfully good to me, allowing me to do the things I love to do. I asked him, 'One more year at least?' And he said, 'OK.' "