Every year, sports media columnist Rudy Martzke of USA Today would hand out his silly “Rudys” to announcers and sports show he felt were the most deserving. I will not call my awards the “Fangies” or something stupid like that. I’m just going to say “Best”, “Worst” or create a category and that’s it. I forgot to do them for MLB after this past season, but I’ll have to remember to do them after next season. I’ll also do this for NFL, NHL and College Basketball, the other sports I follow closely. NBA? I don’t care, but you can do one on your own.
Let’s get started.
The College Gameday Best Pregame Show Award goes to: College Gameday – ESPN. Who else? This has set the standard for pregame shows, both college and pro. I’m a critic of ESPN, but I’m also willing to give it praise when the network does something right and College Gameday is done right. Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit are a well oiled machine. I like the addition of Desmond Howard in small doses and of course, the atmosphere from the college campuses is a bonus. Fox NFL Sunday tried to copy the formula last season when it took its show on the road, but it was a dismal failure. College Gameday basically wins this until it goes off the air. Honorable mention: College Football Today – CBS. Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman do a bang-up job on their show and aren’t afraid to be critical of the BCS.
The Keith Jackson Award for Best Play-by-Play Announcer goes to: Sean McDonough -ESPN. Sean has basically been the announcer-in-exile ever since the Boston Red Sox took him off play-by-play for its broadcasts and for some strange reason, ESPN put him on Friday night games. He deserves to be doing the main games for either ESPN or ABC. I know Sean can’t go back to CBS because President of Sports and News, Sean McManus unceremoniously dumped him after the network hired Dick Enberg in 2000, but really, the guy should be on the main announcing team. Honorable mentions: Ron Franklin – ESPN and Verne Lundquist – CBS.
The Frank Broyles Award for Best Color Analyst: Named after Frank Broyles who did a great job for ABC in the 1980′s, we give this to Gary Danielson – CBS. He’s been one of the best college football analysts ever since ESPN teamed him with Brad Nessler in the 1990′s. Then he was pitted with Brent Musberger, but in 2006, he went to CBS to be teamed with Verne Lundquist on SEC games and this team has clicked very well. Gary has done very well on the SEC and has had the opportunity to call some big games this year including LSU-Arkansas and Georgia-Florida. In both instances, he was on top of trends and did a fantastic job. If CBS ever gets the BCS or the NCAA football tournament if it’s ever created, Danielson would be excellent on the lead team. Honorable mentions: Todd Blackledge – ESPN, Pat Haden – NBC and Charles Davis – Big Ten Network.
Best Overall Announcing Team goes to: Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis – Big Ten Network. They worked together for the first time last season on two NFL games, then the Fiesta Bowl featuring the Boise State upset of Oklahoma, then the BCS Championship Game so their chemistry wasn’t down. But they had a chance to really work together this season and have become a very good team. This season, they didn’t have to be saddled with a third wheel in Barry Alvarez, so they’ll work in an easier and more enjoyable two man booth. They did a fantastic job all season long. Now if the Big Ten Network can sign some more agreements for next season, Thom and Charles will get some more exposure. Honorable mention: Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson – CBS.
The Jim Lampley Award for Best Studio Host goes to: Rece Davis – ESPN. He’s in his element hosting the studio show and handing off to Mark May and Lou Holtz. ESPN does miss Trev Alberts, but Lou isn’t bad. But I digress. Rece also hosts College Football Live for ESPN. He does a tremendous job, especially starting in the morning and being in the Bristol campus sometimes staying until 2 a.m. on College Gameday Final. If Fowler ever leaves College Gameday, Rece could step in quite seamlessly. And for those of you who don’t know, yes, Lamps hosted the College Football studio for ABC in the 1980′s and probably is the best ever. Honorable mentions: Tim Brando – CBS & John Saunders – ESPN/ABC.
Best Studio Analyst: We don’t have anyone to name this after, but we give this award to Mark May of ESPN, by default. Spencer Tillman of CBS isn’t bad and Lou Holtz is ok, but I’ll give this to Mark May.
The Jack Arute Award for Best Sideline Reporter goes to: not Jack this year because he was doing NASCAR duties, but Bonnie Bernstein. Assigned to Brad Nessler, Bob Griese and Paul McGuire, Bonnie has sometimes had to fight for airtime, but whenever she’s on, she has solid information and can banter especially with Paul. Happy Hanukkah, Bonnie. Honorable mentions: Erin Andrews – ESPN & Charissa Thompson – Big Ten Network.
Most Valuable Network Award goes to: CBS for its SEC package. The games got consistent ratings every weekend often beating ABC’s 3:30 p.m. regional coverage. The games were certainly more compelling than the others in the same timeslot. Plus, CBS’ production of the games was top-notch. It’s no wonder why the SEC plans to renew its contract with CBS after next season.
Best Overall Coverage Award goes to: Yes, ESPN. The Worldwide Leader has this sport covered from beginning to end starting with College Gameday in the mornings all the way until College Gameday Final late at night. CBS and NBC sign off when their games are done with hardly any time for a postgame show. ESPN goes from 10 a.m. ET Saturday until 2 a.m. Sunday and it works. And the addition of College Football Live during the week has only solidified its position. If you’re a college football fan, ESPN has it covered.
Best Debut of a Network goes to: The Big Ten Network for having the biggest upset in college football history, Appalachian State over Michigan in the Big House. Unfortunately, its dispute with the major cable providers, Comcast, Time Warner, Mediacom and Charter has prevented many across the Midwest from seeing it. But I give you the final moments of the game here.
And the interview of Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore leads me to the following award.
Best Ingénue goes to: Charissa Thompson – Big Ten Network. She did a great job on the sidelines for BTN. The lovely Charissa will be seen on Fox’s BCS coverage during the Sugar Bowl and the BCS Championship Game. She’s been given a bigger role on FSN so expect to see a lot of her in the coming months.
The Phil Stone Award for Worst Play-by-Play: Named after Phil Stone who did a few NFL regional games for NBC back in the 1980′s, Phil was horrible. He yelled and screamed, but never could quite get the feel for the games. He was just plain awful. Phil was a sports anchor for the San Diego NBC affiliate in the 1980′s. Some sports anchors are not suitable for play-by-play and Phil certainly wasn’t. So I give this award to, in a tie Pam Ward – ESPN and Brent Musberger – ABC. I’ve tried to give Pam the benefit of the doubt over the last two years, but I don’t think she’s good at calling a game. I have no problem with women doing play-by-play, but I don’t think Pam’s voice is good enough.
As for Brent, he’s slipped a lot over the years. He’s getting close to Phil Stone in yelling. Brent was very good at one time, but right now, he’s past his prime. Plus he has to travel to NASCAR locations right after games so his concentration has been off. Brent and Pammy share the award.
Worst Sideline Reporter goes to: Lisa Salters – ESPN/ABC. Not impressed by her work at all. Lisa is usually a solid journalist, but sideline reporter is not a role that suits her well.
Most Bizarre Moment goes to: ESPN’s Mike Patrick asking Todd Blackledge about Britney Spears right before Georgia beat Alabama in overtime. Todd was incredulous and asked, “Is she here?” I still shake my head.
Dishonorable mention: Last weekend’s Les Miles controversy when ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit announced on College Gameway announced Miles would leave LSU for Michigan. Then Miles had to call a press conference right before the SEC Championship Game to announce he was staying put at LSU. CBS’ Tracy Wolfson interviewed Miles about his plans and finally, Tim Brando throwing a shot at ESPN. Great stuff.
The Network Disappearing Act Award goes to: NBC for its Notre Dame games. Because Notre Dame had a 3-9 season, the ratings for Notre Dame home games fell into the toilet. Not even the win by Navy, the first in 43 years could save the ratings. But it wasn’t the fault of Pat Haden, one of the better college football analysts and he’s not afraid to be critical of Notre Dame.
Worst Studio Show Award goes to: ABC’s pre-game show. Surprising because it’s produced by ESPN and John Saunders is a very solid host. However, Craig James and Doug Flutie don’t mesh very well. There’s hardly any chemistry between the two. James was very good as the original co-analyst with Lee Corso on College Gameday, but he’s ill-suited in this studio. And it seems disconnected from the Worldwide Leader because the show is produced at ABC’s studios in New York instead of the ESPN headquarters. Plus, the show isn’t even in HD! What’s up with that?
Worst Debut by a Network Award goes to: Versus. It signed a contract with FSN to pick up ten Big 12 and Pac 10 games from TBS. However, like the Big Ten Network, it suffers from a lack of carriage. It had the big upset of Stanford over USC, but most of the country only saw the highlights and that’s too bad. And its coverage of the games was next to horrible. And Rod Thulin of Versus even got the game winning touchdown wrong. Listen as he calls the touchdown for USC.
And there you have it. Let me know what you think, if you agree, if you disagree. I certainly would like to hear from you.