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Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy of a Broadcaster: Bob Costas

“David Letterman’s NBC show would have him on doing comedy bits, making him announce elevator races in 30 Rockefeller Plaza in his serious, network style. He really feels like those appearances helped break him in.”

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During his 40-year career at NBC, Bob Costas became the network’s face and voice of sports. His career at NBC began in 1979 and ran until last year. Costas was the prime time host of 11 Olympics, which is a record. He anchored other major sporting events like, Super Bowls, World Series’, Triple Crown horse races, US Open Golf, and the NBA Finals. Not only did he cover many of those events, he was the play-by-play announcer for the NBA Finals and a few World Series along the way.  Costas is one of the few “top broadcasters” to actually host his own non-sports network talk show.  In recent years, you’ve seen him on HBO, CNN and MLB Network, where he still calls games. 

Bob Costas Will No Longer Host NBC's Olympics Coverage

Costas got his first job in broadcasting working for the St. Louis Spirits of the old ABA in 1974, calling games on KMOX, the same station he’d listen to baseball games on as a kid growing up on Long Island. He even got the chance to learn from a childhood idol, Jack Buck while in his adopted home town of St. Louis. That would lead to regional work of NBA and NFL broadcasts for CBS. He worked one year in Chicago as the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bulls on WGN-TV and then he got the big break. 

At age 28, he was hired by NBC as one of the network’s top anchors. Don Ohlmeyer hired him and made it known to Costas that he looked like he was half that age.

“I didn’t, by appearance, fit the mold of national sportscasters people were used to seeing at that time,” Costas recalled to the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. “I thought that I would have a credibility problem just because of my actual youth and my even younger appearance. I think, almost unconsciously, I tried to sound more serious, more authoritative, more buttoned-up and completely prepared and completely professional than was necessary. Of course you want to be professional. But part of what makes a good broadcaster is spontaneity and, if you have it, a sense of humor.”

Costas recalled how that sense of humor emerged in himself in a strange place. David Letterman’s NBC show would have him on doing comedy bits, making him announce elevator races in 30 Rockefeller Plaza in his serious, network style. He really feels like those appearances helped break him in.

“When [those] went over well and I was well-accepted, more and more of that began to make its way into the broadcasts themselves, which I think humanizes you,” said Costas to the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

It’s so true. He realized as most broadcasters eventually do, people need to be able to relate with you. They did for Costas. 

It’s probably baseball that Costas is most identified with. After all he’s a Hall of Famer, having won the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was inducted during ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York on July 28, 2018. Costas in an avid baseball fan and has been fairly outspoken in opposition of both the “Wild Card” and the “DH” in the sport. 

BEST KNOWN FOR

One of his earliest “breakthrough” games happened in June of 1984. Costas calling the NBC Game of the Week with Tony Kubek, witnessed what’s now commonly referred to as “The Sandberg Game.” The Cubs’ now Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg hit a pair of late game-tying home runs off of Cardinals Hall of Famer reliever Bruce Sutter. A game the Cubs eventually won.  The call of that first home run was pretty simple but effective, “Into left center field, and deep. This is a tie ball game!”. He laid out for nearly 20 seconds as the cameras showed Sandberg running the bases and Sutter angrily snapping at the new ball thrown to him. Home run number 2 was a little more unbelievable, “And he hits it to deep left center! Look out! Do you believe it, it’s gone! We will go to the 11th, tied at 11,” said Costas. Another nearly 20 seconds of silence from the booth.

It was impressive to me, considering that Costas is a Cardinals fan, how neutral the calls were, how professional each call was, showing the correct amount of excitement, considering Wrigley Field was pretty much up for grabs after each long ball. 

Sticking with baseball, in October 1997, Costas called the improbable World Series Game 7 between the Marlins and Indians. With one swing of the bat Edgar Renteria hit a walk-off single to give the Marlins their first ever title.

Giants' Renteria Once Again Provides Decisive of World Series ...

“The 0-1 pitch. A liner, off of Nagy’s glove, into center field. The Florida Marlins have won the World Series,” Costas said with the energy of the moment.

Again, the talented Costas laid out. This time 1 minute and 19 seconds. The pictures show during the NBC broadcast were poignant. They were emotional and very telling, more so than any words could have explained. If you haven’t called a big moment like that, you can’t imagine how much restraint and understanding it takes to not say a word. 

One of the strangest and wildest day/nights in sports took place on June 17, 1994. These include Arnold Palmer playing his last round at a U.S. Open and the start of the FIFA World Cup in Chicago. In Manhattan there was a parade in honor of the Rangers’ Stanley Cup victory, Ken Griffey Jr.’s pursuit of a single season home run record, and Game 5 of the NBA finals between the Knicks against the Rockets took place at Madison Square Garden. That’s where Costas was, when all of the sudden the eyes of America were focused on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles and the O.J. Simpson slow chase of his Bronco. 

NBC had a decision to make, stick with the NBA Finals or cover the O.J. chase. Cut to Costas on camera, “This is Bob Costas. It is our professional obligation to cover the ballgame tonight in what we hope is an appropriate fashion. We are, of course, mindful of the O.J. Simpson situation and we will apprise you of any developments.”

Costas was hosting NBC’s coverage of the Finals and recalled, “Fans and media both were crowding around me and looking over my shoulder at the monitor which sometimes had the game in its entirety, sometimes was following the Bronco chase and other times, strangely, had a split screen of the two,” Costas said.

Pretty impressive to be able to pivot like that, from a championship series in basketball to some hardcore news, it’s not easy to do. Costas and Tom Brokaw traded coverage back and forth trying to keep those interested in the game informed and those that wanted to see the “chase” informed as well. Difficult to please everyone. The amazing part is Costas did not seem out of his element. Maybe it was like that because he knew Simpson, but he couldn’t possibly have prepared for what took place. 

Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker Diary, March 31, 1800 | The New York ...

WHY IS HE SO GOOD

Costas never shies away from speaking his mind and delivers eloquently written essays on various subjects. His writing is right up there with his broadcasting ability. The language that he uses seems high-brow, but there’s something in the way he delivers the words that make them understandable and relatable. 

I appreciate Costas and his sense of sarcasm. There is something in his delivery when it comes to certain things that screams “you see what I’m actually saying here?”. How about after Michael Jordan made the final shot of his Bulls career, many feeling like MJ pushed off on Bryon Russell, Costas some many years later simply states, “That hand on his backside was the equivalent of a maître d’ showing someone to their table.” Point made. 

He also has a sense of the moment. They never seen too big for him or his calls. Going back to Jordan’s game and series clinching shot against the Utah Jazz in 1998, which put that the exclamation point on the Bulls’ repeat threepeat run. With all that was circulating back in those days, Costas described the final few seconds leading up to the MJ shot, “Jordan with 43. Malone is doubled. They swat at him and steal it! Here comes Chicago. 17 seconds. 17 seconds, from Game 7, or from championship #6. Jordan, open, CHICAGO WITH THE LEAD! Timeout Utah, 5.2 seconds left. Michael Jordan, running on fumes, with 45 points.”

He covered everything in a few poignant words. Even while the replays were being shown, he put the proper spin on the shot, “That may have been, who knows what will unfold over the next several months, but that may have been the last shot Michael Jordan will ever take in the NBA.”

ESPN to air film on Game 6 of 1998 NBA Finals - Chicago Tribune

No moment is ever too big for Costas. 

Simply stated, intelligent and relatable. Bob Costas is truly one of the best ever. 

Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy Of An Analyst: Brian Griese

Griese is a pro in the booth. He can break down what a quarterback sees or what an offensive coordinator is trying to accomplish on any given play, or in certain situations.

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Brian Griese is the answer to a pretty cool NFL trivia question. Griese and his father, Bob Griese, are the only father/son quarterback combination in NFL history to both win Super Bowl titles. The elder Griese, a Hall of Fame quarterback, won back-to-back titles with Miami in Super Bowls VII and VIII and later served as a top college football analyst for ABC Sports from 1987-2005.

Must Be The Genes: Top 10 NFL Families | Bleacher Report | Latest News,  Videos and Highlights
Courtesy: Getty Images

The younger Griese followed in his dad’s footsteps one more time, in becoming a college football, and eventually NFL, color commentator. Brian was named to the ESPN Monday Night Football booth in 2020, in a three-man booth featuring Steve Levy on play-by-play and Louis Riddick as the other analyst. The crew was basically given last season as an audition. They passed and were brought back for the 2021 Monday night schedule. 

FOOTBALL CAREER

Griese played collegiately at Michigan from 1993-1997. He was a walk-on for the Wolverines after turning down scholarships at Purdue, where his dad played, and Kentucky.

He managed to piece together a pretty nice career for a non-scholarship player. In his career he went 17-5 as a starter.  Oh yeah, the Wolverines won all three games against Ohio State in which he was the QB. Griese was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in December of 2012. 

Griese led the Wolverines to the 1997 National Championship (as recognized by the Associated Press). After being selected in the third round by the Denver Broncos in the 1998 NFL Draft, he earned his Super Bowl ring with the Broncos in his rookie season, as John Elway led the Broncos to a victory in Super Bowl XXIII over the Falcons. Elway retired after the Super Bowl and Griese became the starting quarterback for the Broncos during the 1999 season. Griese made the Pro Bowl in 2000. After leaving the Broncos, Griese started games for the Dolphins, Bears and Buccaneers.

After his release in July of 2009, he decided to retire from the NFL. 

ROAD TO ESPN MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Griese joined ESPN soon after his playing days were over in 2009. His rise to the MNF Booth was 11 years in the making. He was a leading analyst on college football for the network, calling big games on ABC and ESPN since his hiring. Griese teamed with Levy, field analyst Todd McShay and reporter Molly McGrath to call prominent games which included broadcasting New Year’s Day Bowls on television and the College Football Playoff games on ESPN Radio. 

Griese previously called ESPN’s MNF doubleheader game in 2019 – with his current MNF booth mates Levy and Riddick, and 2018 with Beth Mowins. He also called Denver Broncos’ preseason games on TV (2018-19 with Levy) and regular season games on the radio (2010-12). 

AS AN ANALYST

When Griese, Levy and Riddick took over the MNF booth, ESPN was looking to shake things up. Levy was a known commodity, handling many different roles at the network, including hockey. Riddick was more of a question mark from the start. He had the chops as a former player and front office guy, but he had never really served as a game analyst. Griese on the other hand, as I’ve denoted earlier, had plenty of game experience and the ability to break down a game. The risk though, was a three-man booth. These are never easy situations in any sport. 

Courtesy: ESPN Images

“Obviously having three people in a booth versus two people in a booth is different,” Griese told The Athletic last year before the groups’ first season together. “It’s different structurally. The amount of time that you have to talk and how you organize that is something that you have to work through. It’s going to be a work in progress, but I think as time goes on, we’ll develop our rhythm.” he said.  

The roles have been carved out nicely. Griese is a pro in the booth. He can break down what a quarterback sees or what an offensive coordinator is trying to accomplish on any given play, or in certain situations. Having been not only a starter in the NFL, but a backup too, really helps him in my opinion. Sometimes as a starter you get very comfortable with what you’re calling, because of the involvement play to play. As a backup, he had the ability to understand by listening to the offensive coordinator in ‘game situations’ and soaked up that knowledge. In turn now he’s able to present that information from both sides if you will. Yet, both Griese and Riddick can explain things to the casual fan. He knows his audience is far less familiar with the nuts and bolts of a game plan than he is. 

I really feel like Riddick’s development into a top-flight analyst, comes from Griese’s understanding of the role. What do I mean by that? Last year, I felt like Riddick deferred a lot to Griese. In kind, I think the former QB nurtured Riddick, and allowed him to grow, because of how Griese handles his job. I’ve said it many times, there is a unique skill that only a few former athletes have mastered. That is simplifying the game of football down to its basic form and allowing everyone watching to understand the intricacies involved. All Griese had to do, was be himself and Riddick is doing the same. It really works, especially with an experienced ‘traffic cop’ in the booth. 

“Ultimately, I don’t view our role as showing up every week and trying to show people how much football we know. That’s not the point.” Griese told the Athletic. “They will learn something new watching the show, and at the very minimum, they will know why the game was won or lost, whether that’s a decision by a player or a coach. They will be engaged emotionally because that’s always what the most interesting thing to me is when we watch a football game.”

There have been occasions where Griese has been questioned for some of the comments he makes. Most recently in the Bears/Steelers Monday Night game on November 8th. Late in the game the Bears tied the score at 26.  With 1:46 on the clock, going for one point seemed like it would be the obvious thing to do. The Steelers were called for encroachment and Griese asked whether Matt Nagy would go for two. 

“If this is offsides on the defense, now you have options,” Griese said. “Do you want to go for two here and potentially… (quick pause), well you’re going to kick this field goal either way. It’s a higher percentage to win the game.”

There was that pause. He was likely hearing from his producer reminding him of the situation and that it only made sense to kick the extra-point. 

Everyone makes a mistake from time to time, even people that played the game at the highest level. I don’t hold that against Griese, considering, as a Bears’ fan, that game had no flow thanks to all the penalties that were called in that game. Tony Corrente and his crew made far more mistakes that night than the broadcast team did. 

I’m sure, if Griese is like many, as soon as that commercial break hit, he probably took off his headsets and looked at his partners and said something like, “What did I just say?”. He also probably thanked the producer or whoever got in his ear for having his back. 

This situation certainly doesn’t define Griese as a broadcaster or an analyst. I look at it as a blip on the radar and one that doesn’t happen very often. 

Brian Griese - ESPN Press Room U.S.
Courtesy: ESPN Images

CONCLUSION

As a whole, I enjoy Griese’s work on ESPN and ABC. He’s become a household voice in football and now is a mainstay on MNF. His less is more approach works, I think it helps the casual fan understand the game better. It’s always nicer when the analyst doesn’t talk down to you, he/she talks to you and helps the fan to see what they are talking about. The Griese name surely carries some cache, with name recognition as well. 

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Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy of an Analyst: Reggie Miller

“He is no doubt an opinionated person and hey that’s fine when you’re an analyst that played the game at a high level.”

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Reggie Miller played his entire 18-year NBA career with the Indiana Pacers. In that time, he became one of the most prolific three-point shooters in history. While his teams never won a championship, Miller is considered one of the best players in Pacers history. His number 31 has been retired by the organization. He was recognized as one of the greatest to play the game when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September of 2012. 

Reggie Miller and Mel Daniels Hall of Fame Central | Indiana Pacers
Courtesy: NBA.com

Miller grew up in California. He was one of five siblings and was born into a very athletic family. His brother Darrell is a former Major League Baseball player (catcher for the then California Angels); his sister Tammy played volleyball at Cal State Fullerton; and his older sister Cheryl is also a Hall of Fame basketball player. Cheryl was a member of the 1984 U.S. gold-medal-winning Olympic basketball team and is also an analyst for Turner Sports. 

One of the family anecdotes Reggie likes to recall was when Cheryl used to beat him in games of 1-on-1 prior to his professional career. According to Reggie, they quit playing when he could finally block Cheryl’s shots. Miller says his unorthodox shooting style was developed to arc his shot over his sister’s constant shot-blocking. His brother, Saul, Jr., became a musician and followed in his father’s footsteps in military service.

ROAD TO TNT

In August of 2005, Miller announced his plans to join TNT as an NBA analyst and he’s been with the network, more or less, ever since. I say more or less because Miller was tempted at an NBA comeback with the Celtics in 2007. 

On August 8, 2007, Celtics GM Danny Ainge and head coach Doc Rivers discussed joining their revamped roster, included Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and team legend Paul Pierce, in a reserve role. He seriously thought about it but a few weeks later, on his 42nd birthday, Miller decided not to attempt the return. He told the Indianapolis Star, “Physically, I know I could have done it. But mentally, when you do something like this, you’ve either got to be all in or all out. And I’ve decided I’m all out.” 

At Turner, Miller has handled a variety of roles. Mainly he is a game analyst, working with some of the top play-by-play announcers in the game. He was regularly paired with Marv Albert before his retirement and also had many assignments working alongside Kevin Harlan. 

Occasionally, Miller will pop up on the studio show Inside the NBA. His appearances there are not as numerous as they are courtside on the call of a game. 

When Turner got involved in the NCAA Tournament broadcasting business, Miller was tabbed as an analyst. He called tournament games for the network from 2011-2019. He was scheduled to work the 2020 tournament, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He did not work in 2021, thanks to the single-site situation, which resulted in streamlined broadcast crews. 

FEUDS

Miller is a lightning rod for controversies, misspeaks, bad Tweets and feuds. He is no doubt an opinionated person and hey that’s fine when you’re an analyst that played the game at a high level. But along with those opinions come blowback and replies. 

Take for example his Tweet during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals between the Nets and the Bucks after Brooklyn won Game 5. Kevin Durant had one of the greatest performances in NBA Playoff history scoring 49 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists, in 48 minutes. The win gave the Nets a 3-2 lead in the series. For some reason, Miller decided to Tweet after the game. Proving the old adage, think before you hit send. 

He got crushed for it.

Nets guard Landry Shamet was even asked about the tweet after the game. He told the New York Daily News, “That would be insane. I don’t know what universe you would even consider just giving a game away in the playoffs. That doesn’t make sense to me.” 

If you didn’t know the game of basketball, you’d probably have a hard time believing that Miller actually played the game. His teams would never even think about ‘throwing’ a game to force a game 7. Do you really think the Pacers would lay down if they led the Bulls 3 games to 2 in a series under any circumstance? I don’t think so. 

Miller has also had a running “feud” with Spike Lee, the director and Knicks superfan. It dates back to Game 5 of the 1994 Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Miller willed his Pacers to a win by scoring 24 points in the 4th quarter. After every basket, he looked at Lee, who has courtside seats and trash-talked him. Miller gave Lee the choke sign several times as well. 

It didn’t come as a surprise when the Hall of Famer took advantage of the opportunity to call Lee out again during a TNT telecast of the playoffs last season. In the dying minutes of Game 5 between the Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks, with the end result all but assured, Lee left his usual courtside seat and headed for the tunnel with just more than three minutes left. Miller, drew attention to Lee’s exit.

“That’s a fair-weather fan right there,” Miller said as cameras showed Lee walking out. “If he wants to be the No. 1 supporter of the Knicks, you’ve got to stay there and take it like the guys on the floor.”

AS AN ANALYST

Miller is not my cup of tea as an analyst. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why, but I have a few thoughts. It probably doesn’t help his case in my mind that I grew up a major Bulls fan.

Putting that aside and the way he felt about my childhood team and the greatest to ever play the game, Michael Jordan, there is still something missing in his analysis. My feeling on that has nothing to do with his playing days. 

I don’t always get the impression that Miller is fully prepared for a broadcast. I’m not exactly sure at times, where he’s going with what he’s saying. I can only imagine the stress this puts on his play-by-play partner. You never want to correct someone on the air or question the authenticity of the commentary, so it’s probably difficult to deal with. 

Many fans react to hearing that Miller is going to be part of the coverage of their team in a less than favorable manner. Taking to Twitter to inject memes of Michael Scott from The Office putting his face into his hands, or Charles Barkley’s famous ‘Terrible’ complete with the shaking of the head. 

Some former players, again some, feel like prep for these games isn’t as important as being the person that played the game. I’ve written about this many times, that just because you played the game, doesn’t necessarily mean you can make it translate to a broadcast. 

Miller was a cocky player, that was able to back it up many times. He broadcasts almost like the way he played. It comes across sometimes as arrogant. As if to say, “I know more than you” without much substance to follow.

NBA on TNT sees Kevin Harlan seemingly call everyone "Reggie," Reggie Miller  call Ricky Rubio "Marco," and studio play-by-play
Courtesy: TNT

Yes, you are SUPPOSED to know more than me, you played the game, I didn’t. Instead of talking down to the audience, explain things, teach us something, and make us understand what comes so naturally to you. The smugness I perceive is unappealing. 

CONCLUSION 

I do appreciate the fact that Miller is willing to say things that others may not be able to get away with. I like how candid he is at times, but there needs to be some substance behind it. Don’t just tell me that you would be able to score 45 points a game under the new NBA rules, tell me why. Sometimes I get the impression a lot of what he’s saying is for effect, to kind of say ‘look at me, look what I can say’. It rings hollow with me and I really feel for the announcers he works with. 

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Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy Of A Broadcaster: Beth Mowins

“Mowins has had the distinction of busting the glass ceiling for women sportscasters many times.”

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It’s never easy being a pioneer. When you are among the first to ever do something, people will undoubtedly question you and wonder why things need to change. Fans get so used to the way a television or radio broadcast is done, that anything different really stands out. A new scorebug, graphics package, camera angle, and yes, broadcasters, spark an immediate reaction. Right or wrong, it’s the way fans are conditioned. They want comfortable and familiar. Ok, but even those they are comfortable and familiar with were once new and different, correct?  

Beth Mowins is living that life as a pioneering broadcaster. Mowins was born in Syracuse, New York. She was a basketball, softball and soccer player at North Syracuse High School. Mowins was captain of the varsity basketball team for two seasons at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. She was a three-time all-conference selection and 1,000-point scorer, and she is still the school’s all-time assists leader with 715. 

maroonclub mtt mowins beth00 html - Lafayette College Athletics
Courtesy: Lafayette College

After graduating from Lafayette, Mowins earned her master’s degree in communications from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School in 1990. In 2014, Mowins accepted the CoSIDA Jake Wade Award for outstanding media contributions covering collegiate athletics, joining previous honorees Robin Roberts and Christine Brennan. Then in 2015, Syracuse honored her with the Marty Glickman Award for leadership in sports media, joining the likes of Bob Costas, Marv Albert and Sean McDonough.

But like with many broadcasters, both men and women, the dream started early. She told MLB.com in March of 2021 that she would call play-by-play while playing sports with kids in her neighborhood. Then she saw Phyllis George working as a sportscaster for The NFL Today show on CBS. 

“That kind of lit the spark,” Mowins said. “I just turned to my mom one day and said, ‘Hey, can I do that?’ And of course, my mom, in all of her greatness, said, ‘Yes, you can.'”

Mowins gives her mom, who passed away in 2010, and her dad, a ton of recognition for making her the person and broadcaster she is today.

“I give her a lot of credit for allowing me to be bold and ambitious,” Mowins told MLB.com. “And just being super supportive and encouraging me in all my endeavors. And then my dad was there for the pat on the back or the kick in the butt to get out the door and go get it and not wait for it to come to you.”

CAREER 

Mowins’s began her career in 1991 as news and sports director for WXHC-FM Radio in Homer, New York. She joined ESPN in 1994, covering college sports including basketball, football, softball, soccer and volleyball. She has been the network’s lead voice on softball coverage, including the Women’s College World Series. 

Beth Mowins began calling college football for ESPN in 2005. She currently works on both ESPN and ABC doing a variety of sports, including college football and basketball. Mowins also holds down several other jobs, including working part-time for the Marquee Network in Chicago, the network that broadcasts Cubs games, and on occasion she pops up on CBS, working NFL broadcasts. 

FIRSTS/RARE AIR

Mowins has had the distinction of busting the glass ceiling for women sportscasters many times. She’s joined some rarified air, following some others in calling major American sports. 

The firsts started in September of 2017, when she was tabbed to call ESPN’s season-opening Monday Night Football doubleheader with Rex Ryan. She did the game and, in the process, became the first woman to call a nationally-televised NFL game. It also made her just the second female play-by-play announcer in NFL regular season history. Mowins joined Gayle Gardner (Sierens), who broadcast a game in 1987 for NBC Sports. 

Beth Mowins becomes the first woman to call an NFL game in 30 years |  Sporting News Canada
Courtesy: ESPN Images

Also in 2017, Mowins became the first female play-by-play announcer to call NCAA Men’s Basketball, the NBA and the NFL for CBS Sports. She became the first woman in the 58-year history of the network when she called a Cleveland Browns/Indianapolis Colts matchup with Jay Feely. 

The firsts didn’t end for her in 2017. Mowins was named as a fill-in play-by-play announcer for Chicago Cubs games on Marquee Sports Network. On May 8, 2021, she became the first woman to call a regular season game for the team. 

With this assignment she joined a rare club. Gardner (Sierens) established it in 1993 when she called a Rockies-Reds game. Jenny Cavnar did play-by-play for a Padres-Rockies game in 2018.

Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman did play-by-play for local TV games in the 1990s and has been a full-time radio color commentator since she joined John Sterling in 2005. Jessica Mendoza is also a part of the club, having done color commentary for Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN from 2015-19. 

CHALLENGES

As I mentioned at the beginning of the column, it is never easy being among the first, or the first to do something. Some fans just aren’t used to a woman being in the chair and calling a “man’s” sport. Many won’t even afford the female play-by-play announcer a chance to prove that she can handle it and call the game at a high level. Mowins can and has proven it time and time again. 

Most of us that call games for a living have to have thick skin. We know that we are going to take some shots from listeners/viewers. We know that not everyone is going to like us or the job we do. Mowins and her female counterparts already realize they are going to take their fair share of criticisms, warranted or not. 

I found an article written in the Buffalo News in September about Mowins. It was announced she would call a Bills/Texans game alongside Tiki Barber for CBS. Alan Pergament, the TV Critic for the paper printed some of the reactions he saw on Twitter, from some of his followers, about Mowins doing a Bills game. Now mind you, this is even BEFORE she called the game. 

“Oh my (expletive deleted) god. Do the networks really hate us that much?” replied one follower.

“For a team that’s supposed to be a Super Bowl contender, we’re sure not getting any respect from the networks,” wrote one.

“God. Help us,” wrote another.

“She’s awful,” wrote yet another.

There were some that stuck up for Mowins in the article.

“It might be unpopular, but I like Mowins,” wrote one follower.

“She’s good actually,” wrote another.

“I see a lot of woman sports announcers hate here,” wrote another. “She’s good in everything she covers.”

“She’s good because she makes it about the GAME, not her,” wrote another.

Pergament assessed the criticism in this way: clearly, Mowins is polarizing. It says as much or more about many viewers’ acceptance of women announcers than her performance.

Mowins biggest detractor seems to be her voice. Some won’t allow themselves to get past it.  To me, it’s part of the overall equation, but it’s not the only thing broadcasters should be judged upon. Does she know what she’s talking about? Is she familiar with the players? Does she provide great descriptions? Is she someone that works well with her color commentator? The entirety of the broadcast is ultimately what Mowins and all other broadcasters should be judged on. 

ESPN's Beth Mowins to make history as play-by-play announcer for an NFL  game this fall - Los Angeles Times
Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

Unfortunately, it just proves that in the world of men’s sports, female announcers have to work that much harder to be accepted. 

WHY IS SHE GOOD?

I recently watched Mowins broadcast a College Football game on ESPN. She did the Syracuse/Wake Forest contest last weekend with Kirk Morrison. I could tell right away how much of a grasp she had on the telecast. She was very smooth in setting up the key players to watch on both sides. 

I could immediately tell that she did her homework. She mentioned that Wake Forest’s offense was much better overall than in years past. Mowins added that the Deacons were having issues in the red zone, cashing in on touchdowns. Sure enough, Wake Forest drove the ball to the Syracuse four-yard line but had to settle for a field goal. 

Her play-by-play was very steady, working in stories about the players and coaches involved in the game. Clearly, she had a good handle on what was happening in front of her and there really wasn’t much to nit-pick in her ability to call the game.  Mowins worked well with Morrison and they played off each other nicely during the broadcast. 

During the baseball season, I got to watch Mowins quite a bit here in Chicago when she filled in on Cubs games. It took a little time to get used to another new voice in the booth, but she was able to assimilate herself nicely into the role. It’s never easy as a fill-in voice of a baseball team. The constant nature of the sport lends itself to someone being there all the time, home games and road games. 

What really makes her a good broadcaster in my eyes, is her versatility. Mowins has the ability to call multiple sports and to call them well. It’s not an easy task to maneuver through baseball and football broadcasts within the same weekend. That ability can test many a broadcaster’s skill and she handles it in a professional manner. 

CONCLUSION

Mowins is a talented broadcaster. Not only has she created opportunities for herself in this male-dominated field, but she’s opened doors for other women. There has been a surge in female voices across multiple sports in recent years and Mowins is partially responsible. While she fully acknowledges those that came before her, others are quick to mention her now in accepting full-time jobs in the industry.

Beth Mowins makes history on a Cubs broadcast look easy on Mother's Day  weekend - Bleed Cubbie Blue
Courtesy: Marquee Sports Network

Mowins paved the way for broadcasters like Lisa Byington, who was just hired as the television play-by-play voice for the Milwaukee Bucks. Also, there’s Kate Scott, who will take over as the lead play-by-play announcer for the Philadelphia 76ers this season and Holly Rowe is becoming an analyst for the Jazz game night broadcast. More and more women are starting to work for men’s professional teams these days. It’s not quite the norm yet, but it’s getting there, thanks to talented people like Beth Mowins.

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