Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Same Football Voices......

Football teams may change but this year announcing teams don't. At least very little. On the college side, Brent Musburger has been extended via a multi-year contract extension, as the lead voice on ABC/ESPN college football coverage for Saturday prime time telecasts as well as the two "remaining" BCS title games (under the current format). In addition, Musburger will continue college hoops play-by-play for ESPN in coming seasons. Hard as it may be to believe, the 73-year old Musburger, who first joined ABC Sports in 1990, has actually been with ABC longer than he was with CBS Sports back in the day.

On the NFL side, although Fox announced a couple of additions to its broadcast roster (as shown here last week), CBS is keeping it where it is. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms remain its #1 announcing team, with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf close behind. Ian Eagle, Marv Albert, Kevin Harlan, Bill Macatee, and Spero Dedes will each call regional games. However, two of the long-time TV voices of NFL football will not be back. Don Criqui, who was a regional voice for CBS back when it had the NFL all to itself (going back before his call of the Tom Dempsey 63-yard field goal for New Orleans), and analyst Randy Cross, have been eliminated for this season. Word is that it is certainly not a reflection on them, but is due to fewer Sunday games now available for CBS due to the Thursday night package being extended to the entire season.

CBS Sports Network is expanding its NFL programming for the coming season. Already definite is a Monday evening "NFL Monday QB" show to review the weekend action. Scheduled for a 6:30 PM ET start (except for an earlier start for the Sept. 10 opener due to the early MNF starting time), the one hour show will include the CBS Sports roster of QB analysts, including Phil Simms, Rich Gannon, Steve Beuerlein, Dan Fouts, and Dan Marino. Adam Schein will host. The Network is also planning extended programming for the week leading into the Super Bowl in February, an obvious fit since CBS-TV airs it for this season.

On the radio side, Boomer Esiason will be heard on the new CBS Sports Radio network, to include about 90 stations, on weekday mornings starting just after Labor Day.

Meanwhile, the impact of the scandal at Penn State is already showing an impact beyond the school and the current players on the football team. Granted, WLPA 1490 in Lancaster PA is one of the smaller affiliates on the Penn State Football Radio Network, but the fact that the station will no longer air PSU football or basketball games is significant. Station officials revealed that the decision was made due to a significant lack of local advertisers. Instead, the station plans to air its Fox Sports Radio programming instead. Lancaster is located within reasonable range of PSU broadcasts from Harrisburg, among other communities, so it will be interesting to see if other nearby stations gain in audience - or not. As of press time, WLPA is the only station that I am aware of to drop these broadcasts since the scandal.

As much as I understand that TBS wants all of the favorable publicity it can muster for its MLB coverage, they went overboard on Sunday (Aug. 19). I'll give that there is some appeal to their having a two-time Olympic Softball gold medalist in the booth during the Dodgers vs. Braves telecast, which was the case as Michele Smith joined Ernie Johnson and John Smoltz. However, Smith is a softball player and (obviously, since she is female) not a former MLB player. But what I don't understand is that TBS made a big deal about this, as if she was "the first female analyst on a national telecast".

It's not that someone who never played minor or big league baseball could not be a good analyst. What gets me is that while Smith was in the booth for the entire game, former pitchers such as Dennis Eckersley remain in the studio. As baseball (or whatever sport is being shown) fans, we are entitled to the most expert opinions available. Since most networks now have former players (or coaches, managers) as studio analysts, a special guest such as Michele Smith should either be brought on as a "guest" or kept in the studio for opinions. That is whether male or female. After all, I can't name a male softball player (with zero MLB or minor league experience) brought on as a national telecast "analyst" before. This was not "history" as TBS was trying to make it appear.

101 WXOS ESPN St. Louis is starting a series that brings ideal audience participation to the station. The station's "Speaker Series" begins next Thursday (Aug. 30) at a local sports bar, which is the day of the Rams' final pre-season game against the Ravens. The "Game Day Luncheon" is scheduled to have Head Coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Sneed among its live guests. Several station personalities, along with analysts D'Marco Farr and Rick Venturi, will be on hand for the luncheon and broadcast. This is an excellent idea, and the station plans to have a "Speaker Series" broadcast once per quarter.

The station's web site has info about tickets, which include lunch. Definitely better programming than simply having fans comment on how they think the Rams will do. Here's hoping this one is a winner for the station and its listeners!

HOUSTON: KILT is moving into an increased Texans mode to start the season. Marc Vandermeer, who now is the Texan's Director of Broadcasting, returns to host 2-hour Texans shows on Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Fridays throughout the season. In addition, KILT will have a separate show featuring (running back) Arian Foster. Tuesday nights will include a condensed re-broadcast of the past weekend's Texans game. Although the condensed game re-broadcast may be a stretch (showing the plays on TV is one thing), the other team related shows should have some substance to please the serious fan.

KTRK-TV 13 has its new Sports Director in place, as Greg Bailey takes over on or about September 1st. He will gradually replace Bob Allen, who remains with the station for the remainder of 2012.

KGOW 1560 is going for laughs with its upcoming new afternoon show. Local comic John Wessling has been named as co-host for the 3 to 7 PM show, working with Adam Clanton, who comes over from KPRC-TV 2. Texans linemen Antonio Smith and Duane Brown will each have once weekly appearances on the show. They might as well have some fun until or unless the ratings start to appear for the station, mired at or near last place overall in recent months.

ATLANTA: The Fan 680 is beefing up its football analysis, adding Brian Finneran to its air staff starting after Labor Day. Finneran is a former Falcons receiver, who has worked on the Rude Awakening (morning show) back in 2009. The station also has former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone as its baseball analyst, and announced that Mazzone will return for the 2013 season.

CHICAGO: Although Mike North continues to be heard nationally on Fox Sports Radio, WIND 560 has stopped airing his Sunday night show from Fox. WIND is a general talk station otherwise (airing occasional play-by-play overflow from WGN Radio) and had only aired North on Sunday night as its only regular sports programming. The irony is that Chicago is where North's home market and now is national but not carried there. At present, WIND will occasionally have North on for sports analysis during its morning show.

MOBILE: WABB-AM 1480 has plans to simulcast The Ticket sports programming from WTKE-FM 100.3 starting next week (Aug. 27). This will create "The Ticket Sports Network", since WTKE is licensed to Niceville FL, and will also include WTKP-FM 93.5 from Port Saint Joe FL.

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