Thursday, July 11, 2013

Best Analyst By Sport

While watching that incredible Novak Djokovic-Juan Martin Del Potro match today, I was reminded of something that is easily forgotten.  When he isn't busy kissing Rafael Nadal's ass, John McEnroe is one hell of a tennis analyst.  Take the Nadal hero-worship out of the equation, and McEnroe would easily be considered the best in the game.  I think all of ESPN's tennis analysts are excellent, but they bring Johnny Mac in for Wimbledon and the US Open for a reason.  Because he's very, very good at what he does.  But he's not alone.  There are many fine broadcasters, as well as some not-so-good ones.  So who's the best of the best?  Let's see.  (This list only includes analysts, not play-by-play guys or studio hosts/personalities.  Also, I don't watch golf, college football or the NBA, so those sports have been excluded from this list.)Baseball: Ron Darling-It's well-documented here in New York that SNY broadcasts are better than YES broadcasts.  Ron Darling is the main reason why.  He's well-informed, non-biased and extremely professional.  Darling was probably the leading candidate to replace Tim McCarver at FOX next season.  That's why TBS wisely locked him up to a multi-year deal before he could bolt.Football: Cris Collinsworth-Duh.  Michaels and Collinsworth are far-and-away the best announcer duo in sports.  That's why he was hand-picked by John Madden to take over when he retired.  Collinsworth knows the game better than the viewers, but he's never in-your-face about it.  He understands what the fans know and doesn't patronize them by overexplaining things.  Plus, Al Michaels knows his stuff, too, and the two work very well together.  Collinsworth has done some very good feature pieces during the Olympics, as well, so he's not just a one-trick pony like Madden was.Hockey: Pierre McGuire-Doc Emrick doesn't need an analyst.  In fact, there were times during the playoffs when he'd go all Vin Scully on everyone and Eddie Olczyk wouldn't say anything for like two minutes straight.  The second-best member of NBC's main hockey team, though, is Pierre McGuire.  I'm not a fan of that ice-level guy being the analyst when they're using a two-man crew, but when they have two guys in the booth and Pierre between the benches, those broadcasts are at their best.  That's where McGuire shines, too.  My favorite is when he butts into Doc and Edzo's conversations just to contribute his two cents.College Basketball: Steve Kerr-I was so tempted to go with Bill Raftery here ("Onions!"), but I couldn't do it.  The best games during the Tournament are the ones that Marv Albert and Steve Kerr do.  And not just because of Marv Albert.  When they bring him in for the Final Four and do a three-man booth, it isn't disruptive.  He gels very nicely with Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg.Women's Basketball: Doris Burke-There are those out there who hate Doris Burke and/or find her incredibly annoying.  I'm not one of them.  I've always been extremely impressed with Doris Burke as an analyst.  Nobody knows more about women's basketball than she does.  And not just the game.  She actually follows the game and knows everything about the players.  ESPN has recognized the talent they have on their hands.  They've had her doing men's games in the Old Big East for years, and she more than holds her own talking about the men's game.NASCAR: Darrell Waltrip-Boogity, boogity, boogity.  DW is great.  He's entertaining.  He knows what he's talking about.  He's got great stories.  He really does know what it's like for the drivers in the various different situations they might encounter during a race, which brings a tremendous amount of credibility to everything he says.  Not all retired players-turned analysts have made the transition as smoothly as Darrell Waltrip.Women's Tennis: Chris Evert-Sometimes you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.  That was certainly the case with Chris Evert, which has been made even more clear now that she's back working tournaments regularly.  No offense to Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez, who are both great, but they're no Chris Evert.  She's kind of like McEnroe.  You can't really explain why she's so good.  She just is.Soccer: Taylor Twellman-I absolutely loved John Harkes.  I still don't know why ESPN fired him, and I didn't even realize they had until like a year later.  I forget what game it was I was watching (I think it was in Euro 2012) when I was telling somebody how much I enjoy listening to John Harkes.  I was then informed that it was actually Taylor Twellman on the broadcast.  Since I don't know if Harkes is currently working anywhere, and they're so similar in my mind that they might as well be interchangeable, Twellman gets the nod for now.Track & Field: Ato Boldon-One of the smartest things NBC ever did with its Olympic coverage was canning Carol Lewis and replacing her with Ato Boldon.  They knew they had a special talent on their hands.  It almost seems like a revolving door sometimes with all the people covering any given track meet, but it's refreshing when they have a sprint race and it's just Tom Hammond and Ato.  The second and third replays of the sprints, where Tom Hammond shuts up and lets Ato break down the race, are where he really shines.Swimming: Rowdy Gaines-OK, I know.  You're probably wondering, "Are there any other swimming analysts?"  But the lack of competition doesn't make Rowdy Gaines any less great at what he does.  In fact, the fact that he's so good is probably why there aren't any other swimming analysts.  (And by being on every swimming telecast on every network, he gets steady work.)  That's why it was kind of surprising last week when NBC announced that he would be back in Rio.  Was there any doubt?

Best Analyst By Sport Images

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