While many on Twitter were screaming foul in terms of the announcing effort put forth during last night's Monday Night Football game, the harsh reality is ESPN doesn't have much to work with given the lackluster matchup of the Jets and Dolphins. In fact, looking at the 2011 Monday Night Football schedule it's painfully obvious that regardless of whatever the ratings tell us, this could be one extremely dull year.
For years, Howard Katz, the NFL's main scheduling guru has been revered for his ability to maximize ratings and more importantly keep all the NFL's television partners happy. Starting in 2006 when Monday Night Football moved to ESPN and Sunday Night Football moved onto network television with NBC, the scheduling gods have been less thank kind to ESPN's biggest asset.
When this year's schedule came out, we were pretty unimpressed with this year's slate of games. Injuries have only compounded the problem as the Colts and Chiefs are a shell of what they were last year. Take a look at the full schedule below which will leave you as bewildered and unenthused as being handed a menu at a Vegan restaurant...
The first slate of nominees for the Dick Stockton Chronicles, more affectionately known as Straight Outta Stockton is finally here! To celebrate, NFL announcers around the country offered AA a smorgasboard of amusingly awful quotes. Particularly impressive was one Brian Billick, who leads the pack with 3 nominees. Dick Stockton, Jon Gruden, and Phil Simms also look like they will be among the frontrunners for the Dickies crown.
As to how the Straight Outta Stockton vote works, each week we'll nominate 15-20 quotes for you to pick the best 10. The winning quote of the week will earn that person 10 points all the way down to 1 point for 10th. Remember, you can vote for your favorite five quotes. Here are your Week 6 nominees...
1) "You've got a lot of beef up in there" - Brian Billick (via MatttheKuhn)
2) "There it is! Knee's down! Wait, I don't know." - Phil Simms (via bjo109)
3) "There he is, lined up in the slot. Wait, no he's not." - Dick Stockton (via bjo109)
It's hard to believe TBS has been broadcasting part of MLB's postseason since 2007. In the years since their debut on the big stage, TBS has gone through some major growing pains. Gone (thankfully) is Chip Caray as the main play-by-play voice. Gone are some of the production snafus that plagued TBS in some of its early broadcasts as a national baseball broadcaster. And hey, at least they don't have Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. However, as this 2011 postseason has taught us, TBS still has some way to go to be a completely respected source for baseball's postseason, even if they have improved since 2007. So with another playoffs under their belts, let's examine the good, bad, and ugly of TBS's postseason coverage.
-Although none of the announcers TBS employed have a one-way ticket to the Hall of Fame, their stable of announcers showed a remarkable amount of quality depth. Brian Anderson, who broadcasts Brewers games during the season, stepped in quite admirably for the network's normal #1 Ernie Johnson. It was unfortunate that Johnson couldn't broadcast the postseason due to a family health issue, but Anderson stepped in and showed there are some up-and-coming young announcers in the game. Behind Anderson, Victor Rojas (of the Angels) also scored plaudits for his work in the NLDS between Arizona and Milwaukee. TBS also showcased a great stable of analysts led by John Smoltz, Bob Brenly, and Joe Simpson among others.
John Smoltz especially showed improvement in the booth with his prescient analysis, such as when he predicted Delmon Young would be swinging at the first pitch in Game 3 of the ALDS before the Tigers OF hit a first pitch home run. In the future, Smoltz could truly develop into one of the game's best analysts without being handcuffed by fellow pitcher Ron Darling, who was often redundant in a three man booth. The studio crew led by Matt Winer was also tolerable, although Cal Ripken, Dennis Eckersley, and Mitch Williams David Wells won't be pushing Inside the NBA for an Emmy anytime soon.
-Give credit to TBS for continuing to push the technology envelope during their postseason broadcasts with PitchTrax, which charts balls and strikes during every at-bat. Fans seem polarized on the annoyance of the added graphic, and the PitchTrax doesn't exactly seem to have the best accuracy either. But, it is enjoyable to see it chart the trends of a pitcher during a single at-bat. There was graphical evidence there for analysts to use to show if a pitcher was trying to paint the corners or was staying away from a dangerous hitter. Sure, it might need to have the bugs worked out, but the graphic is more informative and less distracting than ESPN's K Zone, which has begun to be superimposed over home plate during at-bats. While some may disagree with PitchTrax, I'll bet there were some who didn't like the 1st and 10 line either.
It's an exciting new day in the history of Awful Announcing! Time to take an AA staple, the Pam Ward Chronicles, to the NFL. We asked our readers who they wanted to honor with this distinction, and by one solitary vote, Dick Stockton defeated Joe Buck. I think the Straight Outta Stockton name and the image of Dick hanging with N.W.A. singing Straight Outta Compton pushed it over the top!
The Dickies (that may need a little extra consideration) will work in the same manner as the Pammies. Throughout the day (and on Monday nights), leave us the most awful, innuendo filled, hilarious, or bizarre quotes that you hear surrounding NFL gamedays. The Dick Stockton Chronicles will focus on the announcers in the booth, but with men like Chris Berman, Terry Bradshaw, Shannon Sharpe, Trent Dilfer and many others filling studios, we certainly need your watchful eyes on these shows as well.
These AA staples depend on our readers, so leave comments on the Open Thread or tweet us with your Straight Outta Stockton submissions. Keep in mind we need quotes, and not just general statements about announcers.
NO: Dick Stockton is old and terrible. YES: "3rd downs are always important. This is the first important 3rd down of the game." - Dick Stockton
We'll try and update the thread as best as we can on Sundays, but you can check the comments below and our Twitter timeline for all submissions. Then, we'll be back on Tuesdays with 15-20 nominees and you'll vote on our Top 10 for the week. Dickie winners will be announced Thursdays with updated standings.
As I leave, believe I'm stompin, but when I come back, boy, I'm comin' straight outta Stockton!
*Update: Don't forget to update our Straight Outta Stockton open thread tonight with the best and worst quotes from Monday Night Football. With news tonight that "That Guy" Jon Gruden has reupped for five more seasons with MNF, we could be in for a vintage performance from Gruden and Jaws!
With the end of the Mayan calendar possibly coming before the time we see the NBA again, the new NBA Jam is about as good as a substitute as we could hope for. To celebrate the release of NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, they had Shaq (with a mysterious blueish hue) put his own spin on the NBA Jam series' signature over the top commentary. My personal favorite is a tie between "Frame this for yo momma!" and "freaky deaky dunka potamus!"
I actually downloaded this the other day on a whim and I must say it's absolutely fantastic. I mostly downloaded it because the NBA Jam announcer's phrases have become part of my daily lexicon since I picked this up for Super Nintendo, but it's pretty great and the commentary is thankfully still as wild as ever. Plus, it's always satisfying to see Chris Kaman do three flips before slamming it down over Rik Smits (there's a substantial amount of historic players in the game).
So far I haven't found a team that can compete with the greatest videogame team of all-time, the Seattle SuperSonics (Kemp and Payton) from the OG edition of NBA Jam. Still, few things I've found as satisfying as two hand shoving fools online 40 times a game with Bill Laimbeer in videogames. If you got $15 and are fiending for some NBA basketball, definitely consider picking this one up.
Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon was tragically killed in yesterday's season ending IndyCar race in Las Vegas. Ben praised SportsCenter's handling of the story this morning, but ABC's live coverage is also worth lifting up. The 15 car accident that involved Wheldon caused a red flag that stopped the race for over an hour. With no updates on Wheldon's condition, the somber mood of the commentators and the interviews for such a lengthy race delay told the viewer something was seriously wrong without saying the words.
As I was watching the NFL like every other Sunday in the Fall, I kept turning back to ABC to see what was happening and if there was an update on Wheldon's condition after I found out about the crash on Twitter. I'm more of a race fan than the average sports fan, but admittedly haven't watched a lot of racing in the last five years. IndyCar racing is nowhere near as popular as it was in its heyday in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. There are a number of factors involved including the rise in NASCAR, the CART/IndyCar split, and the current sports landscape. I can tell you though that the Indy 500 is by far my favorite event to attend as a sports fan. In fact, one of the races I attended was Dan Wheldon's rookie year in 2003 when he flipped upside down coming out of Turn 3 late in the race.
The thrill and speed of auto racing is unmatched in sports, but so is the danger, as it always has been. My dad attended the Indy 500 for many years and was there in 1964 for the firery crash that killed Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald. That horrifying crash introduced safer fuels, and the advancements in safety have greatly improved thoughout the decades. Sometimes, that only happens after the worst on-track events sadly. However, any advance in safety can never fully remove the chance the worst tragedy can strike. It's unfortunate that only after a great racer's death do we actually think about the extreme danger in auto racing and pay tribute to what these drivers are willing to risk for a great sport they love, like Dan Wheldon.
Wheldon was a brilliant driver and a captivating personality. An IndyCar series champion, two-time Indy 500 champion, and someone who drove and lived with charisma and flair often lacking in a sport defined by robotic drivers whose public relations consist of little more than thanking sponsors. The cruel irony of the day was that Wheldon had regained a full-time ride in the morning with Michael Andretti, replacing Danica Patrick (moving to NASCAR) in the GoDaddy car. Wheldon had won Indy as a parttime driver and spent the year testing the new 2012 car for the series. He was racing in Vegas as part of a gimmicky $5 million sponsorship deal that offered a huge cash bonus to any non-regular driver that could win from the back of the field. Yahoo Sports has a great reflection on Wheldon's last year and his life that is worth the read.
It's an impossible situation for a broadcast, but the ABC booth of Marty Reid, former Indy 500 champ Eddie Cheever, and Scott Goodyear and the pit reporters were appropriately somber and hopeful that good news would emerge regarding Wheldon. I've always loved Cheever on broadcasts because of his thoughtfulness and outspokenness. The inner conflict within him and Goodyear as broadcasters and racers was laid out for viewers as they discussed the danger of the race at Vegas, the safety of the cars, and their inner drive to push the ultimate limit.
As soon as a drivers meeting was called, I expected the worst. When the drivers emerged not doing interviews and teams were seen hugging and praying, the worst was coming.
The network missed the official announcement of Wheldon's death and only caught the tail end of the announcement made by CEO Randy Bernard. It's tough to criticize ABC though imagining the chaos behind the scenes. But, Marty Reid made the announcement and ABC went forward with poignant coverage of the five lap tribute to Dan Wheldon. Dario Franchitti was shown in his cockpit crying, team members and drivers were shown consoling each other on pit lane and the broadcast crew didn't need to add many words to capture the moment. Covering this event is nothing a broadcast can prepare for, but ABC did as good as could be expected paying tribute to Wheldon and covering the tragedy appropriately. ABC then went silent for the five lap tribute in what was perhaps the most graceful, heartwrenching sports television I've ever seen. The video of the tribute is below, including Marty Reid's heartfelt sendoff at around the 10:50 mark in the video...
"Many people ask me why I always sign off 'Till we meet again.' Because goodbye is always so final. Goodbye, Dan Wheldon." - Marty Reid
Big news in broadcasting today as ESPN announced it has signed MNF analyst Jon Gruden to a five year "exclusive" deal that will keep him out of coaching and off the sidelines for the length of the deal. The deal starts in 2012, so that means you'll be hearing "THIS GUY" through the 2016 season. Below are quotes from ESPN Executive VP Norby Williamson and Gruden himself on the extension...
"Our Monday Night Football crew is special, and to have the opportunity to continue to be a part of this team, working these big-time NFL prime time games every week on ESPN, I’m fired up," - Jon Gruden
“Jon has made a remarkable transition from Super Bowl-winning head coach to one of the premier football analysts in our business. His long-term commitment to ESPN will continue to elevate our Monday Night Football presentation and we look forward to finding even more opportunities to take advantage of his passion for football and unique insights into the game.” - Norby Williamson
We poke fun at Gruden's "this guys" and constant praise for everyone that enters an NFL stadium, but hopefully this decision to stay in the booth for an extended period of time will give him the freedom to be a bit more cutting in his analysis. Whether you love or hate Gruden as an analyst, the games are more interesting with his energy and unique personality. Crappy MNF games (Jets/Dolphins, hello!) don't help, but Gruden brings insight and enthusiasm to the booth. He has the potential to be this generation's John Madden with ESPN's multiplatform capabilities including Gruden's QB Camp, and his enjoyable work on the NFL Draft.
I like Gruden in the booth and think he adds something to Monday Night Football at ESPN. It's a coup for the leader to sell the "exclusiveness" of the deal as it will apparently lock him in the booth for the foreseeable future.
And, it means Gruden will be a perennial contender for the Dickies! That's a not so subtle way to promote our NFL Pammy Awards, so tweet and comment your best Grudenisms to us tonight!
And, most of all, it's five more years of chances for Gruden to say the name SAN-ZEN-BACH-ER!!!
The heavy hitters are out in full force this week as all of our Pammy leaders come strong. Quite a few innuendo filled, probably-taken-out-of-context, giggle inducing quotes fill our Week 7 nominees. The fact that are first quote involves "Trojans" "come" and "Giggity" is enough to let you know the direction of the Pammies this week. Also, don't forget to stay tuned tomorrow for our first ever Straight Outta Stockton nominees for the NFL version of the Pammies. Who knows, we may also put the winning college and NFL quotes together each week for a vote and search for our Ultimate Quote Of The Year?
As a reminder as to how the Pammy vote works, each week we'll nominate 15-20 quotes for you to pick the best 10. The winning quote of the week will earn that person 10 points all the way down to 1 point for 10th. Remember, you can vote for your favorite five quotes. Here are your Week 7 nominees...
1) "Six Trojans are going to come" - CraigJames (via SenatorGiggity)
2) "Well-dressed Joe Tessitore eats well, is a legend." - Jesse Palmer (via BenBeach) is just killing it tonight.
3) "When that USC band started to play, what was the first thing we thought? Trojans." - Craig James (via jasondschwartz)
4) "I think he did a one handed job right there." - Rod Gilmore (via jamiedupler)
5) "When Cousins is hot, he's the best passer in the game." - Dave Pasch (via bjo109). Kirk Cousins? Really? Really?
6) "he's a dirty player. i'm not saying he's a dirty player but he's on his way to being a dirty player." - Chris Spielman (via bjo109)
7) "Sometimes I think you out-create yourself." - Matt Millen (via sctvman)
8) "You are hearing Rocky Top the national anthem of Tennessee" - Verne Lundquist (via many)
9) "A good job squirting through there!" - Pam Ward (via sctvman)
10) "Tebow would be here tonight, but he's starting for the Broncos tomorrow." - Brent Musburger (via davidreeves9071). Tebow was on a bye. I guess you wouldn't know watching ESPN this week though.
11) "Momentum has no allegiance, but right now it's on the Vanderbilt sideline." - Bob Rathbun (via JoeKovacJr)
12) "I knew right away because it felt different under there." - Gary Danielson (via sjwest86) on accidentally lining under a guard
13) "The Tigers need to win two games, but they can't do that without a victory tonight."- Charles Davis (via KSJ49) during ALCS promo
14) "Every time Clemson gets slapped in the face, they get off the mat." - Clay Matvick (via glokkenspx)
15) "Arizona won't be outscored in this one" - Lee Corso (via bjo109) when talking about ASU/Oregon
16) "What a good get off he had." - Matt Millen (via sjwest86)
Vote For Your Week 7 Pammy Nominees! (vote for up to five)
The winners will come Wednesday morning so make sure you vote early and often and check back for the full Week 8 announcing sked later this week!
To ESPN and SportsCenter's credit, they opened the week's most revered edition of the highlight show jumping right into Wheldon story and staying with it for a full eleven minutes. Solid coverage from multiple angles including a very nice tribute by Jeremy Schaap. Halfway through SportsCenter, another well done six minutes of coverage surrounding Wheldon's death.
Now the knee jerk reaction from our readers might be "So what? That's what they should have done." While I certainly think it was the smart way to go, it was definitely not a clear cut decision.
Sunday SportsCenter during football season is an institution. You have "The Blitz", Sunday Conversation, pumping MNF, an elimination game in the NLCS, the first BCS standings, major injury news (Jason Campbell and Marcus Lattimore), QB benchings (Grossman and McNabb), and some interesting stories of the day like the Harbaugh and Schwartz handshake.
Multiple guests are slated to do segments, some of the better anchors (Levy and Cohn) are on hand, and there is just a massive amount of ground to cover. In a nutshell, SportsCenter is ESPN's flagship and Sunday Night SportsCenter during football season is quintessential piece of non live event programming the network has.
Indycar racing is not a first tier sport in America. To be honest, I don't really know if it's even in the second tier. The vast majority of our readers and general sports fans probably could have not have told you heading into today where today's race was held, who won this year's Indy 500, or name 5 Indycar drivers.
ESPN could have skimped on the coverage here if they chose to do so and it wouldn't have been a big deal. Instead of the first eleven minutes and six more, they could have maybe done something like two five minute segments on the death and not opened with the story.
With all that was going on in the world of sports, as long as the coverage of Wheldon's death was sensitive and substantial, there really wouldn't be any blowback cutting the corners surrounding the story.
For all the crap we and others out there give The Worldwide Leader, credit to ESPN here for not marginalizing this story and covering the tragedy with vigor. Certainly not ideal to condense an overloaded SportsCenter by more than 25%, but a smart decision that showed integrity and compassion.
Of course our thoughts and prayers go out to Wheldon, his family, his teammates, and the Indycar racing community.
Viewers who stuck around for the final moments of Oregon vs. Arizona State were treated to a memorable testy exchange between Chip Kelly and an overexuberant fan. Swarming around Kelly, who was starting his post game interview with Erin Andrews, was an overzealous fan met with a very terse "Hey! Will you just shut up?" from the Oregon head coach. Video below:
A couple of things strike me as odd in the clip. Do Oregon fans really rush the field when solidly beating an opponent that was a 15 point underdog? Is Chip Kelly always this surly after beating a ranked team by two scores?
The odd thing is that post game clusterf*cks around on field interviews is nothing new for college football or even college basketball. The chaos around Kelly and Andrews, while potentially a bit loud, was pretty modest compared to some of the pandemonium you can see moments after a game. Apparently Kelly likes a more calm and relaxing atmosphere when given the opportunity to humbly brag about his football team to Erin Andrews.
To her credit, Andrews cracked a smile thanked Kelly, and then immediately put the game face back on and finished out the interview. Musberger would also poke fun of the incident immediately after insinuating he knew it was internet gold.
Not a big deal but certainly an off-color moment for Kelly who showed a bit of a short fuse and unexpected exasperation in what should have been a more celebratory moment.