Thursday, January 23, 2014

CBS TV audio from 1965 NFL Championship game

Have you ever wondered how an NFL Championship game sounded on TV in the pre-Super Bowl era? Check out these clips which feature original audio from the CBS telecast of the 1965 Browns-Packers NFL title game. (Note: All video footage appearing on these clips is from NFL Films.)

The TV announcers for this telecast were Ray Scott, Ken Coleman, and Frank Gifford. Scott handled the play-by-play duties for the first half of the telecast while Coleman described the action in the second half. Gifford served as the analyst throughout. These videos only cover the TV audio for the second half, so on these clips, Coleman and Gifford call the game. You can hear Scott during the postgame interview segment. During the 1965 season, CBS used designated play-by-play announcers for each team, so Scott (Packers) and Coleman (Browns) got the championship game assignment.

The CBS audio presents a fascinating (if incomplete) glimpse into the TV coverage of the time. The broadcasting style is much more subdued that what we experience today. CBS used a limited amount of the relatively new instant replay technology which Gifford refers to as "stop action" (and sometimes coming from the "end zone isolated camera")

The first video covers the 3rd quarter and starts out accompanied by the radio call of the game. The CBS-TV audio begins at the 10:35 mark of that clip and continues through the entire second video. Notice how you can hear the public address announcer and pep band in the background intermingled with the booth announcer voices - quite a contrast to a modern telecast.

Here is the 4th quarter and postgame. This was the first NFL title game to be televised in color, but at the 26:15 mark, Coleman states that the locker room interview portion of the telecast would be in black & white. The clip also contains a rhyming Viceroy cigarette commercial during the 2-minute warning. And in a move typical of that era, Gifford left the booth early to join Scott in preparing for the postgame show, so Coleman finished the game solo.

A few other notes:
  • Considering that this was a championship game, I found it odd that the announcers spent time during the 3Q discussing various draft choice signings by other NFL teams, thereby taking some of the focus away from the game at hand. (Note: The draft was held in November.)
  • I spotted a number of times when Gifford didn't offer any commentary between plays and Coleman simply carried the call into the next play.
  • Network shilling is nothing new. At the 11:15 mark of the 4Q video, Coleman does a promo for the CBS telecast of the meaningless Playoff Bowl (a consolation game between 2nd place teams) and hypes it as a "big one".

Friday, January 10, 2014

Kevin Burkhardt joins rare list with NFL playoff assignment in debut season

Tomorrow, Kevin Burkhardt will cap off his debut season in the NFL TV booth for Fox when he calls the Saints-Seahawks divisional playoff game with John Lynch. In a rare move, Fox gave Burkhardt an NFL playoff assignment during his first season of network TV play-by-play. How rare is this? Such a distinction last occurred 36 years ago. Prior to Burkhardt, the last play-by-play announcer to call an NFL playoff telecast in his first season at the network level was Dick Enberg on NBC during the 1977 postseason.

Since the 1970 merger, I only found 5 cases where a play-by-play announcer was assigned a playoff game in his first season calling the NFL on network TV. Here is the unique list that Burkhardt joins (note: the year refers to the NFL season even when the playoff game was in the following January).

  • Kevin Burkhardt (Fox) - 2013
  • Dick Enberg (NBC) - 1977
  • Vin Scully (CBS) - 1975
  • Gary Bender (CBS) - 1975
  • Brent Musburger (CBS) - 1974

Back in the 1970s, the networks were more likely to spread playoff assignments around to more announcers even with fewer postseason games. CBS actually used two first-year play-by-play announcers during the 1975 playoffs. Another interesting aspect is that the first playoff assignments for Enberg and Scully were conference championships. The others on the list were divisional playoff games.

Even in the years when ABC and NBC have carried a wild-card playoff doubleheader while only using one regular season broadcast crew, the second play-by-play announcer always had NFL network TV experience from a prior season.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New URL and twitter handle for Classic TV Sports blog

I retitled the blog as Classic TV Sports and changed to a custom URL of All bookmarks and links to the old URL will automatically redirect. I still plan to cover other aspects of historical sports media, but the primary focus has always been on the TV end, so I chose a simpler name to be more in tune with that.

I also changed the twitter handle to @classicTVsports for consistency with the blog renaming.