At my last Cynics Anonymous meeting, it was suggested I could benefit from thinking positively about all the good things in my life. I immediately called Toni — a.k.a. She Is The One — and told her how much I loved her, and I asked her to tell our dog Sapphire the same thing.
(Sapphire was napping at the time — I did not want to wake her.)
I also decided it would be therapeutic to think about all the broadcasters I appreciate — as opposed to the ones who drive me to crush half-empty cans of PBR on my forehead — so here is a list of some of my favorite sports talkers, otherwise known as Slouch Sweeties:
●Marv Albert (TNT): Ageless and peerless. Still hits the high notes just right, still makes his partners sound better. Probably could use some sun from time to time.
●Al Michaels (NBC): Ageless and peerless, too. If he called tiddlywinks or tic-tac-toe, it would sound like a big event. Probably gets more sun than most because he doesn’t work that often.
●Verne Lundquist (CBS): If he sat next to you in any bar in any city in the world, you’d buy him a beer.
●Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith (TNT): We forgive Barkley for all his outrageous statements — actually, maybe we encourage them — because he is so entertaining; he’s the guy you invite over to watch the game with your buddies. Smith, meanwhile, is sneaky good and silky smooth.
●Jim Lampley (HBO): Calling boxing for 25 years, somehow he doesn’t have a hair out of place and his fingernails never get dirty.
●Terry Bradshaw (FOX): He understands the game, and I don’t mean football.
●Gary McCord and David Feherty (CBS): These fellas are always having a good time, and why shouldn’t they? Golf’s a game; thankfully, they’re more relaxed with it than reverential. And any time someone hits a poor shot, neither talks about “Sunday nerves” or “choking” like the killjoy on NBC.
(Column Intermission: I used to be on Colin Cowherd’s splendid ESPN Radio show, making NFL picks every week. Then, the third year, they didn’t call — I’m just lying there in my bed the first Friday of the season rarin’ to go, and the phone never rings. So they fired me without telling me they fired me, and they fired me from a job in which I wasn’t paid, which makes it worse because that means they weren’t trying to save money, they just didn’t like my work. But I still love Colin like the little brother I never had who used to tell Mom and Dad I was drinking Boone’s Farm in the basement and went on to be more successful than me.)
●Kenny Mayne (ESPN): The guy never cracks a smile and he makes me laugh; if I weren’t currently married, at the very least I’d ask him to stay in my guestroom.
●Mike Breen (ABC/ESPN): Wow, does he do solid play-by-play.
●Dan Shulman (ESPN): Ibid.
●Jeff Van Gundy (ABC/ESPN): When he stepped into the booth, I had no expectations; I thought of him as a good, overworked NBA coach always poring over scouting reports or scouring trash cans for timeouts. It turns out he’s the best jock analyst of a generation — funny and frank, oddly engaging; an unexpected natural.
●Vin Scully: I’ve been lucky enough to live in Los Angeles the last 20 years, so on the occasion I stumble upon a Dodgers game on radio or TV and hear his sublime voice of summer, everything feels right in the world for a few minutes.
●Phil Simms (CBS): A sensible, reasonable ex-jock voice in a sea of senseless, unreasonable ex-jock voices.
●Jeremy Schaap (ESPN): Never undersell smart — this guy’s smart.
●Donna Brothers (NBC): You try interviewing jockeys on horseback right after a race. She does it with ease, and expertise.
●Bob Costas (NBC): He’s never been one of my favorites, but when he’s good, he’s very good.
●Lon McEachern (ESPN): He broadcasts bowling and poker — two of my favorite things — and at least he gets along well with his TV bowling partner.
●Ernie Johnson (TNT/TBS): Likable and listenable; never gets in the way, whether at a game or in the studio. Is there a nicer guy in the business? He’s welcome in my home any time, though he should call first.
Q. If the Pirates and the Indians wind up in the World Series, will ESPN have to resort to replaying Yankees-Red Sox games instead of reporting on the Series? (Ray Karolski; Pittsburgh)
A. Apparently, you bugged the ESPN meeting last week on this very topic.
Q. Which do you think requires more natural-born, raw athletic talent — winning the World Series of Poker or winning the Tour de France? (Michael A. Becker; Clayton, Mo.)
A. Poker involves a complex set of physical, mathematical and cognitive skills. The Tour de France? You’re just pedaling a bike on PEDs.
Q. When a pro golfer is laid to rest, is there typically an idiot wearing a sun visor yelling, “Get in the hole!”? (Brian Coyne; Pittsburgh)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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