We're lucky, really. Since the Super Bowl is a one-shot deal, we only have to deal with any problems—be it bad announcers, poor officiating or a lopsided match-up—for a game. Unlike any other sport, where if any of the preceding issues crop up, you're stuck for at least four games.
The Super Bowl is, and always has been, possessed of a singular intensity not found in any other sport. Even the BCS Championship and the NCAA Final during March Madness fail to quite match the spectacle and grandeur of the Super Bowl.
We expect a little bit more from it. Better play, better coaching, better commercials—and nothing but the best announcers.
Sometimes, well, sometimes that doesn't happen.
It's interesting to me how many announcers—both play-by-play and color analysts—have worked in, on and around the game for so long. Did you know that Pat Summerall has been involved in 16 Super Bowl telecasts, beginning as a sideline reporter for Super Bowl I?
Did you know that the first Super Bowl was simulcast on NBC and CBS? That it is the only Super Bowl with that distinction and was the only NFL game at all to be simulcast until the Pats and Giants faced off in 2007 and the game aired on NFLN, NBC and CBS?
Enough Super Bowl trivia. Maybe that will win you some money this Sunday.
Before I get into a discussion of some announcers who got a chance to work sports' premiere event and biffed it, a few acknowledgments.
Yes, I would kill to announce this game, just once. Yes, I would likely suck at it. Yes, even bad, these guys are still better at what they do than perhaps I might ever be.
Yes, I still manage to cringe when I hear them call a game.
We're not going to delve too far back into the history of Super Bowl announcers. This is for several reasons.
First, the booth is a far different place to be in than it was even a decade ago. Comparing Curt Gowdy and what he did in 1979 to what Al Michaels had to do or did in 2009 is comparing apples to space shuttles. It's just too different.
Also, I'd say since I was a kid for much of the Super Bowl history, I haven't heard all the play-by-play and color guys. I've heard snippets, but you can't judge based on that.
Finally, until about 10 years or so ago, we went through a stretch of just lopsided, boring Super Bowls. I can't fault an announcer for sounding bad when the game is a dog.
Sure, the best will rise to the occasion, but many announcers are going to struggle, and I can't blame them for it.
So we're really looking more recently. If you hated Ray Scott announcing the game in 1972, feel free to add him in the comments. I, however, will pass.
By the way, just think what we might have had happen had Tony Kornheiser survived long enough for ABC/ESPN to get another Super Bowl.
Some genius would have put him in the booth, and we'd have to hear about what a schlep it is to HAVE to cover the Super Bowl.
So before the game this weekend, head to church, synagogue, mosque or wherever you pray, light a candle and thank the football gods that we dodged that bullet.
There are three announcers who have 'graced' us with their presence in the booth on a Super Bowl Sunday who raise the level of suck higher than we need it.
Simms is sort of like Jon Gruden-light, in that he seems to really try and avoiding criticizing many of the players he covers. He'll spar with fellow analysts and announcers or when he's doing something that isn't live game commentary, but during a game, he keeps it safe.
He also likes to be Captain Obvious.
Really, Phil? A forward pass has to go forward? Thanks for that. No really. I never could have figured that one out.
He's not the worst but he can be very aggravating to listen to.
I have been trying to figure out how Aikman manages to use more words than any other sportscaster in the history of broadcast to say so little. Aikman will take five minutes to tell you about a 20-second play.
I don't think the man has ever heard a cliche he didn't like and use. And use. And use.
I think Aikman has some great insight. I just don't have 45 minutes to wade through the wordage to figure out what it is. The game is going on and Troy's just rambling on and on.
If he could cut down on the verbal debris, he'd probably be a lot better. As it stands, the last thing I want to do during a Super Bowl is have to listen to a long anecdote to explain why the ball was deflected by a defensive lineman.
Come on, Troy—just cut to the chase.
You know, there are some people who really like Buck's forced enthusiasm but listening to him is like listening to a drunk guy try to convince you that he's REALLY happy to be at the party his wife dragged him to.
Of course, there are large stretches of time when he's not even faking it. He just sounds like he's watching some game. You know, whatever, just some game.
Maybe that cuts it in baseball, where they play for 18 hours and the pace is slow but constant. In the NFL where the stop and start of a play, the rhythm of a game is violent and sudden? You need someone who sounds like they understand that every play is huge.
Buck calls a major play the same way he calls a minor play. 'Oh, did that happen? A 70-yard catch? That's interesting, first and goal.'
If you don't believe me, take a listen to the video below and when I say listen, I mean close your eyes and listen to the announcing.
Where's the passion? Where is the immensity of the moment? I mean clearly I'm no Troy Aikman fan, but the difference even between his middling delivery and Buck's is tremendous.
Here's another great example. At some point, Buck just stops talking.
Some great play-by-play there. As with the first one, if you close your eyes, the words just paint a picture...of a four-yard run.
Again, Buck has no idea how to call this. Is it exciting? Is something interesting happening here? Or are we watching paint dry?
Hard to tell because for Buck, it's all the same emotion. People used to make fun of Keanu Reeves for having one expression which served for EVERY scene he was in. The happy-Keanu and the sad-Keanu were the same Keanu as any other Keanu.
Joe Buck is the Keanu Reeves of NFL play-by-play.
This is who we get for the biggest games in the NFL? A guy who, quite frankly, doesn't sound like he gives a hoot what is happening?
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we can still get Kornheiser back.