Courier Post – Time of thanks for those who dish out our sports: November, 2006

Written by Aaron Bracy
Courier Post
November 24, 2006

In this space a lot of time is spent being critical of various sports media outlets and personalities. There is never malice intended, just part of what is required from a sports media critic and industry watchdog.

However, today — appropriately since it’s the day after Thanksgiving — it’s time to spin positive. So here are some sports media outlets and personalities for which to be thankful.

First, five local sports media personalities:

Michael Barkann: Comcast SportsNet’s Barkann is the TV personality in town who fans best relate to and one guy who isn’t afraid to ask a tough question or address a tough issue — even when it involves a fellow Comcast employee. When he’s absent as host of Daily News Live, the show takes a noticeable dip downward.

Ray Didinger: Besides an encyclopedic knowledge of the Eagles (he wrote the book) and the NFL, Didinger brings an air of objectivity to any conversation about Philly’s favorite football team when appearing on TV or radio.

Harry Kalas: The longtime Phillies broadcaster is a baseball treasure. The world is perfect on warm, summer nights with Kalas’ booming home run calls coming over the radio in the fourth inning, the only frame he broadcasts over the medium for which he’s best suited.

Jody McDonald: The WPEN (950-AM) talker is a breath of fresh air to the Philly sports radio scene. He is knowledgeable and credible and his show hits on all the Philly sports teams, college and pro.

Marc Zumoff: Easily the best TV broadcaster in town, the Sixers’ play-by-play man brings enthusiasm to every broadcast. His love of the game and his job is obvious and while it’s clear he’s rooting for the Sixers, it never comes across as obnoxious.

Second, five sports media outlets/publication:

Comcast SportsNet: The network is devoted to Philly’s sports teams, and it’s hard to remember what it was like before nightly sports news wraps of the local teams. The network also televises the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies, making CSN something no local sports fan can do without.

ESPN: No matter the time of year, sports fans can turn to ESPN or its family of channels every night for some type of game. Let’s hope ESPN doesn’t forget that the games — and not opinionated talking heads — are the reason we tune in. ESPN cut out hockey and is cutting back on baseball coverage next year. Hopefully, it’s not a trend.

HBO: Real Sports, which examines important sports issues and often causes positive change, is hands-down the best sports show on television. And the network feeds the craving of boxing fans with some of the best fights and fighters year in and year out.

“Sports Illustrated’: While its quality has declined some as it moves away from long-form features, Sports Illustrated still is a must-read every week — the only publication of its ilk that can be said about. Please though, leave high school sports for the local newspapers and fantasy sports for the Internet.

WIP (610-AM): The station is full of entertaining and thought-provoking hosts — all local. WIP provides a place for fans to share their passion, to revel when their teams are doing great and vent when they’re doing bad. The station gets and deserves its share of criticism, but the Philly sports scene is better off with it.

And, third, some national media personalities:

Marv Albert: The best broadcaster in the business. No announcer has more of an impact on a broadcast, as Albert makes any NBA game he calls more exciting.

Bryant Gumbel: The Real Sports host takes on all comers, and isn’t afraid of bucking the system. Let’s hope his job with NFL Network doesn’t change that.

Bob Ley: The host of Outside the Lines, Ley is a serious voice in a sea of entertainers on ESPN. His show explores important issues in sports.

John Madden: Still the best NFL analyst. Madden relates to viewers, explains what’s happening without getting bogged down with complicated jargon and is entertaining. What more could a viewer want?

Gary Smith: If Smith’s name appears on a Sports Illustrated story, it’s one you know you have to read — even if it takes some time. His most recent article, on Pat Tillman’s death, was one in many memorable pieces. They all usually are.

Reach Aaron Bracy at abracy@courierpostonline.com

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