More channels, more choices, more games, more talking heads and many more commercials were hallmarks of sports on television and radio in 2002. So much to choose from as we present our bests, and a few worsts, in our year-end review from the prone position on the couch in the Sports Waves cave.
Best New Show: We're a little prejudiced, but "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN hosted by colleagues Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser has provided "SportsCenter" the greatest lead-in ratings in history.
Worst New Show: There's no hope for the screaming sports scribes on "Around The Horn," a PTI knockoff that gives sports journalism a bad name. Memo to host Max Kellerman: STOP SHRIEKING!
Worst Show of All: "Best Damn Sports Show Period" on Fox Sports Net is contemptible at every level, an embarrassment to a sports operation that ought to know better.
Best Network Coverage: NBC's work at the Winter Olympics was mostly spectacular, especially the decision to emphasize actual events over three- and four-minute features in prime time. Anyone who can make mogul skiing into a mega-event must be doing something right.
Worst Network Coverage: CBS's overly fawning, reverential sappiness at Augusta National is becoming a tired cliche. Wonder how/if they'll cover the picket lines in April?
Best National Sportscaster: If I had one choice to do a major event, Al Michaels would be the man. He's still the very best, and his partnership with John Madden on "Monday Night Football" worked from the get-go, even if Madden's act is starting to wear just a little thin.
Best Local TV Sportscaster: It's still George Michael, who occasionally grates on the senses and is far too close to Redskins owner Dan Snyder for his own objective good. Still, he produces the most complete local report, which, by the way, also pales in comparison to the excellent work Comcast SportsNet is doing every night with a plethora of eager young talent, including the elegant Sage Steele.
Best Local TV Play-by-Play: Joe Beninati on the Capitals' TV broadcasts is low key, authoritative and always informative, and his partner, Craig Laughlin, gets the nod as best local game analyst.
Best Local Radio Play-by-Play: Jim Hunter, who has settled in nicely on Orioles broadcasts.
Worst Local Radio Play-by-Play: Steve Kolbe still yells far too often for my taste, and Wizards broadcaster Dave Johnson often gets bogged down in minutiae instead of painting broad-brush pictures.
Best Local Radio Broadcaster: Jack of all trades Andy Pollin of WTEM, whose breadth of sports knowledge -- particularly on the Redskins -- is unparalleled in the market.
Worst Local Radio Broadcaster: John Thompson, who fawns all over most of his WTEM guests far too often. He has the deepest Rolodex in the country, but what's the sense of having all those high-profile interviews if tougher questions aren't being asked?
Best Weekend Anchor: Wally Bruckner at Channel 4 still offers the most complete highlight package. Versatile Ken Mease at Channel 9 also does a nice job, whenever he gets the rare chance.
Best Hire: Jimmy Johnson back on Fox's pregame show.
Worst Fire: Sportscaster Jess Atkinson at Channel 9.
Best NFL Pregame Show: ESPN is easily the most complete, even if Bill Parcells jobbed his own network by not telling them he was talking to the Cowboys. Too much yukking it up and silly stuff over on Fox, and Deion's so-called interviews for CBS are as laughable as his attempts to make a tackle when he played here.
Best Sideline Reporter: A tie, between NBC's Jim Gray and CBS's Armen Keteyian. Everyone else, call Andy Rooney, a former war correspondent, for tips on real journalism.
Worst Sideline Reporter: Too many candidates to count.
Best Sports Anthology Series: HBO's "Real Sports" tackles very tough issues, and usually handles them well, with the best lineup of reporters on television.
Best Sports Documentary: HBO's effort on Jim Brown, still airing on a regular basis.
Best Sports Made-for-TV Movie: "The Junction Boys."
Worst Sports Made-for-TV Movie: "Season on the Brink," no relation to John Feinstein's book.
Worst Cancellation Of Year: Who whacked "Arliss" off HBO? It wasn't up there with "The Sopranos" or "Six Feet Under," but it was fun while it lasted.
Most Versatile, Local: Doc Walker, the former Redskins Hog who may be the hardest-working man in sports broadcasting, handling local radio and TV shows, and game analysis every weekend on big-time college football and basketball and the NFL.
Most Versatile, National: Dick Stockton glides seamlessly in and out of football and basketball, and also has become a superb mentor to fledgling jock broadcasters.
Great Decision: Fox allowing Pat Summerall to keep doing a slightly reduced schedule, with lots of Cowboys games.
Dreadful Decision: ESPN televising more than one of LeBron James's high school games. Once was enough to show the country the kid could play, but more are on the way to simply exploit his talent, with Dick Vitale not far behind.
Best Trend: Charles Barkley becoming TNT's mega go-to basketball guy.
Worst Trend: ESPN announcers each trying to outdo each other in the shtick department. I actually heard an announcer on New Year's Eve say over a highlight on a touchdown run "He Is Gandhi!"
Most Missed: Ernie Harwell, the velvet voice of the Detroit Tigers for so many years, retired after six decades in a baseball booth.
Rest in Peace: Roone Arledge, Jack Buck, Chick Hearn, Darrian Chapman.