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Analyze This: The Best Analysts in Sports

Joel Barker@joelabarkerSenior Writer IMay 8, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 26:  ESPN College GameDay announcers (l to r) Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit comment during the NCAA football game between Notre Dame and Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 26, 2002 in Tallahassee, Florida.  The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Florida State Seminoles 34-24.  (Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images)

Every time we turn on our favorite sport we hear the play-by-play guy and the all-important color analyst.  Both game and studio analysts are integral to each sport because without good analysts we might miss out on the intricacies of the games we love.

Sure, some of them insult our intelligence, but for the most part they add depth and width to the height and length of our favorite sports.

I firmly believe some people were born for these positions. Most of the best are former player and coaches. Some of those ‘best’ are better at being an analyst than they ever were at their respective sport.

I decided to rank my favorite analysts in each sport that I care about. My rankings are based on listenability, knowledge of the game, and how much they respect the audience’s knowledge.

The Best of the Best


NBA

Game analyst

Reggie Miller – By far my favorite NBA personality. This guy knows the game and his insights are spot-on. He never insults the basketball intelligence of his listeners and respects the game. His sense of humor is unmatched.

Studio Analyst

Charles Barkley – Love him or hate him, Sir Charles tells it like it is. If you can’t handle it I am sure he’d tell you to turn the channel. Barkley has just enough of an edge to make him enjoyable.

NASCAR

Race Analysts

Darrell Waltrip & Larry McReynolds– The chemistry that these guys exhibit weekly is unmatched by any other analyst duo. Waltrip is an acquired taste. I understand that. Many people do not like him. But I cannot think of another sport that I will not watch based on the play-by-play and analysis. DW and Larry Mac are the best that NASCAR has to offer, and in my opinion should call the sport year-round. 

Golf

Booth Analyst

Nick Faldo– I will use the same reasoning here that I used with Rusty Wallace. Faldo just knows what he’s talking about. He does tend to be on the know-it-all side, but it’s just enough to be enjoyable.

Course Analyst

David Feherty – Is anyone else is in the same league!? This guy’s humor and knowledge are unmatched in golf. Who else could get away with calling Tiger a loser three times—to his face?

NCAA Basketball

Game Analyst

Dick Vitale – Dickie V is college basketball. He is yet another polarizing figure. You either love him or hate him. I choose the former. College basketball would not be the same without him.

Studio Analyst

Bobby Knight – While many never liked Knight as a coach, almost no one can dispute his expertise as an analyst. This man knows so much about the game and he is able to articulate that knowledge like no other. Anytime he talks I want to hear him.

MLB

Game Analyst

Mark Grace – This guy is the consummate professional. He was a professional hitter. Now he’s a professional analyst. He doesn’t fall into the trap of treating the audience like idiots.

Studio Analyst

Peter Gammons – Quite possibly the greatest baseball writer of all time. When I hear his voice I have to turn the volume up, because there’s more than a decent possibility that what he says is right on the money. Without Gammons, ESPN would have nothing to offer in the baseball department.

NFL

Game Analyst

Troy Aikman – The former Cowboys QB is as intelligent and smooth in the booth as he was on the field. He and Joe Buck are the perfect duo for the most popular sport in America.

Studio Analyst

Brian Billick– Another very articulate former coach. Billick is likeable and intelligent. His delivery is what clinches the deal for me though. He talks to you like he really wants you to be in on what he knows.

NCAA Football

Game Analyst

Todd Blackledge– What is it with these former players? Blackledge is usually spot-on with his analysis. And I can’t get enough of “Todd’s Taste of the Town.” The Food Network needs to hire him.

Studio Analyst

Kirk Herbstreit – Herbie has the most insight of anyone on ESPN. I realize he does game analysis too, but his role on Gameday is far more invaluable to ESPN than his in-game abilities on ABC.

The Worst of the Rest

NFL

Phil Simms– Simms insults my intelligence. He’s a Giants homer, and is extremely arrogant.

Terry Bradshaw – Please dude. Just shut up.

Boomer Esiason – I just can’t stand to hear him talk. His points are almost never valid.

MLB

Joe Morgan – The single most biased analyst on TV. His obvious loathing for any team other than the Reds and Yankees is quite unbecoming.

Steve Phillips – Anyone that would hire a former GM that traded Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano needs to be fired. Phillips is about as clueless as they come. He’s too stupid to be so sure of himself.

Tim McCarver – I’ve softened my stance a bit on Timmy Mac. But he’s still too condescending to his audience. He’s knowledgeable yet cocky.

NCAA Basketball

Jay Bilas– I respect Bilas and truly believe he knows his stuff. I just have a hard time listening to him. Maybe it’s my anti-Duke bias…yeah, pretty sure that’s it.

Clark Kellogg – CBS really took a hit with the quality of analysis in this year’s Final Four. Kellogg’s not horrible, but CBS could have done much better.

NCAA Football

Gary Danielson – I just can’t handle him. He’s the analyst for SEC football on CBS now, but ABC can have him back anytime they want him.

Mark May – Another clearly biased analyst. May is still a distant second in that category—behind former ESPN employee Trev Alberts.

Lou Holtz – The absolute worst college football “analyst” out there. He’s far from articulate. His ideas border on insane. And if the rumors are true that he is taking Lee Corso’s spot on Gameday, ESPN has made their biggest mistake ever… well, other than hiring Steve Phillips.

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