Sunday, August 31, 2014

The 1974 debut of the football sideline reporter role

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of sideline reporters on football telecasts. On Saturday 9/7/1974, ABC introduced the college-aged duo of Don Tollefson and Jim Lampley in this role on the nationally televised UCLA at Tennessee game which started at 4 pm ET. Tollefson was beginning his senior year at Stanford while Lampley was a graduate student at North Carolina.

Here is the entire telecast:

Tollefson was the first of the two to appear on air with a pregame report at the 4:24 mark. Lampley provided a pregame feature at 10:05. Once the game started, Tollefson handled the UCLA sidelines with Lampley on the Tennessee side. ABC attempted to jazz up its telecasts by cutting to one of them periodically for brief reports and interviews.

The first in-game sideline report came at the 41:58 mark when play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson sent it down to Tollefson who interviewed a cheerleader. The moment comes off very awkwardly as Tollefson doesn't identify the interview subject in any way, but rather dives right in with a question. He would do the same thing when interviewing a police officer at 1:08:18.

In a 2009 interview, Lampley recalled this telecast, but completely botched the details of his on-air debut.

"I can tell you exactly the first time they threw to me during action. It was early in the game." The day before, he'd had a lengthy interview with Tennessee quarterback Condredge Holloway. Afterward, Holloway pulled Lampley aside and guaranteed that, the following day, he would throw for a touchdown on the Volunteers' first play from scrimmage. Says Lampley: "I'm like, 'Pardon me?' He said, 'Trust me. We spent all summer studying film. We know exactly how they bit. This is play-action to Stanley Morgan, and we'll score on the first play from scrimmage.'" On Saturday, Tennessee won the coin toss. Got the ball on the 20. Play-action to Stanley Morgan. Eighty yards. Touchdown.

"I had told the producer about it," Lampley says, "and he remembered, and amid all the hoopla, Keith [Jackson] threw to me on the sideline. I said, 'Keith, at our sitdown interview, Condredge told me he'd throw a touchdown pass on the first play of the game, etc., etc.' That was the first thing I did on camera. 

Tennessee actually scored on its second play from scrimmage (not first play) on a 74 yard TD pass (not 80). You can forgive Lampley for these relatively minor mistakes. But I found a major error with the rest of his description of his first sideline report - it never happened! As you can see from the video (the sequence starts at the 28:15 mark), Jackson does not send things down to Lampley after this play or upon return from the next commercial break. In fact, Lampley would not appear on camera during game action until the 47:43 mark when he provided an injury report with no mention at all of this scoring play.

Here is a sampling of some other sideline reports from this game:

  • 49:37 - injury report (Tollefson)
  • 53:55 - injury update (Lampley)
  • 59:44 - mascot interview (Tollefson)
  • 1:02:19 - injury update (Lampley)
  • 1:10:54 - parent interview (Lampley)
  • 1:15:19 - cheerleader interview (Tollefson)
  • 1:27:22 - injury update (Lampley)
  • 1:37:05 - halftime coach interview (Tollefson)
  • 1:57:18 - halftime coach interview (Lampley)
  • 2:22:06 - injury report (Lampley)
  • 2:27:25 - parent interview (Tollefson)

I thought Tollefson appeared nervous on camera. I thought Lampley was more poised and sounded much better. Most of the interview questions from both men seemed quite lame. And many of the sideline reports seemed rushed.

A few other notable items from this video clip:

  • Most commercial breaks were just 60 seconds.
  • At 2:19:58, ABC promoted the upcoming Monday night telecast with an on-screen graphic which botched the spelling ("Darryl") of guest commentator Darrell Royal.
  • You can hear a classic Jackson "FUMBLE!" call at the 2:23:10 mark.
  • This footage also includes the Prudential College Scoreboard show with Dave Diles starting at 3:15:14.

Tollefson lasted just one season in the ABC sideline role and went on to have a lengthy career, primarily as a local sportscaster in Philadelphia. Lampley worked the sidelines for three seasons and then shifted into a play-by-play role on regional NCAA games in 1977. He made his mark mostly at the national level on ABC, and later on CBS, NBC, and HBO.

Ironically, in later years, both of the original sideline reporters encountered trouble with the law. In 2007, Lampley was arrested for a domestic violence incident and pled no-contest to a charge of violating a restraining order. In 2014, Tollefson was arrested for his involvement in a charity fraud scheme and spent time in jail.

This 1974 telecast was significant for other reasons. It was the first for Jackson as the lead voice on the ABC NCAA football package. He took over for Chris Schenkel who was moved to the studio. This was also the first example of a season-long experiment where ABC used a variety of current and former coaches as guest commentators in the booth. The analyst on this game was former Nebraska coach Bob Devaney.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shot chart from CBS Sunday telecast of PGA Championship

I tracked the strokes shown per player during the CBS telecast of the Sunday round of the PGA Championship.

CBS showed all but 5 strokes by winner Rory McIlroy, skipping some tap-in putts. CBS televised all 66 shots by runner-up Phil Mickelson. Playing partner Rickie Fowler got air time for all but 2 swings. With several players in contention early in the round, CBS spread its coverage out. But once the eventual top 4 finishers created separation from the field, CBS focused almost exclusively on that quartet including Henrik Stenson who was seen for 52 strokes. Ernie Els made an early birdie run and appeared on screen for 28 strokes. The highest finisher not shown was Hunter Mahan who tied for 7th.

From when play resumed at 2:45pm until the final putt dropped in near darkness, CBS showed a total of 416 shots for an average of 1.16 strokes per minute. CBS showed 32 strokes from different players, but that total was due in part to the delayed tee times.

Below is the complete shot chart for the PGA (and, for comparison, see the Sunday TV shot charts from the other 2014 majors):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Phil Mickelson66 (of 66)22
Rickie Fowler65 (of 67*)T32
Rory McIlroy63 (of 68)11
Henrik Stenson52T34
Bernd Wiesberger33T151
Ernie Els28T714
Jason Day16T153
Louis Oosthuizen13T153
Thorbjorn Oleson11T3026
Mikko Ilonen9T74
Ryan Palmer7T55
Jimmy Walker7T714
Kenny Perry7T2720
Jim Furyk4T59
Lee Westwood4T158
Charl Schwartzel4T1518
Alexander Levy4T3015
Sergio Garcia3T3613
Steve Stricker2T76
Marc Warren2T1512
Jerry Kelly2T2722
Vijay Singh2T3628
Chris Wood2T4719
Graeme McDowell2T4732
Victor Dubuisson1T711
Brandt Snedeker1T1310
Graham DeLaet1T156
Brooks Koepka1T1512
Joost Luiten1269
Ian Poulter1T5926
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano1T5931
JB Holmes1T6518
Hunter Mahan0T77

* Fowler took 67 "shots" plus one penalty stroke for a score of 68.

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

Monday, August 4, 2014

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms poised to break an NFL TV record

<UPDATE 12/15/2014: Nantz and Simms each broke this record and reached 22 games when they called the Thursday 12/11 Cardinals-Rams game. Both are on track to set the new mark at 26 regular season games.>

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are likely to shatter an NFL TV broadcasting record in 2014. Earlier this year, CBS acquired the rights to the new Thursday night NFL package. The network has already announced that Nantz and Simms will call the 7 Thursday night games on CBS, the 7 Thursday night games on NFL Network, and one of the Saturday games in week 16. That will put them at 15 games, but CBS also plans to use Nantz and Simms on "select" Sunday telecasts - presumably on many of the doubleheader weeks.

The expected workload for the CBS #1 crew leads into the question as to who holds the "record" in the category of most games worked in a single regular season by an NFL TV announcer. Using the historical pro football TV announcer listings at 506sports, the current record is 21 games. Frank Gifford reached this mark 4 times while OJ Simpson and Joe Namath did so once each - all for ABC.

So, if we conservatively assume that CBS assigns Nantz and Simms to a Sunday contest on 6 of the 9 CBS doubleheader weeks, then if they also work on opening Sunday and Thanksgiving Day, that would make 23 games which would easily set a new single season record. If CBS were to use them on all 8 of the "practical" doubleheader weeks (excluding week 16 due to the Saturday games), then the mark would reach 25. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

<UPDATE 12/15/2014: Nantz and Simms will not call a week 16 Saturday game, but will work that Sunday instead, They also called a week 15 game during a CBS singleheader which, along with a week 17 game, will bring their season total to 26.>

Here is the complete list of announcers I found who called 19 or more games in a single regular season:

Frank GiffordABC198321
Frank GiffordABC198421
Frank GiffordABC198521
OJ SimpsonABC198521
Joe NamathABC198521
Frank GiffordABC198621
Frank GiffordABC197820
Howard CosellABC197820
Frank GiffordABC197920
Frank GiffordABC198020
Frank GiffordABC198120
OJ SimpsonABC198420
Don MeredithABC198419
Al MichaelsABC198619
Paul MaguireNBC199619
Paul MaguireNBC199719
Al MichaelsNBC201319
Cris CollinsworthNBC201319

With the exception of Paul Maguire, all of these announcers on the 19+ list did so while working for a network which had one of the prime time packages and which carried multiple games in select weeks. NBC twice used Maguire for 2 games on Thanksgiving weekend plus a Saturday/Sunday back-to-back late in the season.

Nantz and Simms are among a group of announcers who have called 18 games in a season. In the era of the 17-week schedule, many of the announcers on the CBS and Fox #1 crews have called 18 (typically when receiving double-duty on Thanksgiving weekend). In 1993, the NFL had an 18-week schedule, but even though the #1 announcers doubled up on Turkey Day weekend, they got a week off elsewhere. Others who have maxed out at 18 include Pat Summerall, John Madden, Dick StocktonMatt MillenTroy Aikman, and Greg Gumbel.

Most of these marks were set when ABC had a 20-game package starting in 1978 and a 21-game package from 1983-86. Gifford called all of those games. Al Michaels missed 2 in 1986 while covering the baseball playoffs. Cris Collinsworth joined the club in 2013 when the NBC prime time package expanded to a 19-game schedule. Some other notable #1 announcers who have never reached 18 are Joe Buck (who annually misses games to cover the MLB playoffs) and Dick Enberg (who often had golf conflicts).