Wednesday, January 25, 2017

We Won't Be "Looking Live" At Brent

Wow. Next Tuesday night (1/31) will be the last time that "You are looking live!......." at a telecast with Brent Musburger. Brent announced on Wednesday (1/25) that the college basketball telecast of Georgia at Kentucky from Lexington will be his final game on ESPN, and that he is moving to Las Vegas and going into a family business.

Sports fans under 40 only know Brent from his often offbeat style of TV play-by-play. But that's nowhere near what he should be remembered for. Brent was a true pioneer of NFL studio coverage going back to the early 70's.

Once upon a time, the CBS and NBC Network pre-game and post-game shows were brief previews from the studio and post-game closely edited highlights of a couple of key games. That all changed when Musburger went from Chicago's WBBM-TV (CBS) lead sports anchor to hosting "The NFL Today" on CBS.

He introduced "You are looking live at Lambeau Field in Green Bay where........" and the pre-game show having cut-ins to every CBS telecast that afternoon. The game announcers would discuss each game, show us the weather and field conditions, and set the stage from the various stadiums. We even had Jimmy The Greek to handicap the games with his picks. Yes, more than 40 years ago and NFL pre-game show showed point spreads. Irv Cross provided studio analysis on each game, and we were stuck with Phyllis George while the crew had to act as though she knew what she was talking about.

But it was Brent that outshined everyone. His uncanny ability to jump from game to game as highlights warranted, west coast games ended on the post-game show, and news was happening is still unmatched. He kept the show moving, current, interesting, and compelling.

Not to slight his play-by-play ability (although some do), it's really too bad that he preferred that role. Even with today's technology and the additional time (the pre-game show was only 30 minutes and the post game went until the end of the current half hour only), Brent did more with less than the current hosts bring us today.

He has been a part of the national TV sports scene for around 45 years. His contributions to the broadcast standards of those telecasts will, hopefully, be around for many more years. Thanks, Brent.

Not only is ESPN losing Brent, but the network has also decided to put an end to The Sports Reporters, a series it started back in 1988. The best way to say it is that it is a victim of social media. Years ago, there was not an influx of opinions about everything that did or might happen in the sports world.

This was a national show with prominent sports reporters providing some solid input into the sports issues of the day. Some were fun, while other issues discussions were quite serious and intense. Mike Lupica from New York and Bob Ryan from Boston were among those who appeared regularly for many years and kept the show interesting.

As of press time, word is that the show will remain in place on Sunday mornings for at least three more months.

The Sports Reporters was actually taken from the Chicago based show "The Sportswriters on TV", which aired on (then) SportsChannel Chicago starting in the mid-80's. That was a TV adaptation of the WGN Radio show, "The Sportswriters", which began the concept of reporters discussing sports each week a few years earlier.

Now, of course, we have versions of this sort of show seemingly endlessly on ESPN, Fox Sports, and many of the regional sports networks.

WASHINGTON D.C.: WTEM ESPN 980 has not renewed Andy Pollin's contract as afternoon co-host. Pollin is already off the air, even though his contract is scheduled to run through February, leaving Steve Czaban to host solo, at least for now. No word (as of press time) as to whether or not another co-host will be added. Pollin was a fixture with WTEM since 1992. It was Pollin who helped bring Czaban into sports talk back in 1994.

The NHL Capitals appear to have realized that they need more coverage for the team's local radio broadcasts than only WFED 1500 (when not in conflict with Wizards broadcasts) and online. The games will now air on 104.7 FM as well. It's about time.

PHILADELPHIA: WIP-FM begins its "Phillies Hot Stove" show next Wednesday (2/1) at 6:00 PM, which will air each Wednesday during February. Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen (the broadcast team) will be the hosts.

MIAMI: The Marlins will remain with WINZ 940 as an extension has been announced. WINZ will air 15 spring training games and will add additional Marlins related programming to be announced. Dave Van Horne, who will be calling major league games for his 49th season, returns in his 14th season of calling Marlins games.

PORTLAND: Mark Mason, who has served as the Blazers' P A announcer for the past 21 years, returns to local radio, although not in a sports capacity. Mason started this week on KEX News Radio 1190 as midday "news talk" host.

INDIANAPOLIS: WISH-TV has added Charlie Clifford as its new weekend sports anchor. Clifford comes from WKBT-VM La Crosse where he held a similar role since 2014.

DALLAS: Even with strong national ratings for the NFL's championship games this past Sunday (1/22), not having the Cowboys playing made a difference. The ratings for both games for the Dallas market were comparably low numbers vs. other markets. Yet, the Atlanta win over Green Bay actually scored better than the New England Pittsburgh game in prime time.

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