Monthly Archives: December 2011

Broadcasters Give Fans Plenty of Griner Commentary


The reason fans tune in to watch the No.1-ranked Baylor women’s basketball team is to see Brittney Griner, the Bears’ 6-foot 8-inch post player who has changed the face of the game. ESPNU commentators for the game, Bob Picozzi, play-by-play, and Brooke Weisbrod, color analyst, gave viewers what they wanted by talking in-depth about Griner’s ability to be a “game changer.”

The pair kept fans updated on Griner’s chase for a shot-blocking record, talked about how Baylor needed to be more involved in the offense, and improvements she has made from last season. At one point, while Griner was shooting a free throw, Weisbrod explained how it is a challenge for Griner to shoot a women’s basketball because of the size of her hands. “That looks like me trying to hold on to a Nerf ball and trying to shoot a free throw,” Weisbrod said.

While the commentators focused on Griner, they also highlighted the guard and forward play of Baylor and keyed in on St. John’s top players.One strength of the broadcast was the pair’s ability to be critical of both teams’ play. Sometimes, commentators shy away from criticizing a team, but, in my opinion, giving the student-athletes both praise and criticism is their job. “That wasn’t exactly the most successful 2-on-1 we’ve ever seen from Baylor, was it,” Picozzi asked. “No, it wasn’t,” Weisbrod replied.

Picozzi also was not afraid to say when players shot air balls, or made poor choices on the court. “Not very good shot clock awareness there for the Red Storm,” he commented.

During the first half, unranked St. John’s was the aggressor and Weisbrod was quick to point this out. “St. John’s is more focused than Baylor today. I see a look of daze on their faces (Baylor),” she said.

One critique I had of Picozzi was his lack of excitement. His voice remained monotone for much of the game. Given St. John’s was halfway to pulling off a major upset of the nation’s No.1 team, his voice and comments should have reflected this.

After St. John’s hit a three and then tallied an easy lay up, Picozzi said, in a flat voice, “That’s a momentum changer.”

To have an unranked team like St. John’s give Baylor all it could handle, Picozzi should have played his commentary to the potential upset. A St. John’s player suffered a serious injury in the second half, and I thought both commentators handled the situation appropriately. As much as they would have liked to speculate about the injury, the broadcast team refrained. Instead, they tried to establish where the injury happened in the preceding play. They also adjusted the tone of their voices out of respect for the injured player.

ESPN Delivers in Kentucky v. Indiana Buzzer-beater


The most exciting game of the young college basketball season took place Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. The University of Kentucky and Indiana University, two high-profile universities rich with tradition, went to battle on ESPN. Kentucky, ranked No. 1 in the nation, faced a tough road test against an undefeated and unranked Indiana Hoosier team on the rise behind head coach Tom Crean.

The game exceeded expectations as there was excitement play after play. Dan Shulman provided the play-by-play commentary while the famous Dick Vitale served as analyst. Vitale, known for his passion for the game of basketball, proved his love for the game after huge plays. Shulman added some excitement to his voice, as well. As Kentucky came roaring back late in the game, Vitale made an important note that Indiana was not getting the ball to its freshman phenom Cody Zeller. This analysis came at a perfect time as viewers were able to take notice of the key piece missing from the Hoosier puzzle, which allowed Kentucky to take the lead with under two minutes to play. Nonetheless, the Wildcats missed free throws down the stretch, and Indiana’s Christian Watford drilled a three at the buzzer to give Indiana the upset victory 73-72.

ESPN did a great job of covering the post-game craziness that packed Assembly Hall. Shulman and Vitale went speechless following the three to let fans at home take in the unbelievable atmosphere as Hoosier fans stormed the court. The production crew replayed the game-winning three from multiple camera angles to show how different people reacted to the play. For example, both coaches’ reactions were displayed and a wide shot of Assembly Hall showed fans storming the court following the basket. 

ESPN concluded a great broadcast by waiting to interview Indiana head coach Tom Crean following the huge win. Crean was celebrating and had trouble making his way to the announcers’ table through the mass chaos on the court. Nonetheless, ESPN’s wait proved to be a smart move as Crean delivered a solid interview by mentioning how big this win was for his program

This game was a great game to watch as a regular sports fan who was neutral in regards to wanting a specific team to win the game. The whole ESPN crew helped make this game even more exciting than it already was. The whole production was extremely successful to capture one of the best games of the 2011 sports year. 

Johnson-Davis Broadcast Duo a ‘Great Combination’


The commentary for the first BIG 10 Championship game added to an already exciting game.  On the call for the game was Gus Johnson doing the play-by-play and Charles Davis on color commentary.  The two were a great combination. Gus Johnson was exuberant like he normally is and Charles Davis provided calm insights into the game. In a back and forth game between the Badgers and the Spartans, full of excitement, the team gave the fans great commentary.

The most memorable call of the game was when Wisconsin had a 4th and 6 with 4:17 left in the game, down by five points.  The Badgers decided to go for it on 4th down and Johnson did a fantastic job setting the stage for what was a great moment.  The Badgers’ quarterback ended up rolling out and throwing across the field to receiver Duckworth, who caught the pass even though he was double-covered byMichigan State players. Johnson used few words to describe the play, but used his words wisely to call the great play.  Johnson said, “4:23 to go, big play here for Russell Wilson.  Wilson looking, fires across the field! Oh! What a catch at the 6-yard-line. Duckworth 36 yards and a first-down for the Badgers.”  After that exciting call by Johnson, Davis went on to tell about how the offensive coordinator felt about receiver Duckworth who just made a huge play. It was great to know the back story of this little known receiver.

The production was also great by FOX.  FOX does not do many college football games and I am used to seeing only NFL football on FOX, but they did a great job capturing the atmosphere inIndianapolis.  There were great shots from every angle of great plays as well as good shots of the crowd and bands.  The only gripe I have is I feel FOX should have a separate song that plays into commercial break instead of the same song they play for NFL Sunday games.  The atmosphere of college football is much different than the NFL and their NFL song does not capture the feeling of college football.

The team of Johnson and Davis provided great insight and back-story into the very exciting BIG 10 championship game.  This was my first time seeing this team of commentators and I think I would watch almost any type of football if I knew they were on the call.

CBS has ‘Superb’ Broadcast Team


Yesterday’s SEC Championship Game, in which top-ranked LSU rallied to blow away No.14  Georgia 42-10, was the last SEC game of the year for CBS and their superb broadcast team of Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (color analyst), and Tracy Wolfson. With the exception of a three-year stay at TNT in the mid-1990s Lundquist has been with CBS since 1982 and is one of the most versatile and widely respected men in the business. He has broadcasted everything from NFL football, to college basketball, to golf, and even figure skating. Danielson has been at Lundquist’s side for SEC games since 2006, prior to which he was Brent Musberger’s color man for seven years at ABC. Wolfson is now in her seventh season working the sidelines for CBS.

The team’s experience and overall chemistry was apparent throughout the evening, as the whole telecast flowed very smoothly. Although, at age 71, he’s slipped a bit lately, Lundquist still does a good job at describing the action. He stays away from overused clichés and does a nice job at matching the intensity of his call with that of the game. He also knows that a TV announcer’s best moments often come when he or she says nothing at all and simply lets the viewer soak in the atmosphere. A good example from yesterday’s game occurred as the end of the first quarter. Fourteen-point underdog Georgia had just dominated the first 15 minutes and was in front 10-0. As the quarter wound to a close the CBS cameras went to an extended shot of the Georgia fans cheering wildly while a fired up Bulldog bench urged them to get even louder. Throughout the whole prolonged sequence, neither Lundquist nor Danielson said a word, resulting in a picture that communicated the story of the 1st quarter far better than any words. As mentioned earlier, Lundquist seems to be slipping these last couple of years, and there were a few signs of this yesterday, as he was occasionally slow to spot flags as well as choppy at times heading into breaks.

Danielson, overall, did a very nice job. His analysis was almost completely free of mindless chatter and focused exclusively on x’s and o’s. He did a good job at instantly identifying the key aspect of a play and breaking it down in a timely manner so Lundquist could describe what was happening next. I can’t think of many instances where Danielson spilled over into the next play. Also, because he had already broadcast several LSU and Georgia games this season, Danielson was aware of many little nuances in both schools schemes and also very familiar with many players strengths and weaknesses. He was spot on most of the game with calling out package and personnel changes.

In the 4th quarter, with LSU fully in control, Lundquist and Danielson diverged slightly from the action to discuss the BCS situation. It was widely believed going into the game that LSU—win or lose—had already secured a rematch with Alabama in the national title game. With the Tigers cruising, attention shifted to whether the No.2 Crimson Tide deserved a chance to avenge their loss to LSU or whether No.3 Oklahoma State should jump them in the polls. Danielson spent considerable time on the subject, running through the offensive and defensive statistics for both squads, and expressing his displeasure with the current BCS system. Danielson has been criticized—justifiably—in the past for being over the top in his praise of the SEC, but he did not seem to be too out-of-line here, although it was clear he thought Alabama was superior to Oklahoma State. I give the team credit for holding off on the BCS talk until the game was out of reach. There was a mention, for the sake of context, during the pre-game remarks, but after that the focus of Lundquist and Danielson was squarely on the game at hand. That is the way it should be (and the way it isn’t for a couple of teams at ESPN).

Wolfson did a good job working the sidelines, quickly gathering injury information and providing some interesting behind the scenes stories. One moment that stood out came early in the third quarter after LSU had smacked Georgia for two quick touchdowns to move in front 21-10. Wolfson described Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham as flinging his clipboard down and desperately imploring his players to regain their first-half intensity. Momentum was squarely with the Tigers, and Wolfson’s image perfectly captured where the game stood.

Overall, despite a few minor flaws, the CBS team is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable in college football. Too bad we won’t see them do any more big games until next season.