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Friday, April 17, 2009

Broadcasting Mount Rushmore

I listened to Mike Greenberg and Buster Olney this morning on ESPN Radio. They were reflecting upon John Madden's retirement and were talking about who would be on their broadcasting Mount Rushmore. In addition, the Philadelphia Inquirer, in its writing about Harry Kalas, referenced the results of the balloting of the American Sportscasters Association on the top 50 broadcasters of all-time. Vin Scully was #1, Harry Kalas #41. Evidence of how credible this survey was -- Phil Rizzuto was #36 and Bill Walton #39.

Okay, so it's subjective, isn't it. I'm not sure that I have a Final Four, but I'll offer a top 10 (in no particular order of preference).

1. Tie between Red Barber, the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Mel Allen, the voice of the Yankees, when radio was king and the Brooklyn-Yankee rivalry was supreme. Both were master craftsmen.

2. Howard Cosell. No, I didn't particularly like him, but he revolutionized the sports host and paved the way for many others who have distinguished themselves.

3. Ray Scott. Okay, many of you haven't heard of him, but if you saw him on TV doing Green Bay Packers' football, Penn State football, the NFL or anything else, he was great at blending a distinct and dignified play-by-play style with the medium of television. The utmost professional.

4. John Madden. Enough has been written about Madden recently that you can find it on a Google search. Suffice it to say that he made color commentary an art, as he blended solid analysis with affability. Some color commentators are scolds (see: Packer, Billy) and others are affable without enough substance (see Siragusa, Tony), but Madden was top shelf in both departments.

5. Vin Scully. The voice of the Dodgers not only gets a longevity award, he gets another nod for his use of language and his skill. Another master craftsman. By the way, while ESPN's Jon Miller won't make this list, he's another one who is a pleasure to listen to and uses the language very well. It's a shame that his partner is Joe Morgan, who, while a bright baseball guy, can come off too much as an old-school, tough, kill joy baseball guy.

6. Jim McKay. He was a game show host in NYC before being tapped to host tape-delayed highlights of the 1960 Olympics from a studio in New York. That led to his being tapped to host the then-new Wide World of Sports, and that let to his being the perpetual host of the Olympics until his retirement. When you think of Jim McKay, you think of gravitas, grace, thoroughness, compassion and a unique ability to capture the moment. When I think of the best of all time, Jim McKay is right up there.

7. Jack Whitaker. Like McKay, another master who was great at finding and telling a story. He was an excellent reporter, good in the booth and studio. Another one who was a pleasure to listen to.

8. Chick Hearn and Johnny Most. The former broadcast for the Lakers, the latter for the Celtics, and that's a huge concession for me because I am a diehard 76ers fan. But basketball is a big deal in this country, and it's top guys should get recognized.

9. Dave Zinkoff. Now, okay, the Zink wasn't a sportscaster, he was a public address announcer, but he was by far the best at what he did, so much so that he deserves mention in this post.

10. Bob Costas. What a memory, tremendous on the facts, outstanding studio host.

Honorable Mention: Keith Jackson, Curt Gowdy, Dick Enberg, Chris Berman, Harry Kalas (whom I adored).

That top 10 list, by the way, differs from my personal Mount Rushmore, which I'll get to in another post.


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