Analyzing the Philadelphia Sports Scene, Part 1: The Media
Sadly, the voice of Philadelphia sports passed away just a few weeks ago.
Yet, the deep, movie-like voice of Harry Kalas was not the only polarizing voice in Philadelphia.
While Harry-the-K was the most famous of the Philadelphia media, the city is kept alive with a lively local radio station, and a few talented television broadcasters.
The main piece of the puzzle to the City of Brother Love's sports media is held in place by a local sports network, Comcast SportsNet (CSN).
CSN is where we will begin our tour of the best and worst sports media personalities in Philadelphia. So if you are ever passing through this great city (you may not think so), this may help you decide what to turn on and whom to listen to.
If you already live in the area, well then maybe you'll be interested in seeing my opinion on the men and women who bring to you our sports news.
So without further adieu, please take your seats, identify your closest emergency exit, and enjoy.
Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (CSN) - Philadelphia-based sports television network
In its 11 and a half years of existence, CSN has come to branch out to 10 locations around the United States. In the Philadelphia area, CSN mainly televises Philadelphia Flyers, Phillies, and 76ers games.
In the mornings, at noon on weekdays, at 6:30 PM every night, and at 10 PM every night, CSN Philly airs a sports newscast, similar to ESPN's SportsCenter.
Over the years, CSN Philly has employed 18 anchors, nine of which are still on the network and are actively anchoring.
Just two of the six original anchors for the network are not currently with CSN.
Most anchors also do on-location reports, such as post-game interviews and pre-game coverage. Some go as far as to travel with the Eagles to away games.
As briefly stated above, CSN Philly televises Flyers, Phillies, and Sixers games. Yet, they also show special programs such as: Eagles Pre-and-Post-Game Live, Monday Night Live, Daily News Live, Inside the Eagles, Eagles Locker Room, Phillies Clubhouse, Phillies Post-Game Live, Flyers Post-Game Live, Sixers Post-Game Live, and special pre-and-post-game specials for the Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers during their respective postseasons.
Other various programs include Inside Golf, Golf Shots, Fantasy Fix, Pro Football Now, 'net IMPACT, and occasional horse racing specials on weekends.
The most famous of the CSN Philly team is popularly thought to be Michael Barkann. Barkann is a lively and enthusiastic character to watch during his television specials.
Although Barkann does not appear on the networks' sports newscasts, he hosts popular shows such as Daily News Live, Eagles Pre-and-Post-Game Live, and some Flyers Post-Game Live specials, as well as occasional Phillies and Sixers Pre-and-Post-Game Live specials.
Barkann is never afraid to get emotional (just look at his job as host of the Harry Kalas special when he teared up during the introduction), nor is he too shy of getting personal. Overall, many consider Barkann as one of the most talented members of the Philadelphia sports media.
Personally, I think of Barkann as the most truthful and "real" member of the CSN team.
Other popular CSN Philly anchors include Ron Burke, Derrick Gunn, Leslie Gudel, Neil Hartman, and Dei Lynam. New anchors to the team include Amy Fadool, Marshall Harris, and John Boruk.
Overall, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia provides a more unbiased view at Philadelphia sports, as well as national sports. While the main focus is on Philadelphia, as it should be for a local station, the network also gives all scores from all professional sports. Something the, eh-em, national four-letter network does not do.
As we move on, we turn our attention to the local sports radio station, 610 WIP.
Sports Radio 610 WIP - Philadelphia Sports Radio Station
Coincidentally, 610 WIP was created during the same year of Jamie Moyer's birth. This was also the year of ending to the Ice Age.
If you guessed correctly, neither of those statements were correct. Yet, WIP really is one of the older radio stations in the tri-state area.
610 WIP's first show was aired in 1922, yet did not convert to a part-time sports station until 1986 before completing their transition a few years after. You see, Moyer was older than the sports version of WIP, yet this was nowhere near the end of the ice age...
Anyway, ignore my painful attempts at humor. Turns out "Jokes for Dummies" doesn't work. (See, there's another one.)
Back to WIP...
In 1986, Howard Eskin was the original broadcaster for a sports talk radio show from 5PM-6PM. Eskin is still with the station today, yet is considered the most controversial on the team.
Eskin is criticized by many for his apparent hot-headed attitude and his rudeness to callers who disagree with his opinion. Personally, I find him very knowledgeable, though he is short with some of his callers. Most importantly, though, he knows what he is talking about and is in that position for a reason.
The other most notable, and probably just as controversial, WIP host is Angelo Cataldi.
Cataldi is known for his humor and connection with the fans. While he can provide outbursts of his own just as Eskin will, Cataldi tends to be more humorous and sarcastic in his rants.
His partner in crime, Al Morganti, is a big piece to that humor. The two make a great pair for entertainment. Other notable hosts such as Keith Jones, Chris Therien, Mitch Williams, and Hugh Douglas make appearances on Cataldi's morning show.
Cataldi has been involved with numerous conflicts, including a long-standing riff with Howard Eskin, and a moment when Cataldi challenged Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to a fistfight and signed legal papers to do so (Manuel, of course, never responded).
Yet, these are all what makes Cataldi such a lovable loser. He is quite frightening at times, to the point where I wouldn't want to be alone with the man for more than five minutes. But from afar while listening on the radio, it's a treat to listen to him.
Other notable WIP hosts include Ray Didinger, Hugh Douglas, Mitch Williams, Keith Jones, Chris Therien, Brian Startare, Glen Macnow, Joe Conklin, Ike Reese, and Anthony Gargano.
The station airs Flyers and Sixers games throughout their seasons, while two other stations air Eagles and Phillies games.
Tim Saunders and Chris Therien present Flyers games, while Tom McGinnis and Todd MacCulloch present 76ers games. Both teams are enjoyable, yet I find Saunders and Therien to be more entertaining.
Overall, 610 WIP is a decent station to listen to. The hosts are not the most experienced, and can become annoying at times. Yet, there are enough hosts that will keep your interest with knowledgeable opinions.
Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News - Local newspapers providing largest sports sections in area
Who needs newspapers nowadays when we have Bleacher Report?
Yes, even with Bleacher Report, the journalists who are paid to do their job need to be recognized.
Philadelphia is blessed with one of the most talented groups of journalists.
Countless writers consistently publish solid material into the city's main newspapers. Many of these writers are distinguished and experienced, providing Philadelphia's sports fans with quality writing and material.
Among the many notable journalists, Bill Conlin, Les Bowen, Phil Anastasia, Paul Domowitch, Sam Donnellon, Bob Ford, Paul Hagen, Stan Hochman, Rich Hoffman, Dick Jerardi, Rick O'Brien, Jim Salisbury, and Phil Sheridan stand out.
Most of these various writers contribute to multiple sports day in and day out.
While there are a few included in this bunch that bring race into the picture on too many occasions or look at themselves as superior to the rest, the work generated is still consistently solid.
Finally, we end this article with each of the individual broadcast teams for the four major sports franchises in Philadelphia.
We begin with the Philadelphia Flyers and their broadcast team.
Jim Jackson, Steve Coates, Keith Jones - Philadelphia Flyers' broadcast team
Jim Jackson has emerged into one of the finest broadcasters in hockey. I don't know if it's just me, but Jim Jackson has the touch. There is just something about that energetic voice.
He follows the game so well, it's hard to miss anything.
But what makes Jim Jackson that much more talented of a broadcaster is his ability to call the big moment.
There is this great call from the 2008 NHL playoffs:
"Briere the shot, bounces back, Timonen, shot, save, rebound, THEY SCORE! They score! Joffrey Lupul tucks it home, and the Flyers win game seven in overtime and head to round number two!" You can here that call here.
There is also this call from the 2004 NHL playoffs:
"And here's Roenick the other way, two-on-one with Amonte, Roenick with the puck...Roenick the shot, HE SCORES! He scores! Jeremy Roenick sends the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals! Sudden death magic for J.R.! And the Flyers move on!" You can here that here.
I know I'm not the only one who likes this guy. He may not be the next Gene Hart, but he could be pretty close.
Jackson's partner, Keith Jones, is improving as a color commentator, while the team's ice correspondent, Steve Coates is a lively character commonly known to liven up any dull game.
Next is the Philadelphia Eagles' broadcast team.
Merrill Reese, Mike Quick - Philadelphia Eagles' broadcast team
It was 1977 when Merrill Reese began calling Eagles games. For these past 32 years, he has done a tremendous job.
His deep, charismatic voice faintly resembles that of Harry Kalas'. Reese's impact on Philadelphia has not been anywhere near Kalas', because most fans watch the Eagles on television, while Reese is forced to do radio since FOX, CBS, NBC, and ESPN carry most NFL games.
Reese's ability to call a game in its entirety is one of the best in the league. This is mostly because of his knowledge of the game. When listening to Reese, it is apparent that he knows what is going on. He can take a situation earlier in a game and apply it to a current situation better than most out there.
He is commonly known for his ability to call a long-play and field goal kicks. His "He's at the 30, the 25, the 15, the 10, the five, TOUCHDOWN!" phrase flows with perfect rhythm, while his high-pitched "Goooooooood!" after made field goals is one-of-a-kind.
His partner, Mike Quick, compliments Reese well. Although he may not be the most talented commentator, Quick knows the game very well and adds in quite a few witty comments every game.
The Phillies' commentators are up next, yet not lead by the most influential man in Philadelphia broadcasting history.
Tom McCarthy, Chris Wheeler, Gary Matthews - Philadelphia Phillies' broadcast team
Without Harry Kalas, this team of commentators is lost.
Personally, Chris Wheeler is my favorite of the bunch. Gary Mathews can be pleasant at times, as well with Tom McCarthy, but both get somewhat annoying.
McCarthy's fanhood lies somewhere between the Phillies and the Mets, something that obviously interferes with his job with the Phillies.
For example, he often announces home runs for the opposing team almost like the Phillies knocked it out. Also, a few nights ago, he labeled a home run that was hit near Ashburn Alley as "Mike Piazza territory".
Are you serious? Mike Piazza territory? In Philadelphia, of all places? Where does your heart lie, Mr. McCarthy?
Before Kalas passed, McCarthy was not a main commentator, as he was a Peter Gammons-type of reporter. Yet, ever since he was promoted into the booth, his stock is falling for me.
Overall, this trio of announcers doesn't need a complete face lift, but could use some help.
Finally, we end with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Marc Zumoff, Bob Salmi - Philadelphia 76ers' broadcast team
I cannot recall one game this entire season in which I watched more than two minutes of a Sixers game.
Oh wait, there was that one time...wait, no, that was a nightmare a few weeks back.
Anyway, even with only watching two or three Sixers minutes of the entire season, I have heard Marc Zumoff to know that he is a very good broadcaster. His style fits well with the team, I believe.
He does over exaggerate many times throughout his games, though. Just take his "and the fans at the Wachovia Center rise to their feet!" when there is only 27 fans in the building. But hey, the extra enthusiasm is needed for a team that can't even sell out a playoff game.
Salmi provides a more calm side to the broadcast. Salmi is a very knowledgeable fan, so he fits well.
Watching the Sixers can be compared to trying to watch water boil. The water won't boil, and the Sixers won't win. But at least their broadcast team is a decent one.
With that, I salute to you, the reader. I don't know why, but I do.
This may help you sometime down the road, it may not. Either way, I was inspired by Rory Brown's request for sports personality articles, and although this was longer and a bit tweaked from his requests, I wanted to cover all of Philadelphia.
Plus, as you read in the headline (unless you are incapable of reading, in which case you would not be reading this sentence, so no worries...), this will become a series. The next segment should come over the weekend. The topic is a secret until then.
I enjoy writing this and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Be sure to look out for part two.
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