London 2012: Power Ranking NBC's Best Olympics Broadcasters
As the 2012 Olympics approach and composer Randy Edelman prepares to pocket another set of royalties for NBC's use of Theme from the Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., the official network of the Olympic Games sets to launch around-the-clock coverage—an unprecedented 5,535 hours-worth—across all platforms from cable channels MS- and CNBC, Bravo, its website NBCOlympics.com and, of course, its flagship network.
Delivered by the peacock, the 2008 Beijing Games were the most-watched event in U.S. television history with a total of 215 million viewers, thanks in great part to the memories crafted by not just athletes, but the broadcasters—the commentators, correspondents and analysts—who call the action.
Before he vacated his full-time role, Ebersol saw an incredible expansion of NBC Olympic coverage, overseeing the introduction of powerhouse names over his nearly four decades at NBC.
When Ebersol begin at NBC in 1974, the network had just wrapped up its second-ever Olympics with host Curt Gowdy manning the 1972 anchor desk solo. Jim Simpson, Billy Kid, Al Michaels, Jay Randolph and Terry McDermott served as announcers and commentators in the field.
Since then, NBC's modest cast of eight characters has ballooned into an Olympic-sized empire of hosts, analysts and play-by-play men and women that, in 2008 Beijing, totaled nearly 50, including 28 Olympians who won a combined 42 medals—25 gold, five silver and 12 bronze.
With so many broadcasters to choose from—and even more already promised for London—it is high time we rank NBC's best Olympic Games broadcasters.
Honorable Mention: Dick Enberg
When Dick Enberg joined the NBC broadcast in 1997, 1992 and 1996, he introduced "Dick Enberg's Moments," an extremely eloquent segment in which Enberg delivered a heartfelt commentary regarding his favorite memories from the Olympic Games.
In stark contrast to the manner in which highlights are presented nightly on ESPN's Sportscenter, Enberg reminded us all what true journalism is about—producing quality stories over the long term, rather than fighting to cram highlights into a two-minute window or 600-word article.
If Enberg was still broadcasting Olympic Games, he would be a top three broadcaster thanks to "Moments" alone. Still, Enberg is an icon in the broadcasting world and earns Honorable Mention in this category.
Enberg may currently be heard as the play-by-play announcer for MLB's San Diego Padres.
Dishonorable Mention: Jim Lampley
Short of hiring former White Sox player Ken "Hawk" Harrelson to call the Olympic Games, NBC Sports cannot find a poorer choice for reporter and anchor than daytime host Joltin' Jim Lampley. His absence from the 2010 Winter Olympics—his first Games of non-employ since 1980—may be a step in the right direction.
Lampley has covered a record 14 Olympic Games, most recently in Beijing. Shortly thereafter, he sat down with Hikari Takano to discuss "his extreme emotionalism when covering sports."
No. 7: Dan Patrick
Ah, Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann and their ESPN hijinks.
Dan Patrick will make his Summer Games debut alongside Al Michaels during the London Games' daytime studio segments. Hopefully, he reproduces his Emmy Award-winning performance during the Games, unlike his foray into Winter Games broadcasting last go-around.
Patrick hosts The Dan Patrick Show that ran delayed on Sirius XM before beginning to simulcast on The 101 Network, Fox Spots Net, Comcast, Root Sports and MSG Plus, which should give you some idea of his broadcast ability.
No. 6: Mike Breen
In 2008, ESPN staple Mike Breen left his lofty Disney-ABC perch to broadcast a special Olympics edition of basketball on NBC, delivering a thoughtful introductory segment and speech before dipping into his classic "bang" and "puts it in" depository to call the finale of Lithuania vs. Argentina.
Still, when it comes to commercials, ESPN holds the edge over NBC, Olympics or not.
No. 5: Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines
When Michael Phelps set record after record in pursuit of gold after gold, swimming broadcasters Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines were there every step of the way.
Gaines himself is a three-time gold medal winner (1984 Los Angeles) while Hicks is a career broadcaster, serving as a sports reporter for CNN before joining NBC. Coincidentally, Hicks met his wife—ESPN anchor Hannah Storen (known as Hannah Storm on the network)—during his early days at NBC.
"He did it! Phelps' hopes alive!"
No. 4: Mary Carillo
In this segment from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, broadcaster Mary Carillo discussed the tedious sport of badminton with all the grace—well, there's the tangent about one minute, 20 seconds in—of a pretty creative, yet slightly hilarious and absurd studio anchor.
In other news, you know what really grinds my gears? That it appears Family Guy stole Carillo's bit.
No. 3: Bela Karolyi
Thanks to broadcaster Bela Karolyi, the most successful coach in gymnastics history, the Olympic Games will once again feature a unique coach's touch only found in the legendary Karolyi, who describes himself as "old-fashioned."
Thanks to NBC's willingness to show Karolyi's live reaction to a 2008 competition and Comedy.com's desire to avoid copyright infringement, we are left with this YouTube sensation.
In all seriousness, Karolyi brings the raw emotion to NBC's broadcast that counteracts co-broadcasters Mary Carillo and Bob Costas' calm, cool and collected nature. He is a catalyst for emotion—one that, prior to Karolysi's inclusion on Team NBC, was sorely lacking.
No. 2: Al Michaels
In 1980, then-ABC broadcaster Al Michaels took a front seat to Olympic Games history as the United States hockey team pulled off their miracle on ice, upsetting the Soviet Union, 4-3.
Since his famous call of the contest's final countdown, Michaels has relived the experience, appearing on Later with Bob Costas alongside fellow broadcaster Dick Enberg. Michaels was so key for broadcasting and so valuable for NBC, they traded the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit—Walt Disney's first character—to the Mouse for Michaels.
Michaels has won five Emmy Awards during his storied career, and though Michaels, Enberg and Costas all agree that baseball is the best sport to announce, baseball's exclusion from the 2012 Games will not slow Michaels down one bit.
"Do you believe in miracles?"
No. 1: Bob Costas
Is this any surprise?
22-time Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Bob Costas has been a clear shoe-in for the top spot since he first picked up an Olympics microphone 10 Games ago.
A broadcaster through and through that rivals only the likes of Dodgers legend Vin Scully, Costas has been there with us for all of it—from his poignant closing remarks during the 1998 NBA Finals to his heartwarming-yet-heartbreaking tribute to Roger Maris and interview with Mickey Mantle.
Costas is a broadcaster who has it all and is the perfect host for NBC's Olympic Games.