Announcing’s Mount Rushmore
Everybody has got their list of favorites, and here is mine
It’s holiday travel season, the time when people visit landmarks, national parks, water parks and whatever else.
What better time for a Mount Rushmore of Sports Broadcasting? So here are my four all-time top TV sports personalities.
Howard Cosell: He made TV sports an event. As one of the original on-air talents for “Monday Night Football,” Cosell’s approach and personality stood out from the start. His presence on those broadcasts and his work on “Wide World of Sports,” specifically with Muhammad Ali, made Cosell a cultural icon. He begat any number of impersonators, none of whom did nearly as well — until Stephen A. Smith came along.
John Madden: No play-by-play man or color commentator attracts viewers. Big games and interesting matchups make people watch. Still, Madden worked every week’s top NFL game during his decades-long TV career, so millions of people saw his work. And he and his agents tied him to a football video game when the technology was about to boom, and he gained additional pop culture credibility in that realm. Other color commentators were technically better, but for visibility alone he fits on this list.
Brent Musburger: Sure, he’s a self-promoter, but he also proved himself in the studio and in terms of play-by-play work in a couple of different sports. While working on “The NFL Today” early in his career on CBS, Musburger’s “You are looking live!” catchphrase became an expectation. Then, for generations of college basketball and football games, his voice signaled significance. If he was working your team’s game, that game a mattered.
Vin Scully: He was the voice of baseball working for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Los Angeles Dodgers and on NBC’s “Game of the Week” baseball broadcasts. He also worked for CBS covering the NFL and professional golf. His storytelling and versatility, and of course, his longevity (from 1950 to 2016) made him a legend. Plus, his classy approach and impact on the profession, hundreds of broadcasters aspired to be him, broadened his influence far beyond the games he broadcast.
More who matter
Any list of top on-air TV sports talents invariably comes up incomplete. Somebody is missing, for some reason, and often not because of some defiant or negative outlook.
There are just so many talented professionals that it’s hard to parse one from another.
After my Mount Rushmore, these next 10 would certainly be on my list as among the best.
And if you took this list from me and asked me to repeat it without looking two weeks from now, chances are the makeup could change. Still, here’s a swing at more who matter in my next 10.
n Doris Burke: Not the first female broadcaster to get big-time assignments but the first to be widely respected for both her play-by-play and sideline reporting prowess.
n Linda Cohn: A longtime, proven ESPN anchor whose hockey fandom comes across and whose New York roots bring a bit of attitude to her work that just resonates.
n Doc Emrick: The best play-by-play man working in any sport right now.
n Chris Fowler: From “Scholastic Sports America” as a young broadcaster to host of “College GameDay” and play-by-play, he’s done it all well.
n Sean McDonough: His “Monday Night Football” assignment did not work, but he’s good at everything else he does. When he’s working one of my teams games, it’s a good day.
n Jim McKay: The TV sports legend and longtime host of ABC’s Olympic coverage as well as “Wide World of Sports.” Also the father of CBS Sports executive Sean McManus.
n Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick: A pair here for how they elevated “SportsCenter” to status as “The Big Show.” Decades after their last show together, when they were both at ESPN, they remain relevant in that role and with their current work. Heck, they even inspired a TV series.
n Dr. Jerry Punch: He was just personable and special as a sideline reporter on auto racing coverage. It’s been years, but I still miss his work.
n Robin Roberts: An ESPN anchor who went on to “Good Morning America” and has been good with any and every assignment she’s been given.
n Dick Vitale: He’s a Hall of Famer, a PTPer and much more personality than analyst, but that’s OK. He does it well and clearly cares. Viewers appreciate that.
Here are the five broadcasters who have described more games for me than any others …
n Lanny Frattare: In the 1980s, he was my most consistent connection to the Pirates. His “Hi, Friends,” sometimes sounded insincere, but it never was.
n Bill Hillgrove: My longtime radio connection to the Steelers. A Pittsburgh guy at heart who also handles Pitt football and basketball.
n Steve Jones: Obviously, Penn State football and basketball. Noticing a radio trend here? He’s perhaps the best nuts-and-bolts play-by-play guy I’ve ever heard. Our senses of humor do not mesh, but he’s good at what he does.
n Al Michaels and Jim Nantz: Every week for the past several decades, they’ve worked the main NFL game for their respective networks, and I’ve often been watching with the most dedicated and smartest NFL fan I know — my wife.
n The women’s World Cup final airs at 11 a.m. this morning on Fox.
n Fox will also televise the MLB All-Star Game at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday from Cleveland.
n Cory Giger will broadcast his weekday radio show live Friday from Penn State’s annual “Lift for Life” event.
Sampsell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.