Thursday, June 23, 2011

Regarding Rece ... He's Really, Really Good

My list of all-time sports TV studio hosts begins and ends with Chris Fowler.

Every year -- in a different location every week as "College GameDay" treks across the country for appreciative on-site audiences and ESPN viewers during college football season -- Fowler sets a standard few can match.

He's the perfect foil/traffic cop/voice of reason on a show that often includes a wide range of voices, most notably analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit.

While an older generation of NFL fans grew up with Brent Musburger telling us "You are looking live ..." and helping a show with Phyllis George and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder move along reasonably, Fowler remains better. At the same time, Bob Costas did steady studio work for NBC. Still, Fowler is better.

My belief was that Fowler stood head and shoulders above those before him -- and even among the current crop of TV sports hosts. Turns out I was a little wrong.

Fowler has company in the form of his ESPN colleague Rece Davis, who handles "GameDay" duties for college basketball.

This week, during a taping for an ESPN show with Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski ("Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Paterno and Krzyzewski" will air at 8 p.m. June 30 on ESPN and 9 p.m. on ESPNU), Davis flashed his skill and talent repeatedly.

He artfully interrupted the coaches and helped make points when necessary. He balanced all the challenges of a taping before a live audience well. He helped create an enjoyable atmosphere and evoke information while doing so with a deft touch. He was pitch perfect from start to finish, even mixing in some jabs at "GameDay" partner Jay Bilas who was working the show as well.

While Davis's performance was not enough to nudge Fowler from the top of my studio-host list, he did more than enough to show that Fowler has company. And, in the case of this taped show, that's before any editing, which means Davis's performance should come off as even more polished and professional.

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