So I'm flipping through TV channels tonight, and see "Friday Night Fights" is starting on ESPN 2. I rarely view boxing unless it's a fight featuring big names, but my Cubs are getting destroyed as usual, and there's no NBA or NHL Finals action tonight, so I figured what the hell.
Well, what I immediately see on the broadcast is ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas trying to compare the upcoming boxing match to the Dallas Mavericks/Miami Heat NBA Finals series:
I had the exact same facial expression that Joe Tessitore did following Teddy's "analysis".
Mike Breen has been the voice of the NBA Finals on ABC since 2006 and is currently ESPN's number one play by play man for the NBA. Besides his work for ESPN, he is also the central play by play man for the Knicks on the MSG Network and has also announced basketball in several Olympic Games for NBC. He's called some of the most memorable NBA games in recent years including the 2002 Celtics comeback against the Nets, Malice in the Palace, 2008 Celtics/Lakers, and of course, last night's thrilling Mavericks comeback in Miami. Mike is one of the top play by play announcers in sports, but also has a humorous side that may surprise viewers. In this interview with AA, Mike talks about last night's game, these NBA Finals, working with Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, and Bill... from White Plains.
Q: Our traditional first question is how you got your start in the business, what got you interested in sports broadcasting, and how you got to announcing the Finals on ABC?
A: Like a lot of kids, I had a love of sports. I grew up in a family of 6 boys and it was sports 24/7. I quickly knew I wasn't going to be good enough to play at the next level and wanted to find a way somehow to stay involved. I went to college specifically for sports broadcasting. I went to Fordham and they have a top notch student radio station, I broadcasted men's and women's basketball and baseball and hosted a talk show. Right away I caught the bug. After I graduated I took a typical small market route working at tiny radio stations in Poughkeepsie, NY, did Marist College basketball when Rik Smits was there... a few years later I was fortunate to get the pre and postgame radio job for the Knicks and that was my first venture into the NBA.
Q: I remember the first time I saw you on national television was actually as the sports reporter on Imus in the Morning and how funny you were. I didn't know until today that you were actually Bill from White Plains.
A: (Laughs) I've never actually officially confirmed that. Every once in a while I'll still meet somebody who will say I used to listen to you on Imus, and they'll say "did you ever meet that guy Bill from White Plains who used to call in," and I can't break their hearts so I always say, "yea I never met him but he seems like a good guy." So there are some people that actually believe it was a different person.
Q: How much of your personality and humor is brought into your announcing?
A: A lot depends on who your partner is... with Jeff and Mark it's so easy to have some fun on the broadcast. Jeff is so funny and I think Mark is hilarious as well so I play more the straight man with those guys. Every once and a while I'll try to have some fun with them, but those guys are so funny that my role is the straight man.
Q: How has the chemistry of that booth developed and what are some of your challenges working in a 3 man booth?
A: Matt, it started 20 years ago when I first started broadcasting Knick games on the radio. Jeff was an assistant coach and Mark was a player, so we've known each other for 20 years and quite honestly we've grown up in the NBA together. Very early on we knew each other, we were all around the same age, and I learned so much about the NBA game from Jeff when he was the head coach and Mark obviously played for him. The familiarity and knowing the guys for so long has made a difference. To me, the coolest part is the dynamic between Jeff and Mark. To have two analysts in the same booth and one guy coached the other guy, I find that really interesting. Because we've been good friends for so long we can pretty much say anything, even if it's completely disagreeing with what the other guy said, nobody's feelings get hurt and that's a real fun part of it.
Q: So you guys won't be appearing in the ESPN book paperback with some comments about each other?
A: Fortunately none of us are in that book. (Laughs) I think it came before we got there.
Q: What's it like to be the play by play man for the Finals?
A: It sounds corny, but it's a dream come true. I always pinch myself before Game 1 every year because I can't believe I get this opportunity. Ever since I was a little kid I've loved basketball. I really do feel blessed because for me it's a privilege to be able to call these games.
Q: Last night's game was one of the most improbable comebacks in Finals history. When you're announcing a game like that, is there a point where you look to Jeff and Mark and say to yourselves, wow this is one of those games that will be remembered for a long time?
A: During the game, because you have so much to concern yourself with, you don't really think that much. After the game, you think that may be one of the all-time games. During the game you're so focused on making sure you document everything the right way, but at the same time you have to put into perspective where this game stands. We knew it was pretty special because it really seemed like it was over. Miami was dominant in that stretch from it being a close game to all of a sudden they're up 15, all the momentum was gone, Dallas' body language wasn't right, and it was like the flip of a switch how incredible it happened. It happened so quickly, they cut off 7 points in like a minute and a half. You're thinking oh wow, they did that quickly. It was stunning from the standpoint of how dominant Miami was when the comeback began...
H/T Fang's Bites
I have DirectT and it's not even really a choice. I am addicted to programming like the NFL Sunday Ticket, The Big Ten Network, and some other sports channels and packages they offer. They're also a lot more reliable than the big cable companies and in particular are not as mentally challenged in the customer service area where cable companies typically dominate the worst ranked Fortune 500 list.
But DirectTV is expensive which leads me to my annual fabricated production where I call and threaten to leave in order to procure discounted rates for the coming year. For those looking to save some bucks, this is the blue print to achieve this.
- Call DirectTV and immediately say you want to talk to customer retention. Don't futz around with the front line of customer service people. Customer retention can give you discounts and won't give you the runaround.
- Say you're going to leave and that U-verse, Fios, or whomever is coming to install the new system in a week. DirectTV is too expensive and you're getting a sweetheart deal to leave. Cite that they've added a lot of channels that used to be exclusive to DirectTV (Big Ten Network, Red Zone Channel). Also give them some crap for not having AMC in HD because that's just dumb. Make sure you let them know it's too expensive to stay.
- They'll then start offering you discounts. Don't give in right away. They don't want you to walk and even if you can't come to an agreement they still have to send you to another person to terminate your account so you can always just hang up if they call your bluff which they won't. You can usually get around 25% off of your annual bill. Last year I achieved a good discount and it took under 7 minutes.
Anyways, this year my strategy was to really bemoan the fact that it wasn't even a sure thing that there would be football this year. DirectTV makes it a habit to auto renew your package out of "convenience". You can cancel the auto renew, but not a lot of people are that meticulous.
Lo and behold DirectTV has wisely decided to not bill anyone for the Sunday Ticket until the labor situation clears up.
"In a mass e-mail sent to all Sunday Ticket subscribers, DirecTV has informed customers that “[t]here will be absolutely no charge for your NFL SUNDAY TICKET subscription until it is confirmed that the 2011 NFL season will begin.”
Probably a wise move given a lot of people are looking for ways to cut back and are finding that their DirectTV bill is 50%-100% more than some other providers. By removing a very obvious pitfall for customer retention, DirectTV is effectively shutting the barn door that could have led to a mass exodus of football subscribers.
Getting a big discount is still very doable but unforunately the main point of emphasis has been wiped and now I'll have to fake outrage from another source.
Yes, I'll admit... I was one of those people that turned off the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals and turned on ESPN for the final five of the Scripps National Spelling Bee (luckily, I turned back with just over a minute to go in the game, whew). There's just something about kids spelling strange words that makes for compelling television. However, the Spelling Bee could become so much more if there was an announcing team in place to give the event the excitement it deserves. We went to Twitter to ask AA readers who their fantasy Spelling Bee announcing team would be. Any play by play guy. Any analyst. The results were amazing. As always, these are Real Tweets from Real People...
Dascenzo Rod Allen and Chris Berman
Dayman_OS Gus ("SOUND IT OUT AND FIRE!") and John Madden ("You put a x here, a o here, a z here, and BOOM you got a spelling champ!")
sgsmith_23 Vin Scully, Clyde Frazier.
tjbasalla Gus and Hubie Brown
redveale Keith Jackson and Charles Barkley.
LevityNYC John Sterling - "You can't predict Spelling Bees."
Kevin_Hebert Harry Caray and Mike Shannon..Hearing them try to pronounce the words would be phenomenal
ellenlai Mike Emrick and Charles Barkley
markmagnuson7 Brent Musberger and JR from WWE. The word "partner" would be said 47,000 times.
bryanbrackney Emmitt Smith, all by himself
modernishfather Bob Uecker and Jim Deshaies. I'd pay to hear them cover the bee.
joebeacham Zombie Ernie Harwell and Drunk Rick Sutcliffe
itsjordylive Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and a translator (totally necessary).
philiptang77 Al Michaels and Bill Raftery who could yell onions after someone got a word right
hawks586 Hawk Harrelson solo.."HE GONE"
DLefchak The late Harry Kalas ("That kid's OUTTA HERE!) & Tim McCarver ("The kid who spells the most words right will probably win."
SportPundits Kevin "right between the eyes" Harlan and Bob "slightly racist jokes" Griese
hawknut I want Rick Sutcliffe and Patrick Warburton (as David Puddy). No, seriously, make this happen immediately.
yeatdog Gus Johnson and Buck Laughlin
mhfight dick vitale and dikembe mutumbo
bielik_tim Gary Thorne and Cavaliers Color Analyst Austin Carr.
JeffDLowe Dream Spelling Bee Announcing Team: Harlan (Is this the dagger? B4 end of a word) or Ian Eagle (THAT'S A MAN'S WORD!)
RYbbc34 Andres Cantor and Jesse "The Body" Ventura
glokkenspx Jim Nantz (think of the pun potential) & Johnny Miller (love to see him bash a 12 year old chocking under pressure)
HoosierdaddyIU Gary McCord and Vern Lundquist #whothehellishappygilmore
Dan_Brookens Harry Caray and Gilbert Gottfried.
matthewcoller I'll take Marty + Thom Brennaman. Marty trashes kids not from Cincinnati, Thom worships the Christian-looking kids
Dayman_OS Dennis Miller, so he could incorporate the words being spelled into obscure jokes that nobody gets.
walshie414 Jack Edwards and either Tommy Heinsohn or Hawk Harrelson
J3rdWatson Howard Cosell and Tim McCarver. Perfect blend of of pretentious and oblivious.
Dascenzo Harry Caray and Ron Santo would be unbelievable.
GlasgowSmile21 Howard Stern and Simon Cowell
KevinWhite24 Jim Ross
TheLYONSDen89 Dream Spelling Bee PBP team: Gus Johnson and Ron Santo
EspoAZ Easy,Harry Caray and Will Ferrell playing Harry Caray. Could spell the words and then tell you what they are backwards.
RadioFish Keith Jackson and Dickie V. "That kid...is a hus" "He's a diaper dandy I tell ya!"
StevenCarroll8 chris berman, because he so horrible it would be great, and phil rizzuto, would not understand what was going on
djstarion Dream Bee PBP: Brian Collins and the reanimated corpse of Rebecca Sealfon
Would one of these teams be your choice or is there another fantasy announcing team that are tweeps might have missed?
It's about time we got into the podcasting business, don't ya think? In the first Awful Announcing Podcast at the Bloguin network, we talk with the co-author of Those Guys Have All The Fun, Jim Miller, about his impressive book that tells the story of ESPN. As Deitsch tweeted yesterday, Those Guys will be a #1 New York Times bestseller. It's a remarkable feat for a book that has taken the sports world by storm since well before its release last week. In case you're looking for more info about Those Guys, you can read our excerpt on Monday Night Football here, check out our review of the book here, and if you haven't yet, order the book here. We discuss amongst other topics...
-The outlined nine steps to ESPN's dominance
-The lack of current stars on SportsCenter
-Bill SImmons' outspokenness
-ESPN's relationship with sports blogs
-The future of the network
It was a great interview and many thanks to Jim for taking the time to chat with AA as well as the fine folks at Little, Brown for setting up the interview... and who knows, maybe there will be an AA Podcast #2 someday in the future!
The feud between Deadspin and ESPN is well documented. The intense rivalry started when ESPN sources led Deadspin editor AJ Daulerio to sit on a tip about Steve Phillips' scandalous behavior. Eventually, Daulerio missed breaking the story and blamed ESPN for misleading him. Thus began the ESPN Horndoggery Dossier. Ever since, ESPN and Deadspin haven't exactly been on the best of terms.
So, perhaps it was a surprise to hear that one of Deadspin's top writers, Tommy Craggs, was offered a position by ESPN. Well, an offer to write at the "yes, it's really an ESPN website, but you're not supposed to know about it" Grantland, headed up, of course, by Bill Simmons. Craggs is definitely one of the most talented, notable writers on Deadspin (and in the blogosphere), and was a solid, if not surprising choice, to be involved in the new Simmons/ESPN project. However, in true Deadspin fashion, Craggs' offer was met with hesitancy after this article, destroying ESPN's PR Blog and the name dropping of Page 2 editor Lynn Hoppes. It was over the top, but also brilliantly written -- Deadspin and Craggs at their best, but probably not something that made ESPN execs jump to bring him aboard Grantland.
There was an update to the story last night. ESPN exec John Walsh (portrayed as the grand poobah of journalistic integrity in Those Guys Have All The Fun, he must LOVE Deadspin) wanted to meet with Craggs and "express his misgivings in person." Naturally, that meeting involved a pink gorilla telegram sent by Daulerio to sing the SportsCenter theme. Deadspin's videos aren't embeddable (pretty ironic, if you ask me, seeing as how they tear apart MLB for the same thing), so you have to check this link to see it and read the whole story. No, I don't have the artistic ability to do a f%$#ing drawing, either. Here's a quote from the article though:
Instead, I called up a singing telegram service in NYC to drop off a hand-delivered note. The woman on the phone took my order over the phone and repeated back to me the important pieces of information to pass along to her performer: "Essex House. 11:30. Albino man. Pink gorilla singing SportsCenter theme song. Two balloons. Got it,"...
Maybe we'll never know if Craggs would have been offered a job or not (the pink gorilla and the Hoppes article tells me no), but according to Daulerio he withdrew from interest in the Grantland project because of the long leash still attached to Bristol.
Another aspect that made the game very enjoyable to watch was indeed NBC play by play man Mike Emrick. Doc doesn't get as much credit as he deserves as one of the great announcers in sports. Our pal Richard Deitsch of SI wrote this profile on Emrick before Game 1. He fits playoff hockey perfectly like Gus Johnson fits the NCAA Tournament. He also has a pretty good sense of humor. Observe as he slides the Geico gecko into the postgame acknowledgments for some reason. That gecko, he can be trusted...
A huge tip of the hat to bubbaprog for both videos! Check out all of his outstanding work at Mocksession.