Ten announcers to be grateful for this Thanksgiving
There are plenty of things that actually matter in life to be thankful for once Thanksgiving comes around – friends, family, health, Lamar Jackson, safety, and so on and so forth. But don’t forget the smaller things too – your comforts at home, any luxuries you have in life, and whatever else you can think of.
One of those less important things to be thankful for is the announcers who call sports games. Yeah, people whine and complain far too frequently when announcers make mistakes, but we don’t give announcers enough credit when they do great jobs. These ten announcers (in addition to countless others that we just don’t have time to mention today) always bring strong performances to the games and events they call, and we should be thankful for them as we move further down the list of things to be thankful for.
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Jay Bilas. Bilas is one of the few college sports analysts willing to call the NCAA out on their BS and hypocrisy instead of just carrying water for the schools. In addition to providing quality analysis during live games and studio shows. It’s no wonder that he’s ESPN’s top college basketball analyst. He’s the complete package when it comes to both covering college sports and holding the feet of decision makers to the fire.
Kevin Burkhardt. Burkhardt is not Fox’s primary voice for either the NFL or MLB. Yet, he’s one of the most widely liked broadcasters covering each of those sports for how well he calls the action (during the NFL season, alongside Charles Davis) or steers an often unwieldy ship in studio (as Fox’s main MLB Postseason host, alongside analysts David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, and Frank Thomas). They’re two very different jobs, and Burkhardt handles each of them with ease.
Ian Eagle. Eagle is one of CBS’ go-to voices during coverage of their two tentpole sports properties – March Madness and the NFL. His chemistry with his partners (Dan Fouts during the NFL season, and Jim Spanarkel during the NCAA Tournament) is what all broadcasters likely dream about, which results in smooth calls and great experiences for viewers. The presence of Jim Nantz at CBS is somewhat of a roadblock for Eagle, but you can’t do much better for a #2 announcer than him.
Kevin Harlan. …unless you’re talking about Harlan, who also calls both March Madness and the NFL for CBS, along with regular season and playoff NBA games for Turner. Harlan’s NFL pairing with Rich Gannon only gets better each year, and despite being paired with a variety of analysts during March Madness, Harlan still works well with all of them and creates a fantastic atmosphere for the fan at home. I didn’t even mention his radio calls during Monday Night Football of ridiculous events (like streakers on the field) that have achieved cult legend status online.
Joel Klatt. I think Klatt is well on his way to becoming the football version of Bilas, and he may already be college football’s best on-air analyst. Klatt helps temper down the over-excitement of Gus Johnson in Fox’s top CFB booth, and also manages to bluntly call the action like he sees it. Klatt also does a fair bit of studio and digital work for Fox, and his takes have just the right amount of heat to get you to take notice and think of them as reasonable while not getting upset at the absurdity of his opinions.
Jim Nantz. Hello, friends. Nantz is like a metronome, consistently ticking on and on and not missing a beat. He’s the top voice at CBS for both the NFL and March Madness (sensing a theme here?), while also holding the position as their top golf announcers (Jim Nantz and the Masters: name a more iconic duo). Most of the criticism lobbed at Nantz in the past dealt with the analyst sitting next to him (Billy Packer, Phil Simms, etc), and now that those partners have been freshened up with the entrances of Bill Raftery and Tony Romo, Nantz is shining even more and appears to be enjoying himself much more. When a broadcaster seems like they like what they’re doing, they’re definitely going to give the viewer a more palatable experience.
Mike Pereira. The role of the officiating analyst has spread across to all networks, for better or worse. But Pereira is the original holder of the role and, like his Fox colleague Dean Blandino, he truly excels in the position. Pereira doesn’t carry water like the officials like so many officiating analysts that have come after him, and he’s almost always correct in his interpretation of the rules, the calls by the officials, and just what the hell were they thinking after a bad call. Pereira also comes across authentically and isn’t insulting to viewers with his critiques. Most officiating analysts want to be like Pereira, but none can bring together the whole package like he does.
Dan Shulman. ESPN’s best baseball announcer is no longer the voice of ESPN’s primary baseball package, but it’s only because he made that decision on his own. Shulman still calls midweek games for the network, and those games are often the highlight of ESPN’s broadcasts of the week. He’s also the network’s primary college basketball commentator alongside Bilas and has turned into a great basketball announcer. Sunday Night Baseball is a gong show these days, and hearing Shulman call other games really makes us long for the days when he was the man behind the mic on that package.
Jon Sciambi. Like Shulman, Sciambi is an incredibly gifted baseball voice, yet he’s not primary Sunday Night Baseball broadcaster. However, he at least he does have the call on the radio every Sunday night, so it’s not as if he’s completely off the radar. Sciambi’s midweek ESPN MLB pairing with Rick Sutcliffe has been a highlight for years, and like Shulman, he spends his winters calling college basketball for the network. He’s developed into one of the most well-liked broadcasters at ESPN, and the entertainment factor of games he calls is usually off the charts.
Bill Walton. Finally, how could I talk about entertaining announcers without mentioning Bill Walton? I’m thankful for Walton if only because his bosses at ESPN just let him be himself and don’t try to turn him into something he’s not. During the typical game called by Walton, there will likely be just as much (if not more) discussion about non-basketball topics than basketball topics. Walton’s off topic rants drive some fans up the wall, but most viewers love his awareness that this is just a game and there is more to life than basketball. Say a prayer for long-time partner Dave Pasch and his sanity, but be happy that Bill Walton is around to liven up the most mundane of games.
Joe Lucia has been covering sports media since 2011, and is a fan of the Ravens, Braves, and Manchester City. He was born and raised in Harrisburg, PA, but now makes his home in southern California with his wife.