Connect with us
Jim Cutler Demos

BSM Writers

The 5 (or 6) Best Hometown Radio Calls In Super Bowl History

“I tried to narrow it down to 5, but it just couldn’t be done.”

Avatar photo

Published

on

Sunday the NFL will crown its champion for 2020-21, in Super Bowl 55. The game will be seen nationally on CBS, with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo calling the action. No knock on the network guys because they are excellent at what they do. I’ll be tuned in since I have no skin in this game. It might be different if I had a rooting interest. 

For those that do have that interest, there’s a better than average chance you’ll be watching, but with the hometown radio call on somewhere close by.  Chiefs radio play-by-play man, Mitch Holthus hopes to belt out his signature “Touchdown, KAN-ZA CITY!” and longtime Bucs radio guy Gene Deckerhoff is hoping to shout out “Touchdown Tampa Bay!” a few times.  It’s the local radio calls that bring the emotion, be it on the winning end or losing end of things. Fans crave it, especially in these huge moments. 

With that in mind as we get ready for the NFL Title game, here are, in no particular order, the best local radio calls in Super Bowl history. I tried to narrow it down to 5, but it just couldn’t be done. 

Helmet Catch–Feb. 3, 2008: Super Bowl XLII, Patriots vs. Giants

New England was trying to complete a perfect season, but the Giants stood in their way. Eli Manning’s pass to David Tyree may be one of the most spectacular in Super Bowl history!  With the Giants on the move, Manning evaded lineman and let loose a deep ball in the direction of receiver David Tyree, who was mainly a special team’s guy in those days.  The hook up was legendary and so was the call.  Bob Papa, Dick Lynch and Carl Banks had the radio duties that day.

Papa: “Manning takes the snap, back to throw, under pressure, avoids the rush and he’s going to fight out of it, still fights out of it, now throws it deep down field, wide open Tyree who MAKES THE CATCH!  What a play by manning, he eluded three sacks and what a catch by Tyree with 58 seconds to go. 

Lynch: They had Manning by the back of the shirt and he was able to evade that and get away from it. How did he get away from that? 

Banks: I have no idea. I am still flabbergasted with what Eli Manning was able to do and it’s amazing that he didn’t go down. 

Papa: Tyree had Harrison all over him, the ball was on his helmet but he got his other hand on it and pulled it in. 

It works because you can tell the utter amazement in all of their voices. It was real emotion in that moment. The description of Papa, assuming Manning was going to get sacked two or three times, was spot on. It didn’t go too over the top, I felt after listening back to it again and again, they nailed it. 

Image result for helmet catch giants call

Marcus Allen, 74-yard TD run, Los Angeles Raiders win Super Bowl 18: 

In Super Bowl XVIII, Los Angeles Raiders Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen put the game out of reach on the final play of the third quarter. Allen improvised his way to a 74-yard touchdown run to put away Washington. His run was filled with cuts and a reversal of field and was a thing of beauty. So was the hometown call by play-by-play man, the legendary Bill King. 

King: “Plunkett giving to Allen, sending him wide left. He has to reverse his field…and he gets away for a moment. Cuts up the middle to the 40, runs across a man to the 50, down to the 40, picking up a blocker, gets up to the 20. To the 10. To the 5. Touchdown Raiders! Holy Toledo! 74 yards. The Raiders are mobbing Marcus Allen, who has just stood a crowd of 72,000 on its collective ear.”

I only wish I’d been able to listen to King more, living in the Midwest, I didn’t really get the chance. The smoothness in which he delivers his words, the inflection at just the right moment and the descriptions makes this a call of legends. King doesn’t get the credit for being a multi-sport icon that he was. Tremendous call here, not a thing is missing from it. 

Image result for marcus allen super bowl run

Devin Hester returns opening kick of Super Bowl 41, 92-yards for a Touchdown:

In 2006, Bears rookie kick returner Devin Hester had the reputation of a guy you don’t kick to, at all. He would return kick after kick that season, which made it hard to believe that to start Super Bowl 41, the Colts would even think of letting Hester get his hands on the ball. They did and the opening kick resulted in a 92-yard return for a touchdown. Jeff Joniak and former Bear Tom Thayer had the call that evening.

Joniak: It sails to the far side around the 8-yard line to Hester under it and to the middle at the 15 to the 20. Breaks free at the 25, to the 30 to the OUTSIDE, 40, midfield, 40, 30 of the colts, 20, 15, Hester 5, (OHHHH!) touchdown Bears! 

Thayer: NO WAY! Adam Vinatieri kicked the ball so high in the air it gave time for the protection to get behind him and create a running lane and Devin Hester followed his blockers. He caught the ball first and then went to work. 

Joniak: A fast start delivered by the Windy City Flyer, the man they called “Anytime” here in South Florida while he played at Miami. Devin Hester you are ridiculous!”

Hester’s return game made Joniak’s phrase of “Devin Hester you are ridiculous” one that was featured in commercials and on NFL Network promos. Even though it had become “old hat”, the energy brought to this call is spot on. The analysis by Thayer of “why did they kick to him?” was a great question at the time. This Super Bowl first was described nearly perfectly by these two gentlemen. 

Image result for devin hester super bowl return

James Harrison’s pick 6–Feb. 1, 2009: Super Bowl XLIII, Steelers vs. Cardinals

Heading into halftime, Pittsburgh was trying to stop an Arizona team looking to take a lead into the locker room. The Cardinals were down 10-7 and had the ball at the Steelers 2-yard line. James Harrison then made a read on a play and picked off Kurt Warner’s pass at the goal-line. He then started the longest interception return in the game’s history, rumbling 100 yards for a Pittsburgh score. Bill Hargrove had the call on Steelers’ radio. 

Hargrove: 18 seconds left of the 2nd quarter, 1st and goal Arizona. Steelers show blitz he throws the pass, it’s going to be picked off, James Harrison has it, he’s running up the sideline, 35, 40, still on his feet at the forty-five, and down, NO he’s still on his feet, here comes Harrison jumping over people to the 20, the 15, the 10, the 5 and it’s a touchdown! 

Hargrove seemed as stunned as anyone that this big burly linebacker was going to return this interception for a touchdown. In the call there were a few moments Hargrove thought the play was over, but just as Harrison was running out of gas, Hargrove put the pedal to the metal with the exclamation of “NO!” he’s still on his feet. The call mirrored the pacing of the play to that point. There was a trepidation on the field and Hargrove handled it carefully trying not to disappoint an audience if he got too into the play as it developed. I loved listening back to this call with video attached. 

Image result for james harrison pick 6 super bowl

Joe Montana Passes to John Taylor to Win Super Bowl XXIII

Joe Montana worked more of his magic, engineering a drive to win Super Bowl XXIII for the 49’ers. San Francisco went on to a 20-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals thanks to Montana’s brilliance. He drove his team down the field in the waning seconds of the game and capped it off with a game winning TD pass to John Taylor.  

On the call that day on KGO-AM in San Francisco were, Lon Simmons, who was calling his final game as the 49’ers play-by-play announcer, Wayne Welker and Joe Starkey. As Montana put San Francisco in position for the final score, this is what it sounded like. 

Starkey: It’s such a sight to watch this, whether it happens now or not to watch Joe Montana do this so many years and to watch this absolute surgeon on the football field and one of the all-time greats do his thing again it’s almost like poetry. 

Simmons: At the 10-yard line, 39 seconds remaining. Montana at quarterback in motion comes rice. Back to throw Montana steps up throws…TOUCHDOWN 49’ers! Taylor is in for the touchdown. A 10-yard pass and the 49’ers have scored with 34 seconds remaining. 

Welker: They brought Jerry Rice in motion and a couple of guys followed Rice, one man was on Taylor and he ran a post pattern and Montana hit him in stride.   

Great set up to the eventual outcome to start this particular call. Detailing the previous exploits of Montana, creating the drama for the moment to come. Was awesome to hear Lon Simmons too, forgot about that unmistakable voice. The play was a huge one in the legacy of Montana and it was given more than the appropriate level of deference. A good solid call by Simmons and company. 

Image result for john taylor catch

Joe Gibbs Goes for It in Super Bowl XVII

Washington Head Coach Joe Gibbs decided to make a gutsy call in the Super Bowl. With his team trailing the Miami Dolphins 17-13 in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XVII, he went for it on fourth-and-1.  The decision would pay off. Using his workhorse running back, John Riggins to convert the first down. He got that and more as the Skins would eventually win the game 27-17 thanks to this game changing play. 

Frank Herzog had the play-by-play with analysis by both Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgensen. 

Jergensen: Here comes “The Diesel” (Riggins’ nickname), here comes “The Diesel”.

Herzog: There’s the snap, hand to Riggins, good hole, he’s got the first down at the 40, he’s gone! The 35, the 30, the 20, he’s gone, he’s gone, touchdown Washington Redskins! 

Jurgensen: Woooo hoooo!

Herzog: Holy cow what a play, 42-yard touchdown run on 4th and a foot. John Riggins has given the Redskins the lead in Super Bowl 17!

Huff: That, gentlemen might be the nail in the coffin.

This is the epitome of a hometown call. Jergensen referring to Riggins by his nickname at the beginning of the call. Then the former Redskins’ QB lets out the joyous cackle, folks not fans of the Washington Football Team wouldn’t appreciate it, that’s what makes it great. Herzog nailed the call too. Ecstatic that the first down was picked up, then he gets almost melodic with the “he’s gone, he’s gone” part of the call. Perfect execution and intent. 

Image result for riggins super bowl fourth and 1

Hometown, home team calls are personal to fans. They feel a connection with the broadcasters, especially when a former player is a part of things. On the national stage, remember that local is still so important and always has a place at the table. 

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

BSM Writers

If Jim Rome is Willing to Innovate, So Can You

Jim Rome is 59 years old and has been at this for 35 years. And if he finds value in embracing new platforms, you, your hosts, and your stations should be able to do it, too.

Avatar photo

Published

on

Photo of Jim Rome and a logo for the X platform

Jim Rome is 59 years old. He’s been in the sports talk radio game since before I was born. And earlier this year, his show left CBS Sports Network to begin a live simulcast on the Elon Musk-owned X platform.

And it has exposed him and his show to a much wider, and frankly much younger, audience in the short time since the simulcast began.

If you search X, you’ll see either “I didn’t know Jim Rome was still around” or “I’ve never heard of Jim Rome, but I saw his show on here,” posts.

Now, that doesn’t mean he’s abandoning terrestrial radio. In fact, he recently chastised a caller for talking poorly about “scratchy AM radio”, which elicited a strong defense of the medium from the sports talk legend.

But I can’t help but think that if — at this stage in both his life and his career — Jim Rome is willing to try new things, so can you, your show, or your station.

To be frank, Rome has every reason to coast. Rest on his laurels. Simply collect a paycheck and call it a day until his contract is up. But that’s not what he’s doing. He’s innovating. He’s taking chances. I’m sure it’s a much safer feeling — especially for someone about to reach 60 (you look great by the way, Jim) — to stick to a familiar simulcast on cable TV. For damn near 40 years, that’s been the dominant player in the space. But it isn’t 1992 anymore.

Listening to Rome describe the new simulcast makes either one of two things true: Either he doesn’t truly understand what he’s doing, or he believes that his audience is potentially too old to understand streaming. Because he talks about the new venture like he’s trying to explain it to a five-year-old, but at least he’s out here attempting it.

Listening to many shows or stations around the country has at times led me to have a cynical view of the industry. Lipservice is often paid when you hear leaders say “We’re in the content business, not the radio business,” but then only put their content on the radio. Or in podcast form, in three-hour blocks with the live traffic reports still included in the audio to really cement home the fact that the producer couldn’t be bothered to even attempt to edit it before publishing.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some stations that have fantastic radio, podcast, digital video, and social media strategies. Others excel at live events.

But many — you could argue too many — are resting on their laurels, taking a “this is good enough,” approach to the format and its content, and hoping that nothing ever changes.

The problem is the world changes every single day. And if you don’t keep up, you’ll be left behind. If the biggest and best stations in the industry fall behind, the entire format falls behind. And I don’t want to see that happen.

If you don’t have a digital video strategy in 2024, I have one quick question: Why not? I was a Program Director in market #228, and we had a digital video strategy.

If you don’t have a podcast strategy in 2024 that’s better than “just put up the entire show from today”, I have one quick question: Why not?

“Why not?” is likely the question Jim Rome asked when he was presented with the opportunity to move his show from the safe haven that was CBS Sports Network and bring it to a wider, younger, and more accessible audience on social media. Now, was it a risk? Absolutely.

But that’s the point. Be willing to take the chance. Be willing to try something different. Experiment. Learn. I can empathize with those who are frozen by the fear of failing. It’s a completely valid worry. But not growing, not chasing every revenue and content avenue possible, and not learning something new is a bigger risk, in my book.

I’m not here to suggest you take an ax to everything you’ve done on your show, your station, or your cluster, but I will strongly advocate for expanding your horizons and attempting to meet your audience wherever they may be. And even if that audience might be in places you’re unfamiliar with, familiarize yourself. Do I get the impression Jim Rome was super familiar with live video streams on X before taking his show there? No. But he was willing to take a chance, knowing that it might benefit in the long run.

I hope you operate in the same spirit.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Do HBO and Hard Knocks Determine Part of the NFL Schedule?

Is Hard Knocks the reason why the Steelers’ bizarrely back-loaded 2024 schedule looks the way it does?

Published

on

Graphics for NFL Films and HBO's Hard Knocks

We could debate the merits of HBO’s decision to feature the entire AFC North in its end-of-season version of Hard Knocks, but we won’t. Say this much: It hasn’t been done before.

That’s because HBO and the NFL never before decided to do it, nothing more. The network and the league set the parameters for Hard Knocks, after all, and you can tell by this year’s lineup (Hard Knocks: Offseason, Hard Knocks: Training Camp and Hard Knocks: In Season) that they’re running out of ways to keep things fresh.

Featuring an entire division, especially one that includes longtime rivals, does help accomplish that. It doesn’t hurt that the Ravens, Browns, Steelers and Bengals all finished with winning records in 2023.

But let’s skip the rest of the gloss and get to the nubs of it: Is Hard Knocks the reason why the Steelers’ bizarrely back-loaded 2024 schedule looks the way it does?

And should a network get to call that big of a shot?

The league hasn’t said anything about Pittsburgh’s schedule, and HBO certainly won’t. But Steelers fans – and anyone interested in the AFC playoff picture – immediately took notice when the NFL’s 2024 slate was announced on May 15.

The Steelers’ schedule was never going to be cake; six games within the AFC North takes care of that. But the NFL placed all six of those games within the final eight weeks of the season. Pittsburgh’s other two games in that stretch? At Philadelphia, and home to the Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Christmas Day.

A schedule like that could build some drama into a series about four teams trying to outlast each other and make it into the post-season, wouldn’t it? And while we can’t outright say the NFL planned this into the mix, we can think it.

The Steelers have never appeared on the HBO series, as you probably know. There’s been a bit too much made of head coach Mike Tomlin’s reluctance to open up either himself or the locker room to the network’s cameras and boom mikes, but it’s true that Pittsburgh dodged the bullet for more than two decades – until now.

Tomlin isn’t the only coach who’d rather skip the intrusion. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said on The Adam Jones Podcast recently that he doesn’t watch the show, in part because it’s so obviously forced. “Everything’s put on,” Harbaugh said. “You got to put a microphone, and a camera in your face – people aren’t the same.” But he said he’ll tell his team to conduct business as usual, assuming that’s possible.

Tomlin and crew got a weird schedule in general, not only at the finish. The Steelers open with two straight on the road, which hasn’t happened to them in 25 years. I guess you could say they were due.

Week 2 happens to place them in Denver, the site of Steelers quarterback Russ Wilson’s bad breakup with Sean Peyton and the Broncos last offseason. They don’t get a divisional opponent until Week 11, two weeks beyond their bye. After that, it’s a broken-glass crawl to the finish.

“It’s probably not exactly how I would have drawn it up, but we’ve got to do the best we can,” team president Art Rooney II said. “A lot of the division games are at the end of the schedule, so it will be an interesting stretch there toward the end.”

That’s one way to put it. The Steelers went 5-1 versus the North last season, but they grabbed two of those wins within the season’s first five weeks. This year, not so much.

Tomlin hasn’t discussed any of this publicly, and nobody needs to feel sorry for either him or the franchise. They’ll get by. Close watchers of the Steelers noted that in the club’s announcement of the Hard Knocks news, not a single member of the organization was quoted, but beyond that it’s anybody’s guess other than the obvious, which is that –  like lots of teams – Pittsburgh probably views HBO as one of those things the NFL makes the franchise live with. Not everybody craves that stage.

The league always tries to build suspense into the season’s final several weeks, and TV ratings are the tail that wags the dog. No argument there. It’s common for divisional opponents to square off down the stretch, with a team often playing each of its division foes one more time over the final four or five weeks.

But that’s after they’ve already played their rivals once, usually much earlier in the year. Viewed in that light, meeting again toward the finish becomes a great way to gauge how much teams have changed through the season, and who’s left standing.

That is good drama, the kind we all want to see. This season’s Steelers schedule, on the other hand, smells like forced theater – weird, because it isn’t really necessary. But there we go again, overcomplicating things. It’s show business, kids.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Sports TV’s Star Era is Over, So What is Stephen A. Smith Worth Now at ESPN?

“The future is about meeting your audience’s needs on demand and putting a focus on what it is audiences will pay a premium to see. I don’t think that describes studio debate shows.”

Demetri Ravanos

Published

on

Stephen A. Smith
Courtesy: Evan Angelastro, GQ

What is ESPN paying Pat McAfee? The exact figure is disputed, but it’s believed that he signed a contract for $85 million last year. The network writes a $17 million check to Troy Aikman every year and another $10 million check for his Monday Night Football partner Joe Buck.

That is a lot of money already tied up in talent. It seems like ESPN is about to agree to another staggering dollar figure to keep Stephen A. Smith on the payroll. But I have a question.

Why are we doing this? Why is an eight-figure annual salary for any single person a good investment? 

ESPN’s corporate parent, The Walt Disney Company, has said over and over again that they are trying to build a media company for the future. It’s why Star Wars is a streaming-only property for the time being and why Hulu is being folded into Disney+. 

The future is about meeting your audience’s needs on demand and putting a focus on what it is audiences will pay a premium to see. I don’t think that describes studio debate shows.

Jimmy Pitaro had an idea when he took over ESPN. He wanted to give more money to fewer people and put the network’s biggest stars everywhere he could fit them. It’s why Smith was on First Take and NBA Countdown and had a show on ESPN+. It’s why Mike Greenberg had Get Up, NBA Countdown and a radio show. When Pitaro was first laying the foundations for his tenure atop ESPN, the idea made a lot of sense. 

Now though, it’s time for the strategy to be re-thought, particularly as Pitaro and his boss Bob Iger lay out the reasons why it makes sense for the network to offer its audience so many different approaches to its digital future.

The star era of sports television is over. Just ask FS1 and Skip Bayless

When the biggest names and most recognizable faces at ESPN were Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, and Stuart Scott, we turned on ESPN to see what they would do and hear what they would say. To hear those talents tell it though, that was a time when ESPN was afraid to lean into its stars and instead tried to hammer home that no SportsCenter anchor was bigger than the show itself. There were a lot of steps that got us from that reality to this one, but each one made the talking heads matter a little less. Now, the only things that move the needle for the audience in a way that matters to the people at the top of Disney are games.

It started with the rapid growth of cable, then came the internet. That gave birth first to blogs, then YouTube and then to podcasting. We didn’t have to wait for Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon at 5:30 anymore. We could get access to whatever opinion we wanted any time we wanted it.

From there, it kicked into overdrive. Streaming TV became common in most homes. Sports betting was legalized in states all over the country. The Covid-19 pandemic shut down the sports world. Streaming viewership grew to the point that it overtook traditional television.

Advertisers have been paying attention to all of it and what it all means. Look at FOX News, which has been dominant in primetime on cable. The median age of the audience for those shows is 69. That means half of the people watching are 70 or over. It’s why commercials for catheters and reverse mortgages fill so much of the network’s ad time. That’s not just true for FOX News. It’s a problem for just about every traditional TV network. 

ESPN’s median viewer age is 48 and according to one study, nearly 40% of its audience is over 55. That’s still a valuable audience to advertisers, but remember that linear TV viewership isn’t popular with young people at all. Those people are not going to turn 48 and suddenly get a craving for a cable cord or satellite box. Many of them won’t even look into streaming tv packages like YouTubeTV, HuluTV, or Fubo. 

The one exception is live games. ESPN’s median age isn’t significantly lower than FOX News’s because of Smith or McAfee. It’s because of Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. The future value of ESPN is being able to offer all those leagues and games to viewers without forcing them to pay a cable or satellite bill.

First Take is well-constructed. Stephen A. Smith’s comments and antics on the show get spoofed by Saturday Night Live and draw a reaction from Jon Stewart. He has made the show a cultural touchstone. PTI and Around the Horn have both stood the test of time, in their 23rd and 22nd years on the network respectively. Those shows have performed at or above expectations for multiple decades, but I don’t think that guarantees they will be around forever.

What if ESPN wanted to take those games from smaller college conferences and international leagues that currently air on ESPN+ and put them on the main network instead? As we move to full availability of ESPN without a cable or satellite contract, the network could take advantage of America’s desire to bet by airing games throughout the majority of the day’s 24 hours. Integrate ESPNBet capabilities into the presentation, and you certainly have a more profitable product.

I could see myself watching a game in a league I am unfamiliar with and maybe even putting a little money on it if ESPN utilized the Pat McAfee Show crew. I’m not a huge fan of their college football broadcasts, because that’s my favorite sport and I want to watch the game, but if you’re telling me we’re all watching a soccer game from France’s Serie B and they are telling me what in-game bets they like, I just may participate. Degenerates can convince other degenerates to bet on anything if the vibe is right! The problem is that I don’t know how much of that McAfee can do and I don’t know many other ESPN talents that have that kind of equity with their audience.

Don’t judge Smith solely on recent weeks. It’s a short period when he has come off as really unlikable, but it’s part of a much larger career that has shown you over and over again that he knows how to attract and connect with an audience. Having him is a win for any network. But is it a win that’s worth an annual salary of 15 or 20 million dollars? I don’t think it is.

Stephen A. Smith has goals he wants to accomplish. There are new realities in the media business and ESPN needs to be ready to adapt. If the age of the star pundit on television is over, I’m not sure a long and expensive contract makes sense for either side.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Advertisement

Upcoming Events

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2024 Barrett Media.