Thursday, January 21, 2016

History of NBA prime time national telecasts on OTA networks

ABC is launching a Saturday night NBA series when it televises Bulls @ Cavaliers at 8:30 pm ET on 1/23. How rare of an occurrence is such a prime time OTA network telecast? I decided to research that question.

For the purposes of this post, I will define a prime time telecast as one with a listed start time between 7 and 9:30 pm ET (putting most of the game inside the standard prime time window of 8-11pm ET). This study focuses on games televised by national OTA TV networks.

Historically, the overwhelming majority of NBA games on national broadcast TV have been on weekend afternoons. While prime time telecasts have been common for the Finals, they have been anything but during the regular season. In researching NBA national TV listings on the forums at 506sports, I found only 20 NBA regular season OTA prime time telecasts and 9 of those were on Christmas night (including one doubleheader).

The first regular season NBA game televised nationally in prime time was a Lakers-Bucks matchup on ABC in 1970 featuring Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That telecast took place one week after the conclusion of the inaugural season of Monday Night Football. The most recent regular season prime time NBA telecast was on Christmas night in 2003 on ABC. The last such non-Christmas telecast came in December 2000 on NBC.

<UPDATE 1/22/2016 - Added a few missing telecasts from 1999 and 2000.>

Here is the complete list of regular season prime time national telecasts (all times ET):

Mon 12/21/70 - Lakers @ Bucks, 9 pm, ABC
Sat 11/26/88 - Lakers @ Pistons, 8:30 pm, CBS
Wed 12/25/91 - Celtics @ Bulls, 9 pm, NBC
Fri 12/25/92 - Knicks @ Bulls, 9 pm, NBC
Sat 12/25/93 - Magic @ Bulls, 8:30 pm, NBC
Wed 12/25/96 - Pistons @ Bulls, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 4/19/97 - Knicks @ Bulls, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 4/18/98 - Knicks @ Bulls, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 4/17/99 - Lakers @ Jazz, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 4/24/99 - Lakers @ Spurs, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 12/25/99 - Knicks @ Pacers, 7 pm, NBC
Sat 12/25/99 - Spurs @ Lakers, 9:30 pm, NBC
Sat 1/22/00 - two regional games, 8:30pm, NBC
Sat 4/8/00 - Spurs @ Lakers, 8:30pm, NBC
Sat 4/15/00 - two regional games, 8:30 pm, NBC
Tue 12/25/01 - 76ers @ Lakers, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 12/30/00 - four regional games, 7:30 pm, NBC
Tue 12/25/01 - 76ers @ Lakers, 8:30 pm, NBC
Wed 12/25/02 - Kings @ Lakers, 8:30 pm, ABC
Thu 12/25/03 - Rockets @ Lakers, 8:30 pm, ABC

Some other facts about NBA prime time TV games on national OTA networks:

  • The first prime time network telecast was the 1968 NBA All-Star Game on ABC. 
  • The first network TV prime time NBA playoff game was a 1969 Knicks-Celtics matchup in the Eastern Conference finals.
  • Game 7 of the 1970 Finals marks the first championship series prime time telecast. Prior to that, ABC had aired a few Finals games at 10 pm.
  • From the 1971 playoffs on ABC through the 1976 playoffs on CBS, multiple games prior to the Finals aired in prime time each season.
  • From 1976-77 through 1985-86, the only prime time telecasts on CBS took place in the Finals. During these seasons, CBS used the late night 11:30 pm ET slot with some frequency. For the entire 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons, CBS did not air a single game in prime time. This was the era of tape delayed and late night Finals games
  • In 1987, CBS aired a pre-Finals playoff game in prime time for the first time since 1976. At least one pre-Finals playoff game has been in prime time on an OTA network every season since then.
  • The All-Star Game received prime time OTA treatment in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1973-1976. For the other two years in this range, the game started at 10 pm ET.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Some thoughts on the NFLN "re-broadcast" of Super Bowl 1

I found the NFL Network special on Super Bowl 1 to be an enormous letdown. A few quick observations:

NFLN hyped this show as a "re-broadcast" which was a grossly misleading characterization. The term "re-broadcast" means to repeat the broadcast of a program. But this was nothing of the sort. The presentation had only a few clips from the original telecast and was primarily footage from NFL Films. While the show did contain original radio clips, a large percentage of that audio was drowned out by the cast on the NFLN set.

<UPDATE 1/18/2016 - NFL Network now plans to re-air the Super Bowl 1 assembled footage, but this time with the original uninterrupted radio audio on Friday 1/22 at 8pm ET.>

The most positive aspect of the show was the inclusion of the original CBS footage of Ray Scott doing some pregame player introductions and Pat Summerall conducting a postgame interview. But the NFLN program didn't mention that these were original CBS TV clips, never identified Scott, and had the studio crew talking over parts of the Scott footage.

The seemingly constant banter from the studio panel ran concurrent with a dampened version of the radio audio in the background. This setup was extremely distracting and seemed disrespectful to radio play-by-play announcer Jim Simpson. With a 3-hour show, NFLN could have easily utilized its commentators between segments of game footage.

I cannot imagine that either Ed Sabol or Steve Sabol would have been pleased with this NFLN presentation.

During the show, host Chris Rose discussed the fact that neither CBS nor NBC saved a copy of its original telecast. But that segment completely ignored the fact that a tape containing most of the CBS telecast was discovered in 2005 and restored by the Paley Center. That tape even contains original commercials (which one of the panelists expressed an interest in seeing).

Not surprisingly, the reaction from viewers was overwhelmingly negative. I don't recall seeing a single positive tweet about this show either during or after it aired. I honestly don't know what NFLN was thinking with this production or how anyone in charge at the network could have expected praise for it.

Prior to the airing, an NFLN producer amazingly uttered the following quote in a New York Times preview story:
We’ll make sure we don’t ruin anything with the chatter,” Larone said. “If we have the right people together, it will be like a viewing party.”
The first half of that quote is a complete insult to everyone who viewed this disappointing special. NFL Network spoiled the party.



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

NFLN to "re-broadcast" Super Bowl 1 on Jan 15

<UPDATED 1/10/2016 - A story in the NY Times confirms that this "re-broadcast" will consist of NFL Films footage and the original radio call rather than the discovered tape of the original CBS telecast.>

According to online listings, NFL Network plans to "re-broadcast" the original Super Bowl on Friday 1/15 at 8pm ET. While I have seen no press release providing any details, here is the entry on the NFLN online schedule for this 2-hour program:

"Super Bowl I Re-Broadcast Event" - NFL Films presents the first ever re-broadcast of Super Bowl I on the 50th Anniversary of the game. Featuring special guests and never before seen footage, see the game that started it all when the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL squared off against the Green Bay Packers of the NFL.

while the DirecTV program guide describes it as follows:

Super Bowl I - The Lost Game

The re-broadcast of the game that started it all on the 50th Anniversary of the game featuring Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL against the Green Bay Packers of the NFL.

Both listings incorrectly call this the "50th anniversary". 2016 actually marks the 49th anniversary of the January 15, 1967 game.

The use of the terms "re-broadcast" and "Lost Game" along with the claim of "never before seen footage" suggest that this airing might include (at least in part) the discovered tape of the original CBS telecast which was restored by the Paley Center, but which has never been available to the public. If that is indeed the case, this should be an awesome presentation, but I have seen nothing to confirm this. On the other hand, the reference to NFL Films might mean that this production will be similar to what ESPN did for the 1958 NFL Championship game back in 2008 where they intermixed film footage with modern interviews and essentially created a simulated re-broadcast.

Either way, I am surprised to see this program show up on the various guides without any press release from NFL Network. Another oddity is that as of last night, these schedules were listing this program as lasting 3 hours instead of 2.




Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 highlights - Classic TV Sports blog

The blog just completed its fourth year. For the benefit of newer readers, here is a summary of some posts that I've chosen to spotlight from 2015 (in chronological order):
  1. a review of the Al Michaels book You Can't Make This Up 
  2. details on the fascinating story of how Verne Lundquist made his CBS debut in 1982
  3. setting the record straight regarding misleading media reports which suggested that 2015 would be the first time that Dick Vitale had not been assigned to a Duke-UNC telecast on his network
  4. a chart of how many strokes CBS showed by player during the final round of the 2015 Masters (along with similar shot track summaries for the Players Championship, the US Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship)
  5. a retrospective on the innovative TV drama Hill Street Blues which also covers the sports connections from a few of the actors
  6. a 17-minute CBS Radio clip from the broadcast of Super Bowl 1
  7. some examples of an athlete/analyst from one sport who worked as TV analyst for a different sport
  8. original ABC footage of the infamous TC Chen double hit chip shot from the 1985 US Open
  9. an intriguing look back at a young Jim Nantz working as an NBA analyst (yes, analyst!) for the Utah Jazz in the 1980s
  10. video of longtime NY Mets announcer Bob Murphy calling a 1982 regional college football game on ABC
  11. an overview of the TV coverage during the early years of the MLB League Championship Series (1969-75)
  12. the history of cases where a TV network demoted its #1 play-by-play announcer for a particular sport
For more, check out the top posts from 2014, the best of 2013, and highlights from the debut year of 2012.

Thank you for reading and following. Look for more sports broadcasting history posts in 2016.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

History of #1 play-by-play announcer demotions

How often does a TV network demote its number one play-by-play announcer?

It seems inconceivable that either Joe Buck (lead play-by-play voice for Fox on baseball since 1996 and the NFL since 2002) or Jim Nantz (lead announcer on CBS for college basketball since 1991 and the NFL since 2004) will be relegated to a lower role any time soon - if ever. But it did happen to the likes of Pat Summerall and Brent Musburger against their wishes.

A few years ago, I looked at cases where a network demoted its #1 analyst. I decided to do the same thing for play-by-play announcers. Specifically, I looked at situations where CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox covered a sport using multiple announcer teams and focused on the NFL, NBA, MLB, college basketball and college football.

As before, I am defining demotion as a case where the former "A" team play-by-play announcer returns to the same network the following season on a lower tier broadcast crew.

It is quite rare for a network to demote its #1 play-by-play announcer by the above definition. Most of the time a lead announcer retires or switches networks rather than receiving or accepting a demotion. And many cases which might appear to be "demotions" actually involved special circumstances.

Here is a look at such demotions ordered by longest tenure:


Brent Musburger (15 years as lead ABC announcer on college football)

Musburger was the lead college football play-by-play voice on ABC from 1999-2013 (was essentially co-#1 from 1999-2005). In 2014, Brent was demoted from the ESPN on ABC Saturday prime time slot in favor of Chris Fowler. Musburger shifted to the #1 role on the ESPN-owned SEC Network, but he also called a bowl game on ABC (and both a regular season game and bowl game on ESPN) that season.


Chris Schenkel (8 years as lead ABC announcer on college football)

Schenkel worked the featured games on the ABC NCAA package from 1966-1973. He was demoted in 1974 for Keith Jackson. While Schenkel moved into the studio host rule, he called play-by-play on some lower tier ABC games that season. Schenkel remained on ABC handling a slate of secondary games each season through 1978.


Pat Summerall (8 years as lead Fox announcer on the NFL)

Summerall was the top NFL announcer on Fox from 1994-2001. He was demoted in 2002 for Joe Buck. Pat remained with Fox in 2002 calling lower tier regional games. He also called a handful of games in 2004, 2006, and 2007. Of course, Summerall had previously been the #1 NFL play-by-play man on CBS since midway through 1974, so if you count those years, his demotion came after 27.5 seasons in the #1 role across the two networks.


Curt Gowdy (7 years as lead NBC announcer on the NCAA Tournament)

Gowdy was the #1 announcer on the NBC coverage of the NCAA Tournament from 1969-1975 calling all of the Final Four games. In 1976, he was partially demoted to co-#1 status for the tournament when he and Dick Enberg began to split Final Four duties. NBC used them together in the booth for the 1976 and 1977 NCAA title games, but put Gowdy in the play-by-play role both years. Curt was fully demoted in 1978 when he was relegated to a host role on the championship game while Enberg received the play-by-play assignment. Gowdy moved to CBS in 1979 and never called college basketball again.


Brent Musburger (4 years as lead CBS announcer on college football)

Musburger appears again on this list. After serving as the lead play-by-play voice on CBS from 1985-1988, Brent was demoted in 1989 for Jim Nantz. Musburger remained on CBS and called some "B" team games that season before moving to ABC.


Gary Bender (3 years as lead CBS announcer on college basketball)

CBS installed Bender as the #1 play-by-play voice on its NCAA basketball package from 1981-82 through 1983-84. The network demoted him in 1984-85 in favor of Brent Musburger. Bender remained on CBS in a secondary role for 3 seasons before he moved to ABC.


Gary Bender (3 years as lead CBS announcer on college football)

Bender also served as the #1 announcer on CBS NCAA football from 1982 to 1984 (was essentially co-#1 with Lindsey Nelson in 1982). He was demoted in 1985 - again for Musburger. Bender called play-by-play on the CBS "B" team for 2 seasons before departing to ABC.


Brad Nessler (1 years as lead ABC announcer on the NBA)

Nessler filled the lead play-by-play role when ABC acquired the NBA package in 2002-03. However, ABC demoted him the following season for Al Michaels. Nessler called a few secondary games on ABC in 2003-04.


Special cases

The following situations don't meet either the letter or spirit of a demotion as defined in this post, but I will include these for completeness. For example, some announcers received a partial, but not a full demotion.


Keith Jackson (25 years as lead ABC announcer on college football)

Jackson held the #1 college football position on ABC from 1974-1998. After the 1998 season he announced a retirement, but subsequently agreed to return in 1999 calling mostly west coast games to minimize his travel. Because ABC essentially used co-#1 crews including the Jackson team and because Jackson willingly accepted the lower role and would have retired otherwise, it doesn't seem fair to consider this a demotion.


Frank Gifford (15 years as lead play-by-play man on ABC Monday Night Football)

This doesn't meet the letter of the definition I am using for demotion, but is an interesting situation. After serving in the lead play-by-play role on the ABC prime time package from 1971-1985, Gifford was demoted to analyst in 1986 in favor of Al Michaels but remained on the MNF crew through 1997. In 1998, Gifford was removed from the booth for Boomer Esiason and was further demoted to a pregame host role.


Curt Gowdy (13 years as lead NBC announcer on the AFL and NFL)

Gowdy was the #1 pro football announcer on NBC from 1965-1977. NBC partially demoted him to co-#1 status with Dick Enberg in 1978 (although Gowdy handled play-by-play for Super Bowl 13 that season). He wound up moving to CBS in 1979.


Joe Garagiola (7 years as lead NBC voice on MLB)

Garagiola called play-by-play on the featured game on the NBC Game of the Week from 1976-1982. In 1983, he was demoted in favor of Vin Scully, but shifted into an analyst role and stayed on the "A" team. Joe remained on NBC as the lead analyst through 1988.


Keith Jackson (3 years as featured ABC announcer on MLB)

Jackson held the #1 role on ABC Monday Night Baseball from 1977-1979. ABC partially demoted him to co-#1 status with Al Michaels in 1980. Jackson continued in that role through 1982. At that point, he stopped calling baseball for ABC before returning to the MLB booth in 1986.


Bob Costas (3 years as lead NBC voice on the NBA)

When NBC fired Marv Albert in 1997, the network placed Costas into the #1 play-by-play position on the NBA package from 1997-98 through 1999-2000. When NBC rehired Albert for the 2000-01 season, the network reinserted Marv in the lead role. Costas continued with NBC on NBA duty by calling lower rung playoff games for 2 seasons, but it doesn't seem right to categorize this as a demotion.


Jack Buck (half year as lead CBS announcer on the NFL)

CBS elevated Buck to the #1 NFL announcer role at the start of the 1974 season. However, Buck was demoted in the middle of the 1974 season for Pat Summerall who switched from analyst to play-by-play. Buck called regional games on CBS for the rest of the year and left the network after that season.

Monday, October 5, 2015

TV coverage for the early years of the LCS (1969-1975)

Can you imagine a baseball playoff game with no national TV coverage? This actually happened multiple times during the early years of the League Championship Series.

MLB created divisions in 1969 and added the LCS playoff round. NBC held the national TV rights to these games, but its LCS coverage in those first years left much to be desired.

At the time, the best-of-5 LCS began on a Saturday for both leagues and NBC would kick things off with an afternoon doubleheader. Then things would get interesting. On Sunday, NBC typically selected one of the baseball games for a national telecast and presented a "football/baseball" doubleheader with regional NFL action at 1 pm and an LCS game at 4. The other LCS game was relegated to a local telecast. Neither MLB nor the NFL scheduled any games for Sunday night at the time.

When both leagues played on the same weekday, the starting times overlapped by 1.5 hours. NBC would televise one game in full in the early afternoon and then join the late game in progress.

The standard practice for NBC was to send its top announcer team of Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek to the weekend games of one LCS and then shift them to the opposite league for the weekday games. Jim Simpson handled play-by-play duties for the other series from 1969-1974 with Joe Garagiola filling that role in 1975. The "B" team analysts were Sandy Koufax (1969-1972) and Maury Wills (1973-1975).

During this era, MLB typically scheduled these playoff series with no off day for travel unless one of the teams was from the west coast. And the game times were fixed in advance with no provisions for moving a start later in the day if the other series ended early.

For example, check out the NBC TV schedule for the 1972 LCS round (all times ET):

Sat 10/7, Reds @ Pirates, NLCS game 1, 1 pm, Simpson, Koufax
Sat 10/7, Tigers @ Athletics, ALCS game 1, 4 pm, Gowdy, Kubek

Sun 10/8, Tigers @ Athletics, ALCS g2, 4 pm, Gowdy, Kubek
(Note: NBC did not carry NLCS g2 which started at 1 pm and was only televised locally.)

Mon 10/9, Pirates @ Reds, NLCS game 3, 3 pm, Gowdy, Kubek

Tue 10/10, Athletics @ Tigers, ALCS game 3, 1:30 pm, Simpson, Koufax
Tue 10/10, Pirates @ Reds, NLCS game 4, (joined in progress - 3 pm first pitch), Gowdy, Kubek

Wed 10/11, Athletics @ Tigers, ALCS game 4, 1:30 pm, Simpson, Koufax
Wed 10/11, Pirates @ Reds, NLCS game 5, (joined in progress - 3 pm first pitch), Gowdy, Kubek

Thu 10/12, Athletics @ Tigers, ALCS game 5, 1:30 pm, Simpson, Koufax 

After the successful 1971 experiment to move one World Series game to prime time, MLB began scheduling all weekday World Series games at night. But for some reason, MLB continued to keep all the weekday LCS games in the afternoon. It wasn't until 1975 that MLB moved any LCS game to prime time (when it provided regional coverage of game 3 of each series on a Tuesday night).

Because of the incomplete national TV coverage, NBC allowed the participating markets to carry the LCS telecasts using local announcers. So fans in those markets would have access to each game in its entirety (and had a choice of which telecast to watch when NBC also aired the game).

In 1976, for the first time, MLB placed each LCS game into a unique national TV window and scheduled one game for prime time each day including Sunday. The practice allowing for separate LCS telecasts with local announcers continued through 1983.

Sadly, very little NBC footage survived from these early LCS years. Much of 1973 NLCS game 1 exists as well as portions of the 1972 ALCS game 2 telecast.

Here is the earliest LCS footage I have found - a few clips of Gowdy calls from the 1969 NLCS:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Shot chart from CBS Sunday PGA Championship telecast - 2015

I tracked the shots televised by CBS during the final round of the PGA Championship. On the telecast, CBS showed a total of 327 strokes from the Sunday round. CBS came on the air at 2pm ET and the final putt was holed at 7:11 resulting in an average of 1.05 strokes per minute - a decrease over the 1.16 rate from the 2014 PGA.

CBS showed every shot from winner Jason Day and all but one from runner-up Jordan Spieth (skipping only a tap-in par putt on hole 9). CBS focused most of the attention on the final two pairings. Those groupings (which produced the top four finishers) received 68% of the televised strokes. CBS showed 23 golfers playing strokes, but only six got coverage for more than 9 shots. The highest finisher not shown by CBS was Robert Streb (T10).

For comparison, here are the shot charts from the other 2015 events I tracked:
Note: The Masters post contains links to the shot charts from the 2014 majors.

Here is the complete shot chart:


PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jason Day67 (of 67)11
Jordan Spieth67 (of 68)21
Branden Grace4532
Justin Rose4242
Anirban Lahiri17T55
Dustin Johnson15T74
Martin Kaymer9T123
Rory McIlroy91710
Brendan Steele8T1215
Steve Stricker8T3026
Phil Mickelson7T1812
Bubba Watson7T2121
George Coetzee5T78
Brooks Koepka4T57
Matt Kuchar4T75
Rickie Fowler3T3020
Vijay Singh3T3728
Tony Finau2T103
Brandt Snedeker1T127
David Lingmerth1T1218
Justin Thomas1T1811
Matt Jones1T214
Jim Furyk1T3015
Robert Streb0T109
others0
total327

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy calling ABC college football in 1982

Bob Murphy is best known for his local TV and radio work for the New York Mets. Murphy was part of the original Mets broadcast crew starting in 1962 along with Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, Murphy also called some regional college football telecasts for ABC with a variety of analysts. Here is a 1982 matchup between Missouri and Nebraska with analyst Tom Gatewood joining Murphy in the booth.



I don't recall ever having the chance to see Murphy announce a football game as my area always seemed to get the primary ABC telecast on regional weeks. So it was a treat to stumble onto this video and hear that great voice once again.

Murphy did have some prior football broadcast experience as he was the radio play-by-play voice for the AFL New York Titans in 1962 and 1963 (the franchise was renamed to the Jets between those seasons). And on a few of those games from the west coast, his booth partner was Kiner.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jim Nantz working as an NBA analyst in the 1980s

Before getting his shot at the network level, Jim Nantz worked as the analyst on Utah Jazz local telecasts for a few seasons. His play-by-play partner on those games was Hot Rod Hundley.

Here is a Jazz game from March 1985 called by this tandem. The game against the Chicago Bulls was televised by KSL-TV in Salt Lake City as part of a radio simulcast. Considering that he has been one of the preeminent play-by-play voices for the past few decades, I found it intriguing to hear a young Nantz as an analyst (essentially filling the old-fashioned color commentator role).



A season later, Nantz was serving as a play-by-play announcer on some regional NBA playoff telecasts on CBS.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Shot chart from ESPN final round of Open Championship telecast - 2015

I tracked the shots shown by ESPN during the Monday round of the Open Championship. I started tracking at 9am ET and ended when the final putt was holed in regulation play at 1:50. ESPN showed 358 shots during this period which worked out to 1.23 strokes per minute - a sizable increase over the ESPN shot rate of 1.01 from the 2014 Open Championship.

This was also a higher shot rate than I tracked for CBS from the 2015 Masters and Fox from the 2015 US Open, but trailed the rate that NBC showed during the 2015 Players. The Masters post contains links to the shot charts I did for the 2014 majors.

ESPN showed only 16 golfers during the tracking period, focusing primarily on 8 players who were shown for at least 23 shots. With Jordan Spieth in contention for a third consecutive major, ESPN covered all but four strokes from his round. The highest finishers not shown during the tracking period were Justin Rose and Danny Willett who were both part of the tie for 6th place.

Note: ESPN obviously showed all 49 strokes from the playoff, but I didn't count those in the tracking in order to provide a truer comparison to other tournaments.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jordan Spieth65 (of 69)T42
Louis Oosthuizen51T21
Jason Day50T42
Marc Leishman43T23
Zach Johnson40 (*)17
Adam Scott26T106
Sergio Garcia24T64
Paul Dunne23 (#)T301
Padraig Harrington15T203
Jordan Niebrugge8T64
Ashley Chesters4T1014
Luke Donald3T1222
Anthony Wall2T1211
Hideki Matsuyama2T1812
Matt Jones1T3015
Ollie Schniederjans1T1225
others0
total358

* includes a shot from hole 2 (before the tracking period) which ESPN showed on a highlight package during the tracking period
# includes two provisional strokes televised by ESPN on hole 2

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Longest gap between games called by an announcer team

Bob Costas and Tim McCarver will almost certainly set a "record" tonight when they call the Padres-Cardinals game on MLB Network. As best as I can tell, this will mark the longest gap between games on national TV networks for the same announcer team at 33 seasons. This duo last worked together in 1982 (see note below).

So which team holds the standard they are about to break? According to my research, that would be the 25 season gap for Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery on college basketball. CBS paired them in 2015 on the #1 crew after they had last called a game together in 1990.

Here are the longest such gaps that I found (while looking at MLB, NFL, NBA, CBB, and CFB on national TV networks):

33: Bob Costas, Tim McCarver  1982 (NBC) - 2015 (MLBN)

Note: A recent MLBN press release claims that Bob and Tim last worked together in 1980 calling two games on NBC that season. However the SABR network TV database (which is based on the historical announcer research at 506sports.com) credits Costas and McCarver with working one game in 1980 and one in 1982. For the purposes of this post, I am trusting the info from SABR/506sports and suspect that the MLBN press release is incorrect.

25: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery  1989-90 (CBS) - 2014-15 (CBS)

This gap is even more remarkable when you consider that both Nantz and Raftery worked for CBS during the entire time period.

23: Jim Simpson, Bill Raftery  1981-82 (ESPN) - 2004-05 (ESPNCL)

In 2005, ESPN Classic aired a series of Turn Back the Clock games with vintage graphics and brought back Jim Simpson (who had been a mainstay in the early ESPN years) to call the games. As far as I know, the last time Simpson worked with Raftery was this 1982 Big East matchup (although I don't have complete ESPN announcer listings for the 1980s).

19: Dick Enberg, Billy Packer, Al McGuire  1980-81 (NBC) - 1999-00 (CBS)

This is the longest gap I found for an announcer trio. After working on NBC through the 1981 NCAA Tournament, 19 seasons elapsed before CBS put them in the booth for a reunion game in 2000. Of course, Enberg and McGuire called many games as a duo during this gap.

17: Bob Costas, Bob Uecker  1997 (NBC) - 2014 (MLBN)

MLBN has added intrigue to its telecasts in recent seasons by using some old-school broadcasters. Bob Uecker had last worked with Costas during the 1997 postseason.

15: Dick Stockton, Matt Millen 2000 (Fox) - 2015 (Fox)
13: Curt Gowdy, Al DeRogatis  1975 (NBC) - 1988 (NBC)
10: Curt Gowdy, Merlin Olsen  1978 (NBC) - 1988 (NBC)

<UPDATE 1/22/2016 - Added the Stockon-Millen gap.>

Dick Stockon and Matt Millen were reunited in the Fox NFL booth for a 2015 game after having last worked together on a playoff game after the 2000 season.

During the 1988 Summer Olympics, NBC brought back some legendary announcers to fill in on September and October NFL games while much of its regular talent roster was at the Seoul games. This reunited Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis for a few games 13 seasons after they last worked together which was the longest NFL gap I found.

Note: This is not the easiest topic to research, so if you know of any announcer team gaps spanning at least 10 seasons which are missing from this list, please let me know.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Shot chart from Fox Sunday US Open telecast - 2015

I tracked the shots televised by Fox during the final round of the US Open. With the leaders teeing off at 6pm ET, I chose to start the tracking at 5:30 to provide a similar timeframe to the other events I have monitored.

Fox showed 341 strokes during the tracking period. The final putt dropped at 10:18 so this worked out to 1.18 strokes per minute which was an increase over the 1.12 shown by NBC during the 2014 US Open. The shot rate matched that of the 2015 Masters on CBS, but trailed the 1.33 by NBC for the 2015 Players. (Note: The Masters post contains links to the shot charts from the 2014 majors).

Fox showed all but one shot from Dustin Johnson, skipping only a layup shot on the 8th hole. Fox focused extensively on the final two pairings, devoting 69% of its televised strokes to those four players. Fox showed just 19 golfers playing strokes and only seven players got coverage for at least 10 shots. The highest finisher not shown during the period was Kevin Kisner (T12).

Also notable: Fox went commercial-free for 68 minutes starting at 9:14.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Dustin Johnson69 (of 70)T21
Jason Day59T91
Jordan Spieth5612
Branden Grace52T42
Rory McIlroy27T915
Brandt Snedeker2085
Louis Oosthuizen16T23
Adam Scott9T411
Cameron Smith8T43
JB Holmes5T274
Shane Lowry4T94
Sergio Garcia3T1818
Henrik Stenson3T276
Charl Schwartzel278
Matt Kuchar2T128
John Senden2T1415
Brooks Koepka2T1813
Patrick Reed1T147
Colin Montgomerie1T6423
Kevin Kisner0T129
others0
total341

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Original ABC footage of TC Chen double hit in 1985 US Open

Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most infamous shots in golf history, the double hit by TC Chen during the 1985 US Open. The relatively unknown Chen held a 4-stroke lead playing the 5th hole of the final round, but his disastrous chip shot contributed to a quadruple bogey 8, dropping him into a tie for the lead. Chen would finish tied for 2nd just one stroke back.

Here is the original ABC telecast of that shot. Peter Alliss was on the call with additional commentary from USGA executive Frank Hannigan who ABC used for rules questions.



One surprising aspect from this footage is that Alliss continues to harp on whether Chen may have hit the ball three times instead of two, implying that such a distinction would have been relevant. But Rule 14-4 calls for a single penalty stroke whenever the club hits the ball more than once during a stroke. You would think that Alliss, a former golf pro, would have a better grasp of the rules.

If you listen carefully, at the 10:10 mark on the clip, you can hear a producer tell Alliss to ask Hannigan about whose decision the penalty would be. You can hear other such instructions at the 10:55 and 11:32 marks.

During this segment, ABC showed only two replays of the Chen shot, both from the original camera angle. Obviously, a similar incident on a modern tournament would result in several replays from multiple angles.

The entire Sunday round is on the same YouTube channel in 15 segments. Other ABC announcers on this event included Jim McKay, Dave Marr, Jack Whitaker, Bob Rosburg, Ed Sneed, and Judy Rankin.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Shot chart from NBC Sunday Players Championship telecast - 2015

I tracked the televised strokes by player during the NBC airing of the final round of the Players Championship. NBC showed 382 regulation strokes from the Sunday round. The telecast began at 2pm ET and regulation play ended at 6:48, so this worked out to 1.33 strokes per minute - the highest average of the six events I have tracked.

Note: NBC obviously televised all 39 shots from the playoff, but I did not count these in the table so as to provide a truer comparison to the tracking for other tournaments.

With a crowded leaderboard, NBC spread the wealth as eight golfers received coverage of at least 20 shots (and 10 players were shown for at least 10 strokes). Sergio Garcia who led the event for much of the afternoon was on the air for 54 strokes. NBC devoted 62% of the televised shots to the final three pairings. However, eventual winner Rickie Fowler, who started in the 8th pairing and was well back in the pack until late in his round, was only shown for 12 strokes prior to the playoff. Nine players in the field were featured more frequently.

NBC showed a total of 34 golfers (including a five-stroke taped package of Tiger Woods who had finished before the network took the air). Everyone who finished higher than T17 was shown for at least one shot.

For comparison, see the Sunday shot chart I compiled from the 2015 Masters (note: that post contains links to the charts from the 2014 majors).

Here is the complete shot chart (from regulation play):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Sergio Garcia54T23
Kevin Kisner49T21
Bill Haas38T42
Ben Martin34T42
Justin Thomas34T243
Chris Kirk28T131
Rory McIlroy22T812
Kevin Na21T65
Brian Harmon15T812
Rickie Fowler1218
Bubba Watson9T4210
Rory Sabbatini7T611
Billy Horschel7T137
John Senden5T89
David Toms5T1316
Tiger Woods5T6935
Jamie Donaldson4T821
Adam Scott4T3810
Zach Johnson3T1313
Derek Fathauer3T178
Ian Poulter3T3011
Martin Kaymer3T5118
Pat Perez2T176
Chesson Hadley2T246
Charley Hoffman2T3019
Sangmoon Bae2T3023
Charles Howell III2T5615
Ryo Ishikawa1T87
Jerry Kelly1T175
Scott Brown1T304
Steve Stricker1T3820
Fredrik Jacobson1T4223
Matt Every1T4224
Luke Guthrie1T5116
others0
total382

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Athlete/analyst from one sport who worked as a TV analyst in a different sport

Traditionally, the role of a sports TV game analyst is a former player or coach from the same sport. Here is a summary of athletes who played professionally (or at the major collegiate level) in one sport and worked as a TV analyst in that sport, but also worked as an analyst on a national TV network in a different sport.

Note: Several ex-athletes have become play-by-play announcers, hosts, or sideline reporters in another sport, but this post focuses on the unusual case of "crossover" game analysts.

Basketball

  • CBS used Frank Gifford (football) as an analyst on the college basketball NIT in the 1960s.
  • Pat Summerall (football) served as the CBS analyst on some ABA games in the early 1970s as well as on the NIT.
  • Sonny Jurgensen (football) was the CBS analyst on some 1976 NBA playoff games.

Football

  • Kyle Rote Jr (soccer) worked as a college football analyst for the USA Network in the 1980s.
  • Steve Grote (college basketball) analyzed some college football games for CBS in 1983.
  • Irv Brown (college basketball player and referee) worked as an analyst on some college football games for ESPN.
  • While this is stretching the definition of "athlete", I will note that NBC used professional "wrestlers" Jesse "The Body" Ventura and Jerry "The King" Lawler as XFL analysts in 2001.

Baseball

  • NBC added Don Meredith (football) as a guest commentator to the TV booth for one Monday Night Baseball game in 1974.
  • Jay Walker (football) worked as an ESPN analyst for some College World Series regionals.

Boxing


Olympics

  • Both ABC (1976) and NBC (1992) used OJ Simpson (football) as a track and field analyst on sprint events. 
  • Phil Simms (football) served as the NBC weightlifting analyst for the 1996 games.  

Soccer

  • TNT utilized Mick Luckhurst (football) as an analyst on the 1990 World Cup.

Golf

Golf is a bit trickier as the line between play-by-play and analyst is less clear-cut. But here are some athlete/analysts from other sports who also worked in the golf TV booth:

  • Tony Trabert (tennis)
  • Don Sutton (baseball)
  • Rick Barry (basketball)
  • Terry Gannon (college basketball)
  • Bob Trumpy (football)
  • Pat Haden (football)
  • John Brodie (football) 
  • the aforementioned Gifford and Summerall

Note: Brodie did compete on the Senior PGA Tour, but since he called golf on TV prior to that stint, I included him on the list.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Shot chart from CBS Sunday Masters telecast - 2015

I tracked the number of strokes CBS showed for each player during the telecast of the final round of the Masters. CBS showed 348 strokes played from the Sunday round. The telecast began at 2pm ET and the final putt was holed at 6:54, resulting in 1.18 strokes per minute - the same average as when I performed similar shot tracking for the 2014 Masters.

CBS showed all but one stroke of winner Jordan Spieth, skipping only a tap-in on hole 6. CBS bypassed just two tap-ins for Justin Rose and showed all but eight shots by Phil Mickelson. 57% of the televised strokes came from these three players as nobody else was really in contention for the Green Jacket.

The network went a bit overboard on Tiger Woods showing 35 strokes. Overall, CBS focused primarily on the final three pairings (81% of the televised strokes) with only Dustin Johnson getting any significant coverage from the rest of the field.

The highest finishers who were not shown were Kevin Na, Bill Haas, and Ryan Moore who were part of the tie for 12th. CBS showed a total of 23 golfers, but only seven players appeared for more than eight strokes.

For comparison, here are the Sunday shot charts I compiled from the other 2014 majors:
Here is the complete shot chart (including the highest finishers not shown on the telecast):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jordan Spieth69 (of 70)11
Justin Rose68 (of 70)T21
Phil Mickelson61 (of 69)T22
Tiger Woods35T173
Rory McIlroy3443
Dustin Johnson21T65
Charley Hoffman15T92
Zach Johnson8T97
Bubba Watson5T3814
Hideki Matsuyama455
Ian Poulter4T66
Rickie Fowler4T1213
Keegan Bradley4T2222
Mark O'Meara3T2223
Adam Scott3T3815
Paul Casey2T66
Lee Westwood2T4615
Hunter Mahan1T99
Kevin Streelman1T124
Sergio Garcia1T1710
Ernie Els1T2212
Steve Stricker1T2823
Sangmoon Bae1T3318
Kevin Na0T124
Bill Haas0T129
Ryan Moore0T1210
others0
total348

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Monday, March 30, 2015

NFLN to debut 5 new episodes on historic NFL drafts

One of the best aspects of NFL Network is its focus on documentaries. Last year, the network launched a fascinating series Caught in the Draft which spotlighted the 1964 draft on the 50th anniversary and followed up with episodes covering the 1974, 1984, 1994, and 2004 drafts. This week marks the return of that concept as NFLN will profile the drafts for each year ending in "5" from 1965-2005.

The new season debuts on Thursday April 2 at 9 pm ET with an episode on the 1965 draft and the intriguing battle between the NFL and AFL for new talent. The series continues with new episodes in that same timeslot for five consecutive weeks with several replays scheduled. Leading into the season premiere, NFLN will re-air the 1964 episode on 4/2 at 8 pm ET and that pattern will continue each week which is great news for anyone who missed any of the showings from last year.

This promises to be another excellent series produced by NFL Films. Check out the trailer for the 1965 episode.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

CBS radio broadcast clip from Super Bowl 1

Here is a portion of the CBS radio broadcast of Super Bowl 1 between the Packers and Chiefs, courtesy of RadioTapes.com. The clip of about 17 minutes was recorded by WCCO-AM in Minneapolis. It mostly covers the pregame, but also contains a few plays of game action along with a postgame recap.

The announcers are Jack Drees and Tom Hedrick. During the clip, Hedrick refers to the game as the "Super Bowl", mentions the pointspread, and tries to rationalize the fact that there were numerous empty seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum that day.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A look at the innovative Hill Street Blues

In January 1981, Hill Street Blues debuted on NBC and quickly became college dorm appointment viewing among my circle of friends. Set in an unnamed large city, the series focused on the police squad of the Hill Street precinct. Despite poor ratings the first season, the series received positive reviews, won several Emmy Awards and was renewed. It lasted for 146 episodes through May 1987. In 2014, the complete DVD set became available.

The style of Hill Street Blues was vastly different from the police shows of the time. The series used multiple storylines, several of which carried over to subsequent episodes. Many scenes featured background voices and other noises. Sometimes you had to really concentrate to follow the main dialogue though all the commotion. The show filmed action from non-traditional locations such as the men's bathroom at the station. Some scenes were dimly lit. Producers used many closeup shots from handheld cameras and often rapidly switched between camera angles. These techniques provided a more realistic feel, gave a sense of the chaos on inner city streets, and helped depict the dangers faced by the men and women in blue.

In contrast to a typical show of this genre which would focus on one lead detective and a sidekick, Hill Street Blues featured a large array of main characters. This opening credits sequence from 1985 showcases a whopping 16 names:



The innovative series was created by Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll. In this interview, Bochco discusses various aspects of the show including the parallel storyline concept, casting decisions, and the pilot episode. He also talks about another iconic feature - the awesome piano theme music written by Mike Post.



Hill Street Blues covered topics such as police misconduct, racial tension, office politics, and ethical quandaries. The show also spotlighted the personal lives of the squad members and masterfully developed these characters over time. Many themes focused on personal demons - alcoholism, gambling, infidelity, depression.

Each episode would start in the morning and cover a single day. The show opened with the morning roll call which was conducted in the early seasons by Sergeant Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad). Esterhaus would speak in a distinctive slow-paced voice interspersed with eloquent language. He would always conclude with a version of his signature phrase "Let's be careful out there!".

Daniel J. Travanti played Captain Frank Furillo who exhibited a calm demeanor in dealing with each crisis that arose. A primary story line in season 1 was his intimate relationship (secret at the time) with public defender Joyce Davenport (Veronica Hamel). They formed an intriguing couple as their respective jobs sometimes pitted them as adversaries. Another interesting dynamic was how Frank was constantly juggling interruptions from his ex-wife Fay played by Barbara Bosson.

The show illuminated the bonds between regular police partners. I liked the chemistry of the Bobby Hill pairing with Andy Renko. Similarly, I was fond of the tandem of Joe Coffey and the strong female character Lucy Bates. Ironically, the initial pilot script called for Hill and Renko to die during a shooting, and the original intent was to kill off Coffey after a few episodes. Fortunately, plans changed allowing these excellent on-screen partnerships to flourish during the run. (Coffey was killed off during a shooting in season 6 and the impact on Bates was a key plot element).

Two of its actors had a major sports background. Mike Warren (who portrayed Hill) played basketball at UCLA and was a starting guard on the 1967 and 1968 national championship squads. Ed Marinaro (who played Coffey) was a running back at Cornell and finished second in the 1971 Heisman Trophy voting before playing parts of six seasons in the NFL.

Several episodes spotlighted the rather friendly working relationship between police officers and gangs. One aspect I found fascinating was the negotiations between police and gang leaders over terms such as turf boundaries. One gang leader was played by David Caruso who later served in the lead role in the Bochco series NYPD Blue. One episode featured a benefit basketball game between police and gang members which gave Warren a chance to show off his talent on the court.

The series used a lot of slang and pushed some boundaries with language - for example, many subtle sexual references and allusions to other bodily functions. The show also featured some quirky characters - most notably detective Mick Belker (who often referred to suspects as "Hairball" or "Dogbreath") and aggressive SWAT team leader Howard Hunter.

I'll timestamp a few things of note from this episode from the initial season:


  • 0:00 - morning roll call
  • 2:35 - scene in the station house men's room (involving Hunter of course)
  • 3:16 - a "Judas Priest!" exclamation from Hunter (and another at 4:25)
  • 6:30 - start of an action scene with dim lighting involving JD LaRue and Neal Washington
  • 10:00 - LaRue accepts a bribe
  • 12:14 - Henry Goldblume and Furillo negotiate with gang leaders (Caruso's character appears at 12:25)
  • 15:07 -  during a booking, Belker growls twice, types with one finger, and fields a phone call from his mother
  • 20:37 - Hill and Renko investigate a disturbance  
  • 26:34 - Furillo gets advice from Davenport
  • 30:10 - action scene with Hill and Renko
  • 35:05 - a demonstration of Furillo's leadership style
  • 38:40 - LaRue gets framed
  • 39:34 - Furillo/Davenport bubble bath scene
  • 42:40 - Frank deals with the latest situation involving Fay

Hill Street Blues was cleverly written and brilliantly casted. It was entertaining, educational, intense, and downright hilarious at times. Above all, it was riveting and drew me to subsequent Bochco series such as LA Law and NYPD Blue (and even the short-lived Bay City Blues).

This post is part of a Classic TV Detectives Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Please check out the complete schedule of blog posts for this event.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The misleading reports about Dick Vitale and Duke-UNC assignments

There has been a lot of media attention on the fact that ESPN did not assign Dick Vitale to this week's UNC-Duke game. Several reports have claimed that Vitale has called every UNC-Duke game that has ever aired on the network, giving the impression that he has never failed to receive that assignment. At best, these reports are very misleading.

First of all, the implication that Vitale's employer has assigned him to every available UNC-Duke game since 1979 is simply wrong. In 1993, ABC (which used some ESPN announcers including Vitale) televised Duke-UNC on March 7 and assigned Brent Musburger and Jim Valvano to the game.



That same afternoon, ABC assigned Vitale to the Kentucky-Florida matchup with Roger Twibell.



The same thing happened on 3/8/1992 when ABC used Musburger and Valvano on UNC-Duke and sent Twibell and Vitale to Missouri-Kansas. So for two consecutive years, Vitale was assigned to another game while his network was televising the famed ACC rivalry on the same day.

For completeness, the January 18, 1986 Duke-UNC game was on ESPN but did not include Vitale as ESPN picked up the ACC Raycom production and delivered it nationally (announcers were Marty Brennaman and Billy Cunningham).

Also, Vitale did not call the quarterfinal game between these schools in the 2002 ACC Tournament. Brad Daugherty was the analyst that evening on ESPN2 while Vitale called the afternoon session that day.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The bizarre story behind the 1982 CBS debut of Verne Lundquist

Can you imagine a broadcaster under contract to one network appearing on the air for another network without permission and thinking that nobody would find out? Believe it or not, this scenario actually played out in 1982.

First some background ... In 1981-82, CBS, after acquiring the rights to the NCAA Tournament, added a schedule of regular season college basketball games. Leading up to March, the network had used only two broadcast crews. With the NCAA Tournament upcoming, CBS needed some additional announcers to handle the first weekend of the event across eight sites.

On Selection Sunday 3/7/1982, CBS televised two regional games, but rather than using its main announcer team of Gary Bender and Billy Packer on a game, CBS sent them to Kansas City for the Selection Show. The network assigned its #2 crew of Frank Glieber and Steve Grote to Memphis for the Metro Conference title game which went to most of the country. So CBS needed another broadcast team for its other regional game that day, UNLV at South Carolina.

CBS approached Verne Lundquist about doing play-by-play for that game and possibly the NCAA Tournament. Lundquist who was still under contract to ABC and was working for the ABC affiliate in Dallas agreed to call the game for CBS. But Verne never told anyone at his currently employer or requested permission. He felt confident that nobody of importance would even find out because CBS was only sending that game to six small markets.

As it turned out, the game in Memphis game ended early and CBS decided to send the entire network to the conclusion of the game Verne was calling, thus exposing his presence on CBS to a national audience.

While the idea that Verne could keep such a secret from his boss sounds preposterous, keep in mind that this game took place before the launch of USA Today and the national sports media column by Rudy Martzke. And if the primary game hadn't ended early, perhaps Verne would have successfully pulled it off.

Several years ago, I saw this story posted on a message board by someone who claimed to hear it on the Denver radio show of Irv Brown who was the analyst with Verne on that 1982 afternoon. At the time, I was somewhat skeptical of this tale because I was unable to find any mention of it elsewhere. But Verne told the same story to the Sports Business Journal where he also mentioned getting a call the next morning from a newspaper media critic about his appearance on CBS.

CBS wound up using Verne on the first weekend of the 1982 NCAA Tournament as well. But that created another twist as the ABC affiliate in Dallas which employed Lundquist granted him permission to work that event for CBS on the condition that his games would not be slated for regional coverage in Dallas. So this complicated the assignments of announcers to sites until CBS was able to identify what site of games it wanted to televise in Dallas before it could slot Verne.

Soon afterwards, Lundquist moved full-time to CBS.