Thursday, January 10, 2019

Unusual Fox announcer assignment for NFL playoffs (not seen since 1980)

The network which has the late Sunday afternoon window on NFL Divisional Playoff weekend almost always sends its #1 announcer crew to that game. This time slot traditionally obtains the highest ratings of any NFL playoff weekend and networks typically assign their top broadcast team to the game expected to draw the best TV rating.

However, this weekend, Fox has the late Sunday slot (Eagles-Saints), but is not using its #1 team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on that game. Instead, Fox is sending its #2 announcer team of Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis to New Orleans. Fox is using Buck and Aikman on the Saturday prime time Cowboys-Rams game despite the fact that Eagles-Saints will almost certainly garner a much higher rating due to its favorable time slot.

The last time a network which had the late Sunday afternoon window chose to send its top announcers to a different divisional playoff game was during the 1980 playoffs when CBS sent its #1 team of Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier to call the early Saturday Vikings-Eagles game and assigned the #2 crew of Vin Scully and George Allen to the late Sunday Cowboys-Falcons matchup.

So the Fox announcer assignments for this weekend represent a situation that hasn't happened in 38 years - and has only occurred three previous times since the 1970 merger.

Here is a summary of the rare cases where a network which had the late Sunday divisional playoff window sent its #1 announcer crew to a different game (all years refer to the NFL season, even when the playoff games were played in January):

2018 - Fox - described above

1980 - CBS - described above

1978 - CBS - #1 team of Summerall and Brookshier called Falcons-Cowboys (late Saturday)
                         #2 team of Scully, Allen, and Jim Brown called Vikings-Rams (late Sunday)

1972 - NBC - #1 team of Curt Gowdy and Al Derogatis called Raiders-Steelers "immaculate reception" (early Saturday)
                          #2 team of Jim Simpson and Kyle Rote called Browns-Dolphins (late Sunday)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Shot chart from NBC Sunday Open Championship telecast - 2018

I monitored the strokes televised by NBC during the final round of the Open Championship. I started tracking at 9am ET to provide a comparable time period to the other majors I have tracked. NBC televised 383 strokes during the tracking period. This total includes 30 shots that NBC aired as part of its Playing Through feature during 10 of the commercial breaks. With the final putt dropping at 1:57pm, the rate worked out to 1.29 strokes per minute.

NBC showed strokes from 21 different players during the tracking period with seven golfers being covered for at least 22 strokes. Those seven accounted for 84% of the televised shots. NBC televised 45 strokes from winner Francesco Molinari which was only the fourth highest total. NBC devoted air time to 65 strokes from Tiger Woods and spotlighted the final pairing of Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele for 58 and 55 shots respectively. The highest finishers not shown during this period were three of the players who were part of a tie for 12th.

I also recorded the number of televised strokes by hole during the tracking period. The 18th was featured most frequently (39 strokes) followed by hole #1 (35 shots). On the other extreme, the 9th hole received only nine televised shots.

This is the fifth year that I have compiled these televised shot charts. For comparison to prior majors, see this summary table which contains links to all such shot charts since 2014.

Here is the complete shot chart (including the highest finishers not shown during the tracking period) followed by the hole-by-hole breakdown:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Tiger Woods65 (of 71)T63
Jordan Spieth58T91
Xander Schauffele55T21
Francesco Molinari4513
Kevin Kisner40T22
Rory McIlroy35T25
Kevin Chappell22T62
Tommy Fleetwood10T126
Justin Rose9T27
Matt Kuchar7T95
Phil Mickelson7T2419
Eddie Pepperell5T619
Tony Finau4T99
Webb Simpson4T124
Alex Noren4T174
Zach Johnson4T176
Erik Van Rooyen4T1710
Jason Day2T1727
Bernhard Langer1T2418
Julian Suri1T2823
Sean Crocker1T4715

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

Hole numberTelevised shots

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Shot chart from Fox Sunday US Open telecast - 2018

I tracked the shots televised by Fox during the Sunday round of the US Open. The final pairing teed off at 2:24pm ET, so I started the tracking at 2:00 to provide a fair comparison to the other majors I have monitored.

Fox showed 345 shots during the tracking period. Play concluded at 6:39 which worked out to a rate of 1.24 strokes per minute. This was down from the 1.30 shown by Fox during the 2017 US Open.

Fox showed 65 strokes from Dustin Johnson and 64 by winner Brooks Koepka. Patrick Reed was featured for 58 strokes. The final pairing of Tony Finau and Daniel Berger checked in at 44 and 29 respectively. Runner-up Tommy Fleetwood (who was already on the 10th hole when the tracking period started) was covered for 25. Fox showed only 18 golfers playing strokes during this period with eight players getting coverage for at least 12 shots. The highest finisher not shown during the period was Zach Johnson who tied for 12th.

A few notes on the TV coverage:

  • Fox went commercial-free for the final 52 minutes of play.
  • I noticed two different occasions when the Fox on-screen scoreboard gave away a result of a shot that Fox was about to show. With D Johnson facing a rather short par putt on 7, Fox cut to show Fleetwood at 18. While there, the on-screen leaderboard updated to show Johnson dropping a shot on 7 and sliding down the board. Then Fox cut back to 7 and aired Johnson missing the putt. Similarly, Fox showed Fitzpatrick's approach to 18, but before it went back there to televise his birdie putt, the on-screen scroll showed Fitzpatrick's final score, again giving away the result.
  • When D Johnson was hitting a layup shot on 16, Fox was showing Koepka standing in the fairway. You could hear the club strike the ball and then a camera picked up the ball and showed it land. I chose to count this as a televised stroke.

I also tracked the number of televised strokes by hole during the tracking period. The 18th was featured the most (39 strokes) by a wide margin. Hole 7 received the fewest televised shots (12).

This is the fifth year that I have compiled these televised shot charts. For comparison to prior majors, see this summary table which contains links to all shot charts since 2014.

Here is the complete shot chart (including the highest finisher not shown during the tracking period) followed by the hole-by-hole breakdown:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Dustin Johnson65 (of 70)32
Brooks Koepka64 (of 68)12
Patrick Reed5844
Tony Finau4451
Daniel Berger29T61
Tommy Fleetwood25214
Justin Rose20T103
Henrik Stenson12T63
Matthew Fitzpatrick9T1211
Webb Simpson6T109
Kiradech Aphinbarnrat3154
Xander Schauffele3T610
Matt Parziale2T4818
Tyrell Hatton1T66
Russell Knox1T1213
Brian Gay1T205
Ian Poulter1T257
Luis Gagne1T4823
Zach Johnson0T129

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

Hole numberTelevised shots

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Shot chart from CBS Sunday Masters telecast - 2018

I tracked the number of strokes that CBS aired per player during the Sunday round of the Masters. The telecast began at 2pm ET and I counted a total of 387 televised strokes. The final putt dropped at 6:38 which worked out to an average of 1.39 strokes per minute, a slight decrease over the rate from the 2017 Masters, but still the second highest of all major tournaments I have tracked since 2014.

CBS covered all 71 strokes from winner Patrick Reed. Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy were spotlighted for 58 shots each. Runner-up Rickie Fowler and third place finisher Jordan Spieth also received significant coverage. Overall those five players accounted for over 74% of the televised shots. Early in the telecast, CBS went overboard on the well out-of-contention Tiger Woods who was shown for 18 strokes (two of which were taped highlights from prior to airtime) which wound up being the sixth most of any player. CBS also included a 3-stroke highlight package of Phil Mickelson who had already completed his round.

The highest finisher not shown by CBS was Marc Leishman who wound up 9th (after being featured prominently on Saturday). CBS televised strokes from just 22 players during the Sunday round.

I also tracked the number of televised strokes by hole. The 18th was featured the most (36 strokes). I was a bit surprised at a few other results from this tracking. Hole #1 was seen second most often (29 strokes). And the iconic par-3 12th received the fewest televised stokes as CBS only showed 10 shots from that hole.

This is the fifth year that I have compiled these televised shot charts. For comparison to prior majors, see this summary table which contains links to all shot charts since 2014.

Here is the complete shot chart (including the highest finisher not shown on the telecast) followed by the hole-by-hole breakdown:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Patrick Reed71 (of 71)11
Jon Rahm5842
Rory McIlroy58T51
Rickie Fowler5422
Jordan Spieth4835
Tiger Woods18T3220
Henrik Stenson17T53
Paul Casey17T1515
Justin Thomas11T175
Bubba Watson8T54
Webb Simpson5T2018
Cameron Smith4T56
Dustin Johnson4T106
Tony Finau3T1010
Phil Mickelson3T3625
Fred Couples2T3819
Justin Rose1T127
Charley Hoffman1T1210
Jimmy Walker 1T209
Jason Day1T208
Branden Grace1T2421
Doug Ghim1T5024
Marc Leishman094

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

Hole numberTelevised shots

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Howard Cosell - Black Hat in the Booth

If you are searching for a villain in the world of sports TV broadcasting, one figure jumps quickly to mind. That would be the man who wrote the following in his 1973 self-titled autobiography:
Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a show-off. I have been called all of these. Of course, I am.
The writer was none other than Howard Cosell.

When ABC launched the Monday Night Football package in 1970, executive producer Roone Arledge unveiled a unique three-man booth. Arledge inserted Cosell into the mix to supplement the traditional roles of a play-by-announcer (Keith Jackson) and analyst (Don Meredith). And the pivotal member of that commentary team was clearly Cosell.

Meredith, who was new to broadcasting, was so apprehensive as the season opener approached that he considered backing out of his contract to call the games. Cosell told Meredith: You'll wear the white hat, I'll wear the black hat. By casting himself in such a role and exhibiting all of the characteristics he outlined in the above book quote, Cosell turned Meredith into a hero to viewers who loved the way that Dandy Don would needle Humble Howard. Ratings surged as fans were drawn to the weekly banter between Meredith and Cosell. Meredith even earned an Emmy Award from that first season.

After the first game, Cosell became a villain in the minds of advertisers, most notably Henry Ford II of the Ford Motor Company who felt that Cosell detracted from his enjoyment of the telecast. He threatened to withdraw the Ford sponsorship of the prime time series unless ABC removed Cosell from the booth. After early season ratings proved stronger than expected, Ford backed off from the threat and Cosell remained a prominent member of the ABC NFL package for its first 14 years.

A key feature of this prime-time series was the halftime highlights segment which was narrated by Cosell. ABC would show select plays from subset of the Sunday games using NFL Films footage. Here, Cosell became the villain to many fans who would blame him if their favorite team wasn't shown on the highlight package. A bar in Denver actually conducted a weekly drawing with the winner getting to throw a brick at an old black & white TV when Cosell appeared on the screen.

Cosell always seemed to relish his role as the announcer that viewers loved to hate. He took the same approach in the way he portrayed himself in movies and guest appearances on sitcoms such as The Odd Couple.

In 1978, TV Guide conducted a survey to determine which TV sports announcers were the most liked and least liked by viewers. Cosell famously finished first in both categories! Of course, in the polling for least liked, the margin was overwhelming.

Cosell surfaced as a prominent villain in other sports as well. ABC acquired Major League Baseball rights in 1976, but suffered disappointing ratings for its first season of Monday Night Baseball and received poor reviews for its initial lead announcer team. As the postseason approached, the network performed a major overhaul of its broadcasters and unveiled plans to install Cosell for the ALCS. MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn strongly objected because of comments by Cosell in recent years about how dull baseball had become. But Arledge held the trump card as the contract he had signed with MLB gave ABC the final say over announcers. So Cosell worked the playoffs and became a regular member of Monday Night Baseball the next season.

When ABC first bid for the TV rights to the 1976 Summer Olympics, the Montreal Olympic Committee tried to make the bid conditional on ABC not using Cosell on the telecasts. Again, Arledge won out as ABC got the rights and Cosell was ringside at the boxing venue.

Cosell called most of the key boxing matches on ABC during the 1970s. In 1982, he was at the mic for the Larry Holmes title fight against Randall "Tex" Cobb. The bout was extremely one-sided and Cosell, via his on-air commentary, implored the referee to stop the fight and expressed disgust that the match was allowed to go the distance.

Soon afterwards, Cosell declared that he was done with professional boxing and called for its abolition. Of course, he was lambasted by many in the press who viewed his stance as hypocritical since boxing was the sport where he first rose to prominence in the 1960s. He never worked another pro fight (although he did call amateur bouts during the 1984 Olympics).

Being a villain to the print media was nothing new for Cosell. He had a longstanding feud with sportswriter Dick Young of the New York Daily News who frequently attacked Cosell in his columns. He was also harshly criticized by Sports Illustrated for an interview he conducted with USA track coach Stan Wright during the 1972 Munich Olympics after a time schedule foulup caused two top USA sprinters to be disqualified.

In 1983, Cosell became a villain to the press once again when he used the phrase "little monkey" while praising Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett during a MNF telecast - which some perceived as racist. Later in that game, Cosell made the situation worse by issuing an on-air denial that he had used such a term. Despite the fact that Cosell had been a longtime supporter of civil rights, he was the subject of countless negative newspaper headlines over this incident.

Cosell was notorious for consuming alcohol before and during his telecasts. He famously left a Monday Night Football  telecast mid-game in Philadephia in 1970 after being drunk on the air and vomiting on Meredith's boots. His heavy drinking during the 1984 baseball playoffs also caused a major rift with Al Michaels.

Cosell became the villain yet again, this time to his entire industry, with the publication of I Never Played The Game in 1985. In the book, he blasted several of his former TV colleagues including Frank Gifford, OJ Simpson, and Meredith. Less than two weeks before the start of the 1985 World Series, ABC removed Cosell from its planned Fall Classic telecast team.

Also, in that book, Cosell wrote that in 1984, he received a call from Vince McMahon, chairman of the World Wrestling Federation. It turned out that McMahon wanted to hire Cosell to be the primary announcer for WWF wrestling telecasts. Cosell turned him down, but I find it intriguing to envision Cosell (the ultimate villain announcer) calling staged matches for McMahon's company at a time when professional wrestling was about to boom in popularity. McMahon went on to successfully feature many villain announcers of his own such as Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

Howard Cosell was an absolute giant in the sportscasting industry. He dominated virtually any telecast in which he appeared and had the ability to elevate the perceived importance of each event. But, throughout his career, Cosell was seen as a villain by numerous entities - viewers, advertisers, league commissioners, sportswriters, and broadcasting colleagues - a true black hat in the booth.

This post is part of a Classic TV Villain Blogathon hosted by Classic Film and TV Cafe. Please check out the complete schedule of blog posts for this event.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The myth about the Fair Hooker comment attributed to Don Meredith

In 1970, ABC introduced Monday Night Football and placed the colorful Don Meredith in the booth alongside Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell. Meredith became known for his irreverent style and classic one-liners. Perhaps the most famous quote attributed to Meredith took place in the debut regular season edition of this prime time series. Late in the second quarter of that telecast, Meredith commented about the intriguing name of Browns wide receiver Fair Hooker. According to a frequently cited legend, Dandy Don uttered a follow-up remark along the lines of "I haven't met one yet."

I've long wondered how this commentary sounded on-air (more on that later). First, let's take a look at several versions of this tale which have appeared in print.

Meredith died in 2010 and his obituary in the New York Times contained this statement:

Mr. Meredith offered a taste of his breezy, even risqué, humor in that first broadcast. In talking about the Cleveland Browns receiver Fair Hooker, Mr. Meredith said, “Fair Hooker — I haven’t met one yet.”

Upon Meredith's passing, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recounted the story this way:

Perhaps the greatest line of them all came in the first Monday night game between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland receiver Fair Hooker had just caught a pass, which really got Meredith going.
"Isn't Fair Hooker a great name?" he asked.
Keith Jackson said nothing and for once Cosell was speechless.
Meredith then added, "Fair Hooker . . . I haven't met one yet."

Another variation appeared in this 1978 Washington Post article:

Or the time he said of Fair Hooker (the Cleveland wide receiver), "Now there's a name. Fair Hooker. I ain't never met one yet."

The 1988 book Monday Night Mayhem, a detailed history of ABC's Monday Night Football, offered this version:

"Isn't Fair Hooker a great name?" Meredith asked, with the implications hanging.
"I pass," Jackson said.
Cosell, perhaps reluctant to hear what might come next, said nothing.
Meredith went on anyway. "Fair Hooker", he mused. "I haven't met one yet."

Obviously some of the details on the exact wording and the reactions of Jackson and Cosell are inconsistent in these renditions. But the essence of the story is that during this Jets-Browns telecast, Meredith commented about the name Fair Hooker and then followed up with a classic line about never having met one. And numerous other newspapers, magazines, and books over the years have described the incident along those lines. However, there is one major problem with this tale. The famous alleged on-air follow-up statement never happened!

A full copy of this 9/21/70 telecast recently surfaced on YouTube. I located the exchange in question starting around the 1:23:21 mark as Meredith analyzes the previous play:

Meredith: Isn't Fair Hooker a great name?
Cosell: <after a slight pause> I pass.
Jackson: 3rd down and about 42 yards to go

And that was the extent of it. No follow-up remark of "I haven't met one yet" or anything resembling it. I wondered whether Meredith may have made that kind of statement later in the telecast. But I listened to the remainder of the video and found no such comment.

So where did this famous story come from? I have no idea. I suppose that once it appeared in print, other publications assumed it was true without attempting to verify it and simply ran with it. But that doesn't explain how it got printed that way in the first place. Perhaps Meredith was later interviewed about his "great name" comment and added the "haven't met one yet" quip at that time.

It seems that this often quoted Meredith line was really too good to be true.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Shot chart from CBS Sunday PGA Championship telecast - 2017

I tracked the strokes televised by CBS during the final round of the PGA Championship. On Sunday, CBS showed 401 strokes from the 4th round. This worked out to an average of 1.32 strokes per minute - which was much higher than the previous three PGA Championship Sunday telecasts I have tracked.

CBS televised 55 strokes by winner Justin Thomas. Playing partner Hideki Matsuyama who was in stronger contention early in the round was seen most often (68). Along with third round leader Kevin Kisner (64) and Chris Stroud (52), the final two pairings accounted for 60% of the televised shots.

At one point during the round, eight golfers were within two shots of the lead. CBS bounced around frequently to show key shots from the many contenders. A whopping eight players received coverage for at least 25 shots. CBS devoted 87% of the televised strokes to those eight players. Overall, CBS showed 23 different golfers playing strokes. The highest finisher not shown by CBS was Justin Smith (T9).

I have compiled these televised shot charts since 2014. For comparison to other majors, see the summary table which contains links to all of these charts. (Note: I was busy during the Sunday round of the 2017 Open Championship and never compiled that chart, but I have a DVR copy of that telecast and may get to it some day).

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Hideki Matsuyama68 (of 71*)T52
Kevin Kisner64 (of 72**)T71
Justin Thomas5512
Chris Stroud52T91
Patrick Reed30T24
Louis Oosthuizen28T23
Francesco Molinari28T26
Rickie Fowler25T58
Jordan Spieth14T2821
Graham DaLaet6T74
Jason Day5T99
Grayson Murray4T223
Ian Poulter4T2221
Sung Kang3T447
Jon Rahm3T5822
Matt Kuchar2T915
Brooks Koepka2T1318
Dustin Johnson2T1327
Gary Woodland2T225
Jason Kokrak2T3326
Marc Leishman1T1324
Chez Reavie1T226
Jordan Smith0T915

* Matsuyama took 71 "shots" plus one penalty stroke for a score of 72
* Kisner took 72 "shots" plus two penalty strokes for a score of 74

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Shot chart from Fox Sunday US Open telecast - 2017

I tracked the shots televised by Fox during the final round of the US Open. With the leaders teeing off around 4pm ET, I started the tracking at 3:30 to provide a similar timeframe to the other majors I have monitored.

Fox showed 366 strokes during the tracking period. The final putt dropped at 8:12 which resulted in a rate of 1.30 strokes per minute. This marked a significant increase over the 1.12 and 1.18 shown by Fox during its last two US Open telecasts, but trailed the 1.41 rate from the 2017 Masters on CBS.

Fox showed all but four shots from both winner Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman who tied for second. Rickie Fowler had 58 strokes televised and Tommy Fleetwood received coverage for 56. During the tracking period, Fox devoted 67% of its televised strokes to those four players. Fox showed 23 golfers playing strokes with eight players getting coverage for at least 12 shots. The highest finishers not shown during the period were three in the group who tied for 16th.

Also notable: Fox went commercial-free for the last 46 minutes of play.

This is the fourth year that I have compiled these televised shot charts. For comparison to prior majors, see this summary table which contains links to all shot charts since 2014.

Here is the complete shot chart (including the highest finishers not shown during the tracking period):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Brian Harman68 (of 72)T21
Brooks Koepka63 (of 67)12
Rickie Fowler58T53
Tommy Fleetwood5642
Justin Thomas30T91
Hideki Matsuyama21T28
Si Woo Kim14T133
Charley Hoffman1285
Xander Schauffele6T57
Brandt Snedeker6T96
Patrick Reed5T134
Russell Henley5T274
Cameron Champ5T3212
Steve Stricker4T1615
Bill Haas2T55
JB Holmes2128
Matt Kuchar2T1618
Sergio Garcia2T2110
Trey Mullinax1T99
Brendan Steele1T136
David Lingmerth1T2115
Jim Furyk1T2314
Scottie Scheffler1T2717
Bernd Wiesberger0T167
Eddie Pepperell0T1610
Chez Reavie0T1611

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Shot chart from CBS Sunday Masters telecast - 2017

I tracked the number of strokes that CBS aired per player during the Sunday round of the Masters. The telecast began at 2pm ET and I counted a total of 430 strokes televised by CBS during regulation. The final putt in regulation was holed at 7:05 which worked out to an average of 1.41 strokes per minute - not only an increase over the rate from the 2016 Masters, but a new record high for all major tournaments I have tracked since 2014.

Note: CBS televised all eight shots from the playoff, but I did not count these in the table in order to provide a fairer comparison to the tracking for other tournaments.

CBS covered 66 regulation strokes from both winner Sergio Garcia (skipping two tap-ins) and runner-up Justin Rose (skipping two layups and a tap-in). Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth were featured next most frequently. Those four players (comprising the final two pairings) accounted for slightly more than half of all televised shots. Early in the telecast, CBS seemed quite consumed with the competition for low amateur honors and wound up devoting a total of 17 strokes to the two amateurs who made the cut.

The highest finisher not shown by CBS was Kevin Chappell who tied for 7th. CBS televised strokes from 27 different players. 13 players were covered for at least 10 shots.

This is the fourth year that I have compiled these televised shot charts. For comparison to prior majors, see this summary table which contains links to all shot charts since 2014.

Here is the complete shot chart (including the highest finisher not shown on the telecast):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Sergio Garcia66 (of 68*)11
Justin Rose66 (of 69)21
Rickie Fowler50T112
Jordan Spieth35T112
Charl Schwartzel3134
Paul Casey2566
Charley Hoffman23T223
Thomas Pieters22T45
Adam Scott19T94
Matt Kuchar11T47
Ryan Moore11T93
Phil Mickelson11T2213
Stewart Hagestad10T3618
Fred Couples9T1810
Lee Westwood8T185
Curtis Luck7T4624
Rory McIlroy7T77
Martin Kaymer6T1616
Russell Henley3T1112
Jason Day2T2214
Jon Rahm2T278
Hideki Matsuyama1T1115
Jimmy Walker1T189
William McGirt1T228
Justin Thomas1T2214
Daniel Berger1T2718
Marc Leishman1T4326
Kevin Chappell0T79

* Garcia took 68 "shots" plus one penalty stroke for a score of 69

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Rundown of Dick Vitale's college basketball TV partners

This week, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale is scheduled to call a game with Karl Ravech for the first time. Ravech will become the sixth play-by-play announcer this season to receive a first-ever TV pairing with Dickie V.

After noticing a recent flurry of such first-time pairings, I wondered how many different play-by-play partners have shared the broadcast table with Vitale over the years. So I attempted to compile a list of all play-by-play announcers who have worked with Vitale on college basketball. (Note: I am almost certainly missing some announcers from the early ESPN years as these the hardest to research.)

Vitale called the first college basketball game ever on ESPN back in December 1979 alongside Joe Boyle. Eventually, ESPN paired him regularly with Jim Simpson. In subsequent years, his most common ESPN partners included Mike Patrick, Tim Brando, Brad Nessler, and Dan Shulman. When ABC started carrying college games, he frequently worked with Keith Jackson and later Brent Musburger.

The list is a mix of prestigious broadcasters and lesser-known voices. One interesting name (perhaps surprising to some) is Al Michaels who worked a single time with Vitale (the 1989 Pac-10 championship game on ABC).

I find the pattern intriguing. Starting from the late 1980s, Vitale was acquiring about two new partners per year. Then after 1997, Vitale went without any new partners until 2005 and only picked up three additions to this list from through 2013. However, a few years ago, ESPN installed Jay Bilas as its top analyst to work with Shulman on the highest profile games. This move has resulted in Vitale working with a wide variety of first-time partners in recent seasons (10 since 2014).

Here is the list that my research uncovered (with calendar year of the first such telecast for which I found evidence). Again, note that I am very likely to be missing some names from the first decade.
  1. Joe Boyle - 1979
  2. Jim Simpson - 1980 
  3. Jim Thacker - 1982
  4. Fred White - 1982
  5. Bob Ley - 1983
  6. John Sanders- 1983
  7. Kevin Slaten - 1983
  8. Mike Patrick - 1983
  9. Sam Rosen - 1984
  10. Rich Winter - 1984
  11. Tim Brando - 1985
  12. Jim Kelly - 1986
  13. Andy McWilliams - 1986
  14. Bob Rathbun - 1986
  15. John Saunders - 1987
  16. Keith Jackson - 1987
  17. Gary Bender - 1988
  18. Al Michaels - 1989
  19. Roger Twibell - 1989
  20. Barry Tompkins - 1989
  21. Ron Franklin - 1990
  22. Bob Carpenter - 1990
  23. Wayne Larrivee - 1991
  24. Gary Thorne - 1991
  25. Sean McDonough - 1992
  26. Brent Musburger - 1992
  27. Brad Nessler - 1992
  28. Joel Meyers - 1993
  29. Dave Sims - 1995
  30. Dan Shulman - 1995
  31. Dave Barnett - 1996
  32. Mike Tirico - 1997
  33. Mark Jones - 1997
  34. Dave Pasch - 2005
  35. Dave O'Brien - 2007
  36. Jon Sciambi - 2011
  37. Bob Wischusen - 2014
  38. Rich Hollenburg - 2014
  39. Adam Amin 2015
  40. Rece Davis - 2016
  41. Mike Morgan - 2016
  42. Jason Benetti - 2016
  43. Dave Flemming - 2016
  44. Doug Sherman - 2016
  45. Tom Hart - 2017
  46. Karl Ravech - 2017

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rare case - Network #1 announcer team calling early game of NFL doubleheader

During the NFL regular season, Fox and CBS share the Sunday afternoon TV rights. Each week, one network gets doubleheader rights and can show both an early and late afternoon game in most markets. The other network gets rights to show just a single game to each market. Typically, the network with the doubleheader features its most attractive game in the late afternoon (4:25 pm ET) time slot and usually assigns its top announcer team to that game.

Because Christmas Day is on Sunday this year, the NFL moved the bulk of its schedule to Saturday for week 16. This weekend, Fox has the NFL doubleheader TV rights, but is sending its #1 team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to call Vikings-Packers at 1pm ET instead of a 4:25 game. How rare is such an assignment? This is only the fourth time since 2004 that a network sent its top announcer crew to an early afternoon game on a day when that network owned the doubleheader rights.

Here are the only such instances in the past 12 seasons where the top team on the doubleheader network called a game in the early window:

  • 2013 week 17 - CBS placed Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on Ravens-Bengals in the early window. Note: Since 2006, the NFL has allowed both CBS and Fox to televise a doubleheader on the final Sunday of the regular season. So the week 17 late doubleheader window is not exclusive to one network like it is for a typical NFL Sunday. 
  • 2011 week 17 - Fox assigned Buck and Aikman to Panthers-Saints at 1:00.
  • 2008 week 12 - Fox sent Buck and Aikman to call 49ers-Cowboys in the early slot despite having rights to the late doubleheader slot (then at 4:15). 

So the 2008 instance is the actually the only time since 2004 that a network holding exclusive doubleheader rights put its top team on an early game. For comparison, I found 23 cases of this between 1994 and 2004, so the relative rarity in recent years helps illustrate how important the late afternoon doubleheader window has become to the TV networks.

Another interesting aspect about the upcoming weekend is that CBS is sending its #1 team of Nantz/Simms to call a late afternoon game (Colts-Raiders) despite the fact that CBS has the singleheader. The 4:05 games tend to get limited regional distribution as they are aired against the featured 4:25 contest, so generally, the top crew gets assigned to an early game on a singleheader weekend.

But how unusual is this combination? Only twice since the 1998 season has the DH network assigned its top team to an early game while the singleheader network put its #1 crew on a late game that same day.

  • 2004 week 14 - Fox had the doubleheader but sent Buck and Aikman to call Seahawks-Vikings while CBS placed Nantz and Simms on a late singleheader game (Jets-Steelers)
  • 2002 week 11 - On this CBS doubleheader day, the #1 team of Greg Gumbel and Simms handled Bills-Chiefs early while Fox assigned its top team of Buck, Aikman, and Cris Collinsworth to call 49ers-Chargers in the late singleheader window.

For completeness, I found four other cases of this odd combination between 1994 and 1998.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The 1974 ABC experiment with active coaches as guest CFB analysts

In 1974, ABC made several key changes to its NCAA football coverage. The network elevated Keith Jackson to #1 play-by-play status and moved previous top announcer Chris Schenkel to the studio. This was also the season that ABC hired the college-aged Jim Lampley and Don Tollefson to serve as sideline reporters.

However, ABC did not regularly pair Jackson with lead analyst Bud Wilkinson. Instead, the network experimented by using a collection of active coaches whose teams were on an off-week to join Jackson in the booth and serve as guest commentators. And rather than adding a coach to the booth as a second analyst to supplement Wilkinson, ABC used the coaches as the only analyst on these games.

ABC did use Wilkinson with Jackson on some games that year. Bud worked other regional telecasts alongside Bill Flemming.

The list of guest analysts used by ABC in 1974 included the following then-active head coaches:
  • Darrell Royal (Texas)
  • Ara Parseghian (Notre Dame)
  • Steve Sloan (Vanderbilt)
  • Pepper Rodgers (Georgia Tech)
  • Joe Paterno (Penn St)
  • Paul "Bear" Bryant (Alabama)
  • Woody Hayes (Ohio St)
along with Nebraska athletic director Bob Devaney who had recently retired from coaching the Cornhuskers. ABC used Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer as the analyst for the Sugar Bowl that season (as his Sooners were on probation and banned from bowl games).

ABC ditched the idea after one season. But early in the 1975 season, ABC did use Devaney as a guest analyst on one game and did the same with Parseghian (who retired from coaching after 1974) on another.

A few of the coaches on this list became TV analysts after retiring. Parseghian was hired full-time by ABC in 1976 and moved to CBS in 1982. He served as the lead analyst for a time on each network. Royal and Rodgers both worked some regional games for ABC in the early 1980s.

Here is the game that Joe Paterno called. With his thick Brooklyn accent and subdued voice level, Paterno was difficult to understand at times.

And here is a clip from the game with Woody Hayes in the booth. Hayes actually had some on-air experience as he conducted a local TV show which ran weekly during the football season for 28 years on Columbus station WBNS. But he didn't seem to add much insight as an analyst on this telecast.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

1972 Howard Cosell interview with USA Olympic track coach Stan Wright

One of the most riveting TV moments from the 1972 Summer Olympics was an interview conducted by Howard Cosell with USA track coach Stan Wright which ABC televised on 8/31/72. Cosell grilled Wright over the time schedule foulup resulting in USA sprinters Rey Robinson and Eddie Hart being disqualified for missing their 100m qualifying heats.

In 2012, ESPN Classic aired a series of specials looking back on the Munich Games. Here is the video of the USA track controversy episode and a summary of that show that I wrote at the time.

A quick guide to the Cosell portions of the clip:
  • 3:05 - interview with Robinson
  • 5:22 - interview with Hart
  • 10:41 - interview with Wright
  • 15:35 - Cosell follow-up commentary
  • 39:03 - interview with 400m medalists Wayne Matthews and Vince Collett regarding their controversial national anthem ceremony
The 9/11/72 edition of Sports Illustrated blasted Cosell for the Wright interview and his subsequent commentary. Wright threatened to sue the ABC sportscaster, but instead spoke out against Cosell during a news conference the following year.

While Wright is best remembered for this incident, he was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1993. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Shot chart from CBS Sunday PGA Championship telecast - 2016

I tracked the strokes televised by CBS during the final round of the PGA Championship. On Sunday, CBS showed 367 strokes from round 4. I included a few shots CBS aired from earlier 4th round coverage, but did not count highlight strokes from the 3rd round. CBS started at 2pm ET and the final putt dropped at 7:23 for an average of 1.14 strokes per minute - a increase over the rate of 1.05 from the 2015 PGA.

CBS showed all 67 strokes by winner Jimmy Walker and bypassed only six from runner-up Jason Day. Henrik Stenson was shown 56 times as CBS devoted over half of its televised strokes to those three. With no re-pairing of the field after the 3rd round, the contenders were spread out. This enabled CBS to bounce around the course as several players were in contention with the leaders on the front 9. CBS showed 25 golfers playing strokes with 10 players getting coverage of at least 12 shots. The highest finisher not shown by CBS was Patrick Reed (T13).

For comparison, here are the shot charts from the other 2016 majors:
Note: The Masters post contains links to the shot charts from the 2014 and 2015 majors.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jimmy Walker67 (of 67)11
Jason Day61 (of 67)22
Henrik Stenson56T73
Branden Grace39T415
Brooks Koepka30T44
Jordan Spieth18T137
Hideki Matsuyama17T45
William McGirt15T108
Robert Streb13T71
Daniel Summerhays1238
Adam Scott7T1810
Emiliano Grillo5T132
Padraig Harrington4T1333
Martin Kaymer3T73
Tyrrell Hatton3T1019
Kevin Kisner3T1829
Rich Beem3T7331
Paul Casey2T1016
Russell Henley2T2224
Francesco Molinari2T2231
Webb Simpson1T1312
Russell Knox1T2225
Yuta Ikeda1T337
Phil Mickelson1T3335
Andrew Johnston1T6017
Patrick Reed0T134

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Shot chart from NBC Sunday Open Championship telecast - 2016

I tracked the strokes televised by NBC during the Sunday round of the Open Championship. I started tracking at 9am ET to provide a decent comparison to the other majors I have tracked. The final putt was at 1:30pm so the tracking covered 4.5 hours.

NBC aired all but one stroke from winner Henrik Stenson (skipping a tap-in on 12th) and all but two from runner-up Phil Mickelson (bypassing tap-ins on #2 and #5). With those two separating themselves from the field, NBC focused heavily on that pairing. In fact, NBC devoted a whopping 56% of all televised strokes during this period to the Stenson/Mickelson duo (who didn't even tee off until 35 minutes into the tracking).

NBC televised only 224 shots during this period which worked out to 0.83 strokes per minute. This was a sizable decrease from the ESPN shot rate of 1.23 that I measured from the 2015 Open Championship and the lowest rate for any major that I have tracked. The lack of competition from the rest of the field clearly contributed to the low rate. NBC chose to aggressively spotlight the drama and excellence of the lead group (and take numerous commercial breaks) rather than fill time with relatively meaningless golf action from the rest of the pack.

For comparison, refer to the shot tracking data I compiled for CBS from the 2016 Masters and Fox from the 2016 US Open, In that Masters post, you can find links to the shot charts I did for the 2014 and 2015 majors.

NBC showed a total of 24 golfers during the tracking period. The highest finisher not shown during this span was Soren Kjeldsen who tied for 9th.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Phil Mickelson63 (of 65)21
Henrik Stenson62 (of 63)11
Rory McIlroy14T511
Andrew Johnston1382
JB Holmes1033
Bill Haas8T92
Sergio Garcia7T55
Dustin Johnson5T98
Steve Stricker443
Tyrrell Hatton4T57
Jason Day4T2215
Lee Westwood4T2222
Darren Clarke4T3020
Zach Johnson3T129
Emiliano Grillo3T1211
Haydn Porteous3T3013
Tony Finau2T184
Kevin Na2T228
Thomas Pieters2T3014
Jordan Spieth2T3026
Jim Furyk2T5926
Thongchai Jaidee1T2214
Rafa Cabrera Bella1T3916
Rickie Fowler1T4624
Soren Kjeldsen0T94

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

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Shot chart from Fox Sunday US Open telecast - 2016

I tracked the shots televised by Fox during the 4th round of the US Open. With the final pairing getting underway at 3:30 pm ET, I began the monitoring at 3:00 to provide a fair comparison to the other tournaments where I have performed similar Sunday tracking.

Fox showed 354 unique strokes during the tracking period. The final putt dropped at 8:16 so this worked out to 1.12 strokes per minute. This shot rate significantly trailed the 1.33 of the 2016 Masters on CBS. This was also a decrease from the 1.18 shown by Fox during its 2015 coverage of the US Open. Fox spent quite a bit of time discussing the controversy over the potential one-stroke penalty which was eventually applied to Johnson's score after the round, so that might explain part of the dropoff. (Note: From the 2016 Masters post, you can find links to the shot charts I compiled from the 2014 and 2015 majors).

Fox showed all but four of the strokes played by winner Dustin Johnson and all but four from third-round leader Shane Lowry. Fox showed just 20 golfers playing strokes. Nine players were covered for at least 15 shots. The highest finisher not shown during the tracking period was David Lingmerth who finished 12th.

Also notable: Fox went commercial-free for 52 minutes starting at 7:25.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Shane Lowry72 (of 76)T21
Dustin Johnson64 (of 68*)12
Scott Piercy40T24
Jason Day29T85
Sergio Garcia25T54
Andrew Landry24T151
Branden Grace23T53
Lee Westwood21T322
Jim Furyk15T213
Daniel Summerhays8T83
Bryson DeChambeau8T155
Brooks Koepka6T1319
Jason Dufner5T87
Jordan Spieth5T3715
Kevin Na377
Zach Johnson2T86
Kevin Streelman1T136
Yusaku Miyazato1T2312
Jon Rahm1T2323
Angel Cabrera1T3728
David Lingmerth01220

* Johnson took 68 "shots" plus one penalty stroke for a score of 69

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

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Shot chart from CBS Sunday Masters telecast - 2016

I tracked the number of strokes CBS showed for each player during the Sunday round of the Masters. I counted a total of 411 strokes televised by CBS. The telecast began at 2pm ET with the final putt at 7:10 which worked out to an average of 1.33 strokes per minute - a sizable increase from both the 2015 Masters and 2014 Masters.

CBS covered 41 strokes from winner Danny Willett. CBS first showed Willett on hole 4 and started airing all of his strokes partway through hole 13. CBS televised every stroke from third round leader Jordan Spieth. Dustin Johnson was featured second most often for a total of 55 shots. Nine players got coverage of at least 24 strokes.

The highest finisher not shown by CBS was Daniel Berger who tied for 10th. CBS televised strokes from 28 different players.

This is the third year that I have compiled these televised shot charts. For comparison, the chart from the 2015 PGA Championship contains links to all the charts from the other 2014 and 2015 majors.

Here is the complete shot chart (including the highest finisher not shown on the telecast):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jordan Spieth71 (of 71*)T21
Dustin Johnson55T43
Danny Willett4114
Jason Day37T103
Smylie Kaufman37T291
Soren Kjeldson32T75
Lee Westwood26T24
Hideki Matsuyama25T72
Rory McIlroy24 (#)T106
Paul Casey11T410
Bernhard Langer11T242
Matthew Fitzpatrick6T713
Brandt Snedeker5T105
Davis Love III5T4217
Bryson DeChambeau4T2114
Henrik Stenson3T2423
Adam Scott3T4218
JB Holmes2T48
Louis Oosthuizen2T158
Bubba Watson2T3724
Romain Langasque2T3728
Justin Rose1T107
Kiradech Aphibarnrat1T1515
Billy Horschel1T179
Emiliano Grillo1T1710
Matt Kuchar1T249
Shane Lowry1T3919
Larry Mize1T5226
Daniel Berger0T106

* Spieth took 71 "shots" plus two penalty strokes for a score of 73
# includes a provisional stroke televised by CBS on hole 4

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

ESPN misidentifies radio announcer during special on 1966 NCAA Championship

On Wednesday night, ESPN aired footage from the famous Texas Western victory over Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA championship game. The black & white video was shot from a wider view than a conventional telecast, but it still provided a fascinating glimpse into this historic game which grew in significance over the years.

The ESPN telecast supplemented the footage with audio from the Kentucky radio broadcast. Embarrassingly, ESPN misidentified the announcer as "Walt" Sullivan both in a promotional press release and in an on-screen graphic.

The voice was actually that of longtime Kentucky radio announcer Claude Sullivan. Many other sites propagated this ESPN error without performing any fact checking. (Note: Sometime after the airing, ESPN updated its press release to reflect the correct name of the announcer.)

Sullivan never mentioned race during his game commentary. On multiple occasions, Sullivan misidentified (or failed to identify) Texas Western players, especially early in the game. He seemed to focus more on what he viewed as the "poor" play of the Wildcats rather than praise the Miners. The game action was interesting as there were several travelling violations called (which Sullivan referred to as "walking"). It also provided a reminder that this era featured the one-shot non-shooting foul.

The footage appeared to be from a coaching film. It certainly wasn't from the original telecast as it contained no graphics. ESPN added some supplemental graphics to periodically display the score. Of course, ESPN had previously stated that it was re-airing the original telecast only to later back down from that claim.

ESPN2 will re-air this special on Sunday 4/3 at 11am ET. I assume the ESPN production crew will edit the above graphic by then.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The unique Al McGuire - from TV sidekick to star

The TV career of Al McGuire got its start on an event he wasn't even broadcasting. During the final seconds of the 1977 NCAA Tournament championship game with the outcome no longer in doubt, the NBC cameras zoomed in on the Marquette head coach. Earlier, McGuire had announced he would retire from coaching after the season at the relatively young age of 48. Curt Gowdy describes the scene as McGuire, on the verge of an unexpected championship, is overcome by emotion.

In rewatching this clip, I was struck by two things: 1) how McGuire (unintentionally) dominated the end of the telecast and 2) the prophetic quote from Gowdy at the 17:46 mark accompanied by a prophetic split screen image with a circle around McGuire (more on that later):
And McGuire who says: "I'm an entertainer. I entertain the fans."
and then this starting at 18:25 from Dick Enberg:
It's going to be sad for us to say goodbye to Al McGuire... Thank you Al McGuire... for the many great moments you've given us.
In fact, the college basketball TV entertainment factor was about to be ratcheted up several notches. The goodbye would be brief and even greater moments were on the horizon.

When McGuire retired from coaching, college basketball was a essentially a regional TV sport with just one national telecast per week. Just two seasons earlier, NBC had added the first regular season national network TV package with Enberg and Billy Packer as the announcers.

For the 1977-78 season, NBC hired McGuire who was a novice to television and added him to the mix. However, rather than place him courtside with Enberg and Packer, NBC initially stationed McGuire next to a monitor away from the court and only cut to him periodically during the telecasts (starting him off as the ultimate sidekick!). And NBC would place his image on a small corner of a split screen during his in-game commentary. After a few weeks of this awkward arrangement, Enberg and Packer convinced NBC to move McGuire alongside them to form a true 3-man broadcasting team.

Nothing about Al McGuire was scripted. Rather than attempt to fill the role of a traditional basketball analyst, McGuire simply "played" himself on the air. And, just as importantly, NBC allowed the true personality of McGuire to shine instead of trying to make him conform to a more conventional style.

He spoke sparingly at the beginning and his vocal delivery wasn't always smooth. But he had a feel for basketball and he eventually developed a feel for broadcasting. He described things in simple terms and offered opinions on in-game coaching decisions he would make. His unassuming style began to resonate with fans.

Al McGuire, Dick Enberg, Billy Packer
When he was a head coach, McGuire didn't watch film of opponents and left the strategic advance planning to his assistants. He made his imprint during games when he reacted to the situation at hand and made the appropriate adjustments. As a broadcaster, he took a similar approach. He didn't study rosters or statistics before telecasts. Instead he would ask a coach or scout to fill him in on a few key players for each team. When the TV lights came on, he would rely on his instincts for the game. He let the action on the court guide his commentary.

McGuire's distinctive voice, with his Brooklyn accent, just sounded so cool and drew me in. He brought a lot of colorful terminology to the airwaves: a tall player was an aircraft carrier, a down to the wire game was a white knuckler, a fancy move was French pastry, the lane area was the paint, and when a game was clinched, it was tap city. His style was enthusiastic and his commentary provided insight into his unusual coaching mindset.

As a coach, McGuire was unconventional to the core. In 1970, he turned down an NCAA Tournament bid and instead took Marquette to the NIT. (The NCAA no longer allows this.) He received two technical fouls in the 1974 NCAA championship game and blamed himself for costing his team a chance to win. He recruited many inner-city players from disadvantaged backgrounds. He implemented a "senior star" system in an attempt to get his veteran players noticed by professional scouts. He helped pioneer some stylish basketball uniform designs which were later banned by the NCAA.

Away from the arena, he loved to talk about motorcycles rather than basketball. Even though he earned decent money, he drew great pleasure from negotiating prices at flea markets. He was brilliant at reading people and relating to them. And he brought those traits into the broadcast booth.

A 3-man announcing team was very uncommon at the time, especially in the fast-paced game of basketball. But because co-analysts Packer and McGuire had such contrasting styles, it clicked. Enberg was emerging as one of the best play-by-play announcers ever. Packer followed the sport intensely (covering ACC games during the week) and focused on player matchups and strategy. McGuire added emotion and flair - the entertainment angle. The trio developed tremendous chemistry and meshed so well together. The resulting blend showcased the strengths of each.

Packer and McGuire frequently disagreed on the air which brought even more attention to the telecasts. The tandem would argue about everything from goaltending calls to coaching decisions to whether the undefeated Indiana State team deserved to be ranked #1 in 1979. Al would often playfully needle Packer about the ACC.

Because NBC generally covered just one national game a week, it was a huge event when the network came to town for a featured Sunday afternoon telecast. And McGuire, the former isolated sidekick, was quickly becoming the star of the show.

I recall tuning in and wondering what McGuire would say about Ralph Sampson or Bob Knight. Or what wacky predictions Al might make. When I played rec basketball in college, I remember McGuire's catch-phrases making their way into the action. When we watched the TV games, the banter between Packer and McGuire was a huge topic of conversation.

The Enberg/Packer/McGuire run lasted only four seasons. CBS acquired rights to the NCAA Tournament starting in 1982 and lured Packer away from NBC. McGuire continued to work regular season games with Enberg on NBC for several years before moving to CBS himself in 1992 and getting to call March Madness games again. After hiring Enberg in 2000, CBS did reunite the trio for one game that season. But McGuire only called two games after that and health issues forced him to miss the 2000 NCAA Tournament.

McGuire sadly passed away in 2001 from leukemia at age 72. But his legendary storytelling lives on, partly due to a one-man play written by Enberg titled McGuire and performed by actor Cotter Smith.

McGuire was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 as his charismatic TV color commentary supplemented his relatively short coaching career.

The following clip of McGuire on himself (at the 12:00 mark) captures the essence of McGuire:

For college basketball, Enberg is arguably the best play-by-play announcer of all time and Packer is arguably the best analyst ever. And yet they peaked during those four special seasons alongside McGuire when they formed my favorite all-time broadcasting team. Here is the classic trio on the call of a game from 1980:

College basketball on TV exploded in popularity starting in the late 1970s and I believe that McGuire was a key factor in that growth. By the late 1980s, the sport had national telecasts on all three major networks plus ESPN. But Enberg, Packer, and McGuire paved the way.

Al McGuire was indeed an entertainer and unique as a TV analyst. I thank him for all the great moments he provided.

This post is part of a TV Sidekick Blogathon hosted by Classic Film and TV Cafe. Please check out the complete schedule of blog posts for this event.

Monday, February 15, 2016

History of TV scheduling for Super Bowl rematches

In the 2016 regular season, the Denver Broncos will host the Carolina Panthers in a rematch of Super Bowl 50. This marks only the 7th time that a regular season rematch of the prior Super Bowl has occurred. The NFL schedule will be revealed this spring and presumably this rematch will get prominent TV placement.

But this leads to a few questions... Where has the NFL placed the previous Super Bowl rematches on its TV schedule? How frequently have such rematches been aired in prime time?

Here is a summary of how the previous six Super Bowl rematches were scheduled for TV purposes (all times ET):


In the first year after merging with the AFL to form a 26-team league, the NFL kicked off its 1970 regular season with a rematch of Super Bowl 4 as the Chiefs and Vikings squared off in Minnesota. NBC assigned its top crew of Curt Gowdy and Kyle Rote to this matchup which was the featured 4 pm doubleheader game on opening Sunday.


The next such game was a Super Bowl 11 rematch between the Vikings and Raiders in Oakland during week 13 of 1977. This game was the primary 4 pm Sunday doubleheader game on CBS with Vin Scully and Alex Hawkins in the booth. This is the only time a Super Bowl rematch was not covered by the top broadcasting crew of the network airing the game. CBS sent its #1 team of Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier to call a Saturday game that weekend. At that time, CBS and NBC aired national Saturday afternoon games late in the season.


Two years later, the Cowboys faced the Steelers in Pittsburgh in a rematch of Super Bowl 13. The game was in week 9 on CBS which had the doubleheader that day. However, the NFL scheduled this game at 1 pm making it the only rematch played in the early Sunday afternoon window. CBS did assign Summerall and Brookshier to handle that telecast in a rare case where the #1 crew called an early game when its network had the doubleheader.


In week 2 of 1993, the Cowboys hosted the Bills in a rematch of Super Bowl 27. NBC featured it as the main 4 pm doubleheader game with its #1 team of Dick Enberg and Bob Trumpy on the call. So far, this is the only rematch on the same network that had televised the prior Super Bowl. Enberg and Trumpy were in the booth for that game as well.


The NFL scheduled the Super Bowl 31 rematch between the Packers and Patriots in Foxboro for Monday Night Football in week 9 of 1997. Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf had the announcing duties that night on ABC at 9 pm. In an odd twist, a stadium conflict with the Florida Marlins (who hosted World Series game 7 on Sunday) caused the NFL to move the Bears-Dolphins game from Sunday afternoon to Monday night. That game started also started at 9 pm and ABC televised it to Chicago and Miami. So while Packers-Patriots is the only Super Bowl rematch thus far to be played in prime time, it wasn't televised to the entire country.


The most recent game on this list took place in week 3 of 2014 when the Broncos traveled to Seattle to face the Seahawks in a rematch of Super Bowl 48 - some 17 years after the last rematch. CBS assigned its #1 crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to this contest and spotlighted it as the main 4:25 pm doubleheader game.

Summary notes

  • Of the six Super Bowl rematches so far, four were scheduled as the primary late Sunday afternoon doubleheader game. Only one has been scheduled for prime time (Monday night) while the other game was the main early Sunday game on the doubleheader network.
  • Because of the circumstances surrounding the 1997 Monday night game, none of the rematches has been a full national telecast. 
  • From a calendar standpoint, three games took place in September, two were scheduled in late October, and one was played in December.
  • Only one rematch was not called by a network's #1 announcer crew.
  • No TV announcer has called more than one Super Bowl rematch - a streak that will continue if Fox gets the 2016 matchup). 
  • Super Bowl rematches have been rarer than expected. Using a basic probability model and assuming random chance, I calculated that the expected number of such rematches since the 1970 merger would be 12, but the 2016 game will only be the 7th. 

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.