Thursday, August 31, 2006

Best and Worst of ESPN Radio

Calling ESPN Radio a train wreck would only be giving them a compliment. It's beyond a joke, so naturally the other day, I had to ask myself why -- other than the fact that there's no other sports radio in the area -- I still tend to tune in daily if I hate the entire network so much. I could do a list of probably 300 things that make the radio network so God-awful, but comparing the Best and the Worst of the network might justify me tuning in OCCASIONALLY:

BEST
  1. Keith Olbermann guesting with Dan Patrick for one hour: Yes, it's enough to remind anyone of what once made Sportscenter such great television (and enough of a reminder of what a joke it currently is). What's amazing to me is the chemistry these two still have. Truth be told, Olbermann could just run his own show for three hours, and Patrick simply has no reason to be on the radio alone (see the Worst below). But if you just listen for the one hour where they're together (1pm CST daily), it's far and away the best thing on the network. Plus it's also fun to think that today could be Keith's last day on ESPN Radio because you're always wondering if he's going to say that one little thing that may make management make this whole thing go away. Oh, and eventually you'll find yourself watching "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on MSNBC, which I suppose is the ultimate point here.
  2. Colin Cowherd with Beano Cook: Cowherd's a marginal talent, and the uproar over when he took over for the brilliant radio host Tony Kornheiser is now legendary. The fact is Cowherd's strength is that he knows College Football like few others. He actually knows quite a bit about nearly EVERY team. And for whatever reason, he and Beano Cook have a Tony Soprano/Junior Soprano chemistry on the radio. Beano at times sounds jealous that Cowherd has the job he does, and a la Junior, he'll wax nostalgically about the history of college football, like when the dotting of the "i" at Ohio State first happened. They just work so well together with their love of all things college football. I couldn't stand Beano when he used to be on TV. But for twenty minutes a week (usually around 11:40 CST, either Wednesday or Thursday depending on the week), this segment just works for radio. Frankly I'm stunned at how much I enjoy listening to these two.
  3. Dan Shulman and Dave Campbell doing Sunday Night Baseball: The problem is, not every ESPN Radio affiliate carries these games. But for a national baseball radio broadcast, these two have developed into a great listen. Like Beano, I didn't care at all for "Soup" Campbell when he was on TV. If you can find them in your market, give these guys a listen. Certainly much better than having to hear Joe Morgan talk about how Billy Beane wrote Moneyball during the television broadcast.
  4. Any segment with the Dali Lama: Peter Gammons on radio ANYTIME of the year is perfect radio. The fact that we've had to go so long without hearing his voice -- or having him away from ESPN altogether -- just reminds of how much he's missed. He'll come on any show, any time, and always has the most compelling information on all things baseball related. Get well soony Peter -- and not just because it means a LOT less of Steve Phillips, who seems to want to be on every show giving his horrible analysis.
  5. The TELEVISION version of Mike & Mike: Let's face it, if this were just a radio show, it would begin to knaw at you (which it most certainly did when it first started). But put on ESPN2 during the morning and have this show on in the background. In this format, with the ESPN News like scroll at the bottom and stats and info shown with highlights on the screen, it somehow works. Not that anyone should have to suffer through their sophomoric "Just Shut Up" award, but on television it almost works as the Today Show of sports. And God knows it sure beats the hell out of watching Sportscenter repeats.

WORST

  1. Dan Patrick Sans Keith Olbermann or anyone else: Let's face it, Patrick just isn't a solo artist. He can't dance around on the radio by himself. It's excruciatingly awful. Dan will beat the same question to death to anyone he has on as a guest. One week, he asked EVERYONE if Mark McGwire would get their Hall of Fame vote. The next week, he asked EVERYONE what they thought about Tony Kornheiser on MNF. Hell, this week, he had to get Reggie Miller's input on Terrell Owens. That entire show, he asked EVERYONE what they thought of TO. And Patrick was so lost for material, he wound up replaying an earlier interview he did with Michael Irvin where the playmaker defended TO's actions. All because he said it was "great radio". Patrick -- without Olbermann -- couldn't judge great radio the same way Johnny Carson said that the SNL cast couldn't judge a fart at a bean fair.
  2. Anytime any announcer tries comedy: Please, just stop. NONE of you are funny, NONE of you are writing for even the worst sitcom on NBC. This never turns out remotely funny, and Patrick is so proud of some of his staff's efforst, he'll repeat them over and over. Just stop this now.
  3. Doug Gottlieb, Guest Host: Certainly the "Douger" as Cowherd calls him knows his college hoops. But why is he the go to guest host when somebody goes on vacation? Do we really need Gottlieb's opinion on who the AL MVP is?
  4. ESPN Hosts as Movie Critics: The reason this worked with Kornheiser's radio show is because he had an ACTUAL movie critic (Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post) on with him every week. And when Tony would chime in, he actually knew what he was talking about. Now, really all Dan Patrick wants you to know about are the stupid Adam Sandler movies he appears in. And enough already with having actors who are in sports movies come on as guests. Did we really need to hear David Spade, Rob Schneider and Napoleon Dynamite at the Super Bowl?
  5. Mike & Mike's "Just Shut Up" Award: Can't we just take this thing out back and put it out of it's misery already. I'm still stunned that this radio show has lasted as long as it has (I had to commute for an hour when the show first came on and it made me want to drive right into the nearest ditch). Can't there be a better or more unique way of calling out all the buffoons in the world of sports?

25 comments:

R said...

i agree with the "dan patrick sans olbermann" being pretty bad, but i think the patrick/reggie miller combo is pretty decent.

"cowherd and beano", is right on the money. you could probably put beano in the studio with a bunch of livestock, and it would be entertaining.

i've actually been surprised by gottlieb, and don't mind him all that much. i'm suprised by his knowledge of other sports, besides college hoops. i guess when you're comparing gottlieb subbing for dan patrick, to the crap that is mid-day sports talk radio in so cal, you're bound to be OK with gottlieb.

Anonymous said...

the radio network is such a shell of it's former self. They really lost me when they let Chuck Wilson and Todd Wright go and they drove Kornheiser off. Ironic that they nabbed Tony for MNF

Tino said...

Thank you. Gotleib is the absolute worst. I don't need to hear a rundown of his mediocre (and slightly shady) career every time he decides to get on his high horse. Guy sucks in a lot of ways.

Bish said...

Eric Kuselius (sp?) is probably reading this post and crying that he wasn't even mentioned. Well, not directly, though the comedy thing could include him.

Alex Fritz said...

I actually really really miss Todd Wright.

I thought he was one the smartest and least-gimmicky radio hosts out there.

Which I guess explains a lot about him no longer working with the WWL.

dholl said...

thanks for giving love to sunday night baseball, pretty much the only thing on radio i listen to these days. shulman and campbell are smart as hell (and modest) and i always come away learning something new about the game. this is aside from the fact that shulman has great pipes and campbell has the colorcommenting thing down cold. here's to espn dumping the scrapheap (miller, brennaman, morgan, phillips, brantley) they have now and putting on the a-team.

Anonymous said...

You got the Johnny Carson quote wrong. About Chevy Chase, he said Chase couldn't ad lib a fart at a bean eating contest.

Craig said...

Colin Cowherd, sans Beano, is by far the worst thing on ESPN Radio. Way worse than Dan Patrick's painful solo time. Way worse than Doug Gottlieb. The constant allusions to Las Vegas, the ridiculous arguments he makes (read Fire Joe Morgan's takedown of his Jose Canseco for Cooperstown segment) and the way he is incapable of being anything but fawning or agumentative. Truly, truly terrible.

justin said...

To say that Cowherd is marginal talent is really lowballing. He usually is right on the money in describing and analyzing sports topics. His allegories are great (don't marry the stripper/T.O.) and his asides on life are relevant to the everyman. He's pretty rational most of the time.
I agree his baseball opinions are disputable but his overall show is highly entertaining. Given that a lot of people hate him or love him shows a lot for his gift for sport gab.
Dan P is good because of the guests that come on his show. No one has the pull that he does on Sports Talkradio.

Preston Seider said...

Outstanding rundown here.

Todd Wright was awesome. His replacement, Jason Smith, is a turdbag. Just terrible.

You forgot the Gamenight dipshits, Freddie Coleman and whomever else. Typical Coleman point: "Red Sox yankees red sox yankees. Red Sox? yankees?" Or when he fake argues with himself to state the obvious.

You gotta include Bobby V in the "Best of" section, I love his weekend show. I was pissed when they bumped him from daily.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to make of Olbermann. He's extremely knowledgeble about sports, especially baseball. And he can be entertaining on the radio. But every once in awhile he'll start to talk about politics which is extremely annoying since he's is going to offend over 3/4 of the audience. Plus he occasionally says incredibly stupid things which don't make any sense. If he never talked politics I'd probably tolerate him but if he talks it I have to change the channel.

teddy higuera said...

Patrick + Olbermann, "The Big Show," is unbelievable. I agree that Olbermann could carry his own show. His baseball knowledge is remarkable.

I do like Patrick by himself, though. If you are looking for insightful analysis don't look to Patrick, but he carries the show very well and is good with his guests, especially that irvin guy.

Cowheard? Marginal talent? Not really. Not as bad as JIM ROME, the prime offender, but "The Herd" is most certainly bad.

And Eric Kuselias(sp?) deserves a nod in the best of list. He is a smart host and he also carries his show well.

Gary Garland said...

I'm not sure why you are picking on ESPN Radio in particular. Fox is an absolute abortion. Sports radio in the L.A. market is just the worst. Since Jim Healy died it always has been. It's so bad you wonder how the "talent" got hired and how the execs who make that crap happen keep their jobs. You ought to do something on why that is.

Also, why is ESPN so hot on the whole Terrell Owens schoolyard pissing match and have effectively blacked out discussion of the Carolina Panthers steroid scandal?

By the way, it's "they're," not "their" on the Henley lyric.

Run Up The Score said...

I'm with you on the Olbermann point. He's tremendous, and about 1000x more insightful than the rest of the ESPN Radio team combined. I can handle Dan Patrick, but his constant name-dropping is annoying. Cowherd is a jagoff.

Anonymous said...

patrick + olberman = great
patrick + guest = good
patrick = bad

I download the podcasts everyday to listen to and I can not stand to listen to Mike and Mike or Cowherd but I find most of the DP show pretty good. I find he does a great job with guests, especially barkley, irvin and miller and i HATE miller and irvin.

but patrick and olberman is just great.

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