washingtonpost.com
Wouldn't It Be Nice...

By Leonard Shapiro
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, December 24, 2007 8:24 PM

'Tis the season, and with Sports Waves merging on to the information super-highway right on Christmas Day, what better time for our traditional "wouldn't it be nice" column to close out another year of sports broadcasting in 2007.

Wouldn't it be nice to offer a welcome back "boo-yah" to ESPN's Stuart Scott, who returned to work last week after an emergency appendectomy last month revealed a malignant tumor? Perhaps Scott now could do us all a favor and come up with another signature expression.

Wouldn't it be nice to wish ESPN's Dick Vitale a speedy recovery from recent vocal cord surgery that should not have an impact on his college hoops decibel level when he returns some time in February? Still, we'd all be most appreciative if Dicky V. turned it down just a notch anyway when he returns.

Wouldn't it be nice if Lou Holtz never again was assigned to do color commentary on a college football game? He unloaded every cliché in his extensive repertoire during Navy's loss to Utah last Wednesday night in the Poinsettia Bowl, and ESPN needs to ban him to the studio -- or better yet, from the studio and off the air -- in perpetuity.

Wouldn't it be nice to hear George Michael say "now hear this" one more time -- well, many more times -- on Channel 4?

Wouldn't it be nice to give Channel 7 some credit for overtaking Channel 4 in the 11 o'clock news ratings (though I can't imagine rah-rah sportscaster Tim Brant had all that much to do with the turnaround)? Rather, no more Michael and no more Arch Campbell at Channel 4 surely had much to do with WJLA surge.

Wouldn't it be nice to give credit to former Nasty Nick Faldo for becoming one of the more engaging golf analysts on television, and for Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman for silencing all those skeptics who wondered if a woman could handle play-by-play in a big-time sport? She can.

And wouldn't it be nice if more women, like talented Maryland grad Pam Ward on ESPN, were given the same chance in other sports?

Wouldn't it be nice to give credit to ESPN veteran Brent Musburger for adding NASCAR to his long list of sports broadcasting accomplishments, and for still maintaining his unbridled enthusiasm on any assignment he gets?

Wouldn't it be nice to give Comcast host and multi-talented anchorman Russ Thaler a pat on the back for handling a tough assignment with great aplomb -- making a bunch of ink-stained sportswriters look as if they're semi-comfortable in front of the camera on Comcast SportsNet's daily hour-long Washington Post Live? Now, if Thaler could just get guests to start disagreeing with each other instead of being so damned polite, the show might move up a notch.

Wouldn't it be nice to hear Frank Herzog say "Touchdown, Washington Redskins" one more time? Perhaps he could somehow slip it in when he shows up as a semi-regular anchor on all-news 103.5 FM.

Wouldn't it be nice if network cameras no longer zoomed in on contrived celebrations not only after touchdowns, but virtually every routine play? Out of sight, out of mind and maybe it would put an end to all the look-at-me silly stuff.

Wouldn't it be nice if Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who handled himself with great dignity following the tragic death of Sean Taylor, took a page from his pal Jerry Jones and actually made himself available a few times during the season to answer questions from the media?

Wouldn't it be nice to say thanks to Washington Nationals management for finally deciding to bring Bob Carpenter back for another year of TV play-by-play? That said, shame on team president Stan Kasten for telling him only a few weeks before the end of the regular season that his services were no longer needed, a decision the club eventually reversed after so many fans howled in protest.

Wouldn't it be nice if the NFL Network ditched Bryant Gumbel as its play-by-play man for game telecasts next fall? Tom Hammonds did a Thursday night game in his place when Gumbel called in sick a couple of weeks ago, and the telecast improved dramatically. Love Gumbel on HBO's Real Sports, the best sports anthology on television, but he's been mostly mediocre calling the games.

Wouldn't it be nice to praise Gumbel's partner, Cris Collinsworth, for becoming one of the best NFL color analysts on television, as well as a brilliant studio presence for NBC and HBO.

Wouldn't it be nice if the NFL and Big Cable stopped blaming each other in a dispute that keeps many cable viewers from having access to the otherwise mostly mediocre NFL Network? Isn't it ludicrous to hear Dallas owner Jerry Jones, the main team owner/spokesman for the NFL Network, sound so deeply concerned about all those poor fans around the country, and especially in Texas, who can't see his precious Cowboys on the cable network because of those greedy cable fat cats? This from a deep-pocketed mogul who has no conscience about selling you a 50-yard line seat in his new stadium for a mere $50,000 seat license premium per chair, another $340 per ticket per game and oh yes, a $750 season parking pass? Family of four at a Cowboys game? About $225,000 a year.

Wouldn't it be nice if Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors came to their senses in 2009 and voted in Art Modell, the man who headed the league's television committee for so many years of unprecedented rights fees bonanzas from the 1970s through most of the '90s? Modell made countless contributions over the years and was a true visionary who almost always thought league first, not me first.

Wouldn't it be nice to have Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff in the Redskins radio booth for as long as they want to keep going, even if we still have a sneaking suspicion that Snyder would love to slip free agent broadcaster Joe Theismann into the mix sooner rather than later?

Wouldn't it be nice if generally competent Redskins radio play-by-play man Larry Michaels also wasn't listed as executive producer of the Redskins Broadcast Network, a club employee responsible for overseeing all team propaganda on radio, television and the internet?

Wouldn't it be nice to pat Wizards management on the back for adding analyst Glenn Consor to the radio broadcasts, giving play-by-play man Dave Johnson a chance to clear his throat and catch his breath more than ever before?

Wouldn't it be nice if all broadcasters matched Wizard play-by-play man Steve Buckhantz's energy level and institutional memory of the teams they covered?

Wouldn't it be nice to give Smokin' Al Koken plenty of well-deserved credit for making The John Thompson Show on WTEM Radio more than just a lovey-dovey fest when Thompson's guests/friends are on the air? The addition of outspoken Brian Mitchell has been a help, as well, especially during the Redskins season.

Wouldn't it be nice to know if hard-working multi-media man Doc Walker ever takes a day off?

Wouldn't it be nice to hear Warner Wolf say "let's go to the videotape" one more time on a local TV sportscast?

Wouldn't it be nice to give Dan Patrick credit for world-class guests every day on his new nationally syndicated sports talk show on WTEM? Wouldn't it be nicer if the station carried the show for a full three hours, so we can actually listen to guests promo-ed in the first two hours?

Wouldn't it be nice for WTEM, or any other local station, to find a spot for a comeback of the Dave Feldman/Carol Maloney talk show sadly yanked by WTEM six months after they debuted a smart, sophisticated LOCAL program?

Wouldn't it be nice if the ESPN suits actually listened to and acted on some of the very pertinent criticism directed at the network's news operation by ombudswoman Le Anne Schreiber, a former New York Times sports editor?

Wouldn't it nice to salute the great Andy Ockershausen for being one of the more visionary broadcasting executives in Washington history, even if he also takes credit for discovering Ken Beatrice at WMAL Radio? Andy O. is still going strong as Head Schmoozer and Beloved Semi-Elder Statesman for Comcast SportsNet.

Wouldn't it be nice to hear Beatrice bellow to a caller: "You're Next?" Upon further review, naaaaah.

Wouldn't it be nice to see a comeback of the late, not-always-so-great Washington Post Radio, a noble experiment that simply needed another year or two to figure out the proper formula and have a ratings impact on the market?

Wouldn't it be nice if Charles Barkley could do the pre-game, halftime and post-game shows for every NBA game telecast, and maybe throw in some color analysis in his spare time?

Wouldn't it be nice if those brutal mixed martial arts telecasts were kept off mainstream sports networks forever? Showtime ought to be ashamed.

Wouldn't it be nice if readers responding to this column -- actually over the last year, many of them mixed martial arts proponents -- offered a modicum of civility and the occasional hate mailer at least had the guts to sign their names to their wretched e-mails? Can't we just agree to disagree?

Wouldn't it be nice to say nice job to former Redskins lineman Ray Brown for becoming a voice of reason and good sense on Comcast's Redskins' post-game shows, also well-handled by the always dapper and still delightful Chick Hernandez?

Wouldn't it be nice if Brett Haber gave us his own list of the all-time top ten Redskins in history and stop apologizing for the fans' often bogus picks in a ballyhooed but highly flawed Channel 9 viewer poll? No Bobby Mitchell in the top five? Mark Moseley in the top ten? Oh please.

Wouldn't it be nice if Bill Parcells stopped using ESPN as a year-long way station between NFL gigs?

Wouldn't it be nice to see long-time Channel 4 weekend man and ace reporter Wally Bruckner come out of semi-retirement and make a comeback on local television?

Wouldn't it be nice to see Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer actually come clean on Fox's NFL pre-game show and told us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on their roguish recruiting of big-time college football players back in the day? I'd still love to know how Dexter Manley played three years for Johnson at Oklahoma State, and left Stillwater unable to read.

Wouldn't it be nice to salute Washingtonian James Brown, now back on CBS, for being the classiest act in network sports?

Wouldn't it be nice to salute long-time producer/director Ernie Baur, now at Comcast SportsNet, for his wizardry in the control room, and for giving so much back to all those off- and on-camera people he trained so well for so many years?

Wouldn't it be nice if Bill Belichick stood in front of a camera, any camera, and told a national television audience what Spygate was really all about? And then apologized.

Wouldn't it be nice if the upcoming steroid hearings on Capitol Hill were blacked out, the better to keep preening members of Congress from shamelessly pandering to the cameras?

Wouldn't it be nice if ESPN's insufferable Chris Berman went back to doing sportscasts on local television in Connecticut? Talk about an over-exposed guy becoming a parody of himself.

Wouldn't it be nice to wish one and all -- yes, even you Berman -- a joyous Christmas, happy holiday and healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year?

Leonard Shapiro can be reached at Badgerlen@hotmail.com or Badgerlen@aol.com.

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