Friday, March 9, 2012

Oh, the Voices: ESPN Analysts, 'Announcement' and a Really Good Play-by-Play Talent

With a basketball-dominated menu of sports on TV in the next few days, the highlights include many important and interesting voices.

That includes: analysts and experts who will voice their opinions about which teams make the NCAA Tournament and which do not; one somewhat overlooked and talented play-by-play voice who gets an another deserved big-stage opportunity; and a voice from the past that continues to resonate. There's even one voice that might go missing after this week (at least in terms of college basketball), but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

All those voices are part of the latest Act and React.

Act: Conference tournaments and then an NCAA committee shape and set the field for the NCAA Tournament.
React: Oh, everyone will react. This is the weekend when it's all about the reaction. That reaction comes after every game as viewers get speculation and updates on which teams are on the bubble, or the latest from Joe Lunardi on ESPN regarding the "last four in" and "first four out" for the tournament.

Things then heighten Sunday with the tournament selection show at 6 p.m. The CBS Sports team for that includes Greg Gumbel, Greg Anthony and Seth Davis. At 7 p.m., those three, plus Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, move to truTV and go head to head with ESPN's full studio of basketball analysts -- plus many at locations across the country -- to discuss which teams made the field and which did not.

No doubt, some expert will assert that one or another poor team got left out of the now-68 team field. And, while they will be wrong (because a team that low in the pecking order should not be a factor in the national championship chase), it'll probably still produce some entertaining TV moments.

Count on Barkley for the potential to create one of those moments. Count on ESPN's deeper roster of talent, with folks like Jay Bilas and Doug Gottlieb, to produce a little more insight.

Act: Veteran Sean McDonough serves as play-by-play voice of Big East Tournament.
React: Thank you ESPN for putting McDonough behind the microphone for what's almost annually the best conference tournament. His produced solid play-by-play calls while offering room for his partners (Bilas and Bill Raftery) to make appropriate points.

Opening rounds of the tournament earlier this week also included the on-air team of Dave Pasch, Doris Burke and Beth Mowins -- and that's a good group -- but McDonough and his crew deserve the lead assignment they have with the concluding rounds of the tournament. They always rise the level of big games.

Best of all, McDonough always knows it's not about him. He's distinctive and talented, but he's there to present a game, not present himself. He makes sure the appropriate storylines get addressed without unnecessary hype. That's become a rare skill, and it's appreciated.

Act: ESPN presents "The Announcement," about Magic Johnson, at 9 p.m. Sunday.
React: It's hard to imagine a documentary can capture the cultural impact and shock that resulted when Earvin "Magic" Johnson announced he was HIV positive on Nov. 7, 1991, but the master movie makers from ESPN Films, in conjunction with NBA entertainment, have a good chance to do just that.

After surviving the onslaught of voices about college basketball and the NCAA Tournament, this should be another proud addition to the documentary tradition ESPN has established.

Act: College basketball season curtain call for Gus Johnson
React: Emotional and energetic Gus Johnson, a favorite of at least a vocal minority of college basketball fans, might work his final games of the season Friday night during the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. He will not be working the NCAA Tournament, something that became official last May.

While he has worked all of this past season for the Big Ten Network, and also called college football and NFL games for Fox Sports, Johnson is best known for his emotion-packed, end-of-game calls for college basketball -- especially during the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament. That's an appropriate and fair legacy, with a downside coming with sometimes a bit too much emotion early in a game. Still, there's no denying he's good, clearly of the best at what he does.

He will be missed, but his absence probably will not impact ratings or viewership of the early round tournament games he regularly worked.

1 comment:

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