It’s the season for Nantz to shine

It’s one of the most visible times of the year for veteran sports broadcaster Jim Nantz — and it might be the best time of the year for fans who consume his work.

On Monday night, Nantz serves as the play-by-play voice for the championship game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It’s a role he’s held since 1991. The day after the game in Minneapolis, he’ll head to Augusta, Georgia, as the lead announcer for the Masters next weekend.

That’s a role he’s held since 1989.

Yes, he’s also the top play-by-play man for CBS and its NFL coverage. That’s a spot he’s earned through the years, without question.

Still, his three decades with the Masters and nearly as much with college basketball often feel like slightly better fits to serve readers. He’s a sponsor-friendly and versatile talent, with a wide-ranging resume that includes the Olympics, commercial appearances and even hosting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

He’s been solid on basketball, no matter his partners — everyone from Billy Packer to Clark Kellogg, Greg Anthony and Steve Kerr to the current pairing of Bill Raftery.

None are as famous as Tony Romo, who made an immediate and successful impact as an NFL analyst the past two seasons. Romo is reportedly negotiating to be the highest-paid analyst in that role.

Nantz certainly deserves credit for Romo’s success. While their relationship seemed begrudging and rocky at times, Nantz was wise enough to know a good thing and made room for his partner’s insights and success.

Sometimes he played along a bit too much, though, sounding silly. That kind of thing seems to happen less often with his basketball and golf assignments.

That’s why this next week is the best time to catch Nantz at work. Then, if you’ve had too much of him, and you’re not really a golf fan, you can avoid him altogether until NFL season kicks off again in the fall.

Regarding replay

Recent rules changes mean how NFL fans consume games next season could change significantly.

Coaches can challenge pass interference penalties that are called, or not called. And an overarching rules official has the ability to do both during the final two minutes of the first half and the game.

It might be an overreaction to what happened in last season’s NFC championship game involving the New Orleans Saints, but it should still be a good thing.

Going forward, the problem will not be the technology, or the options coaches have to challenge. The problem will be implementation, specifically the speed of implementation.

Replay has always been a strong tool implemented in an inconsistent and weak manner. That’s what needs to be better for fans, participants and the NFL overall to really improve as a result of the rules changes.

Female flair

WrestleMania — yes, it’s sports entertainment, not sports, but that’s OK — takes place tonight at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

An outdoor show in April is a risk for the pro wrestling troupe, but the NFL somehow managed a Super Bowl there so maybe it will work out well.

Topping the lineup for the show will be a women’s championship match — the first time a women’s match has culminated pro wrestling’s biggest show.

And, honestly, the storytelling around Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey has not been bad.

It’s alternated between seeming a bit too contrived and real (which is always the case with pro wrestling), but it’s been generally well done so it will be interesting to see how the group scripts the payoff.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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