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Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy Of An Analyst: John McEnroe

Andy Masur looks at what makes John McEnroe one of the best broadcasters in tennis.

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“You cannot be serious!” Who could forget that line, which is so synonymous with John McEnroe berating an on-court official? So synonymous that it became the title of his autobiography. The famous line was part of a memorable moment at Wimbledon in 1981. It was in his opening round match, when he approached chair umpire Edward James yelling, “You cannot be serious, man. YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! That ball was on the line, chalk flew up. It was clearly in. How could you possibly call that out!” McEnroe walked away saying, “You guys are the absolute pits of the world.” The outburst cost him a point in that match. Some consider that the top Wimbledon moment of all-time. McEnroe doesn’t agree, admitting later that he felt “terrible” about the incident.

"I hear that about 10 times a day." McEnroe was notorious for arguing with umpires -- here haranguing an official during a semifinal win over Connors at Wimbledon. His famous catchphrase: "You cannot be serious!"
Courtesy: Getty Images

McEnroe never seemed to agree with umpires or linesmen, but it didn’t stop him from becoming one of the best tennis players of his era. The late 70’s and early 80’s belonged to the headband wearing boisterous left-hander. McEnroe was truly one of the most colorful players during his professional career and he’s parlayed that into a successful post-playing career as a television analyst. 

TENNIS CREDENTIALS

McEnroe earned induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999 based on his illustrious career on the court. He finished with 77 singles and 78 doubles titles. McEnroe won seven grand slam singles titles, four at the US Open and three at Wimbledon, and nine men’s Grand Slam doubles titles. His singles match record of 82–3 in 1984 remains the best single season win rate of the Open Era. 

McEnroe became the top-ranked singles player in the world on March 3, 1980. He was the top-ranked player on 14 separate occasions between 1980 and 1985 and finished the year ranked No. 1 four straight years from 1981 through 1984. He spent a total of 170 weeks at the top of the rankings.

As an 18-year-old amateur in 1977, McEnroe won the mixed doubles at the French Open with Mary Carillo. He then made it through the qualifying rounds of Wimbledon, working his way into the field. McEnroe would lose to Jimmy Connors in four sets. At the time it was the best performance by a qualifier at a Grand Slam tournament. 

He played collegiately at Stanford and in 1978, McEnroe won the NCAA Singles title and led the Cardinal to the NCAA team title. Later that year, he turned pro and made it to the semifinals of the US Open, losing to Jimmy Connors. McEnroe won 5 titles that year, including the Masters Grand Prix in which he beat legend Arthur Ashe in straight sets. The lefty would finish ’78 as the fourth ranked player in the world. 

NOT THE MOST POPULAR PLAYER

McEnroe didn’t stand out for his popularity. He didn’t really seem to care either. He played with a fire that burned, a competitiveness that was palpable but he was always arguing. Constantly putting down game officials for what he considered bad calls. 

“I know I can see the ball better than the officials,” he said early in his career. “I can ‘feel’ when a ball is out or not. What’s so frustrating is to know you’re right and not be able to do anything about it.”

When he was just 20, he was nicknamed “Superbrat” by the British tabloids in 1979. “He is the most vain, ill-tempered, petulant loudmouth that the game of tennis has ever know,” The Sun wrote.

BROADCASTING

McEnroe started his broadcasting career with NBC in 1992 as an analyst on the network’s French Open coverage.  In June of ’92 he made his debut as a commentator on NBC’s Wimbledon telecasts. McEnroe has also spent time with CBS, USA, the BBC and now ESPN.

As we’ve seen it a million times, a person’s unpopularity making them popular in the booth, because you never know what might be said. Controversy sometimes makes for great television. Someone willing to “tell it like it is” usually is a fan favorite. Enter McEnroe. 

John McEnroe and conflict of interests in broadcasting - Sports Illustrated
Courtesy: Sports Illustrated

While the reputation for being the “bad boy” on the court, his on-air persona is a little bit different. The man knows the game of tennis and he’s used the knowledge to gain a reputation for being good at what he does. The combination of insightfulness and some outspoken commentary is working for him. He’s often making his point with the natural wit and cynicism he’s been blessed with. I know this will come as a shock, but he’s often willing to say what is on his mind. The only difference between McEnroe the broadcaster and the “Johnny Mac” of tennis fame, he’s much calmer when delivering his commentary in the booth. That makes him a lot easier to listen to and view. 

Many that were able to play the game, whatever sport it might be, at a high level, have a hard time accepting today’s athletes. Some don’t like the way the game is played now, because it isn’t what it used to be. McEnroe is the exception to that rule. He has been known to appreciate and accept the way the game has changed since his era. It’s a quality that isn’t lost on viewers. Who really wants to hear that former great tell you that these athletes of today are “this or that” and not as good as they were when he played? It’s kind of a tired way of commentating. It’s lazy and not entertaining. Good on McEnroe for being “bigger” than that. 

According to an “Awful Announcing” article in 2012, McEnroe is one of the top analysts regardless of sport. It goes on to say, and I’m paraphrasing here, McEnroe gives the broadcast credibility and enhances the coverage of tennis greatly. 

WORKING WITH HIS BROTHER

McEnroe’s brother Patrick was quite the tennis player himself, but was constantly overshadowed by big brother John. Patrick has carved out a nice niche for himself in tennis broadcasting and is so versatile, he’s done commentary, hosting and play-by-play. The latter allowed him to be paired with John on many occasions.  

The New York Times did a piece on the younger McEnroe in 2017 at the US Open in Flushing, NY.

The brothers were ecstatic to work together again on a broadcast. Patrick told the paper that the producers were initially worried about their similar Queens cadence. With Patrick doing the play-by-play and John doing the color commentary, their words often do the job of letting the viewer know who is talking.

The story looked at the two on opening night of the Open, they called a hard-fought match between Alexander Zverev and Darian King that stretched well past midnight. As the 2 a.m. hour approached, something shocking occurred. John seemed to agree with an umpire. Patrick wanted to make sure he heard his brother correctly. “I figured no one was watching,” John shot back.

Pretty cool that they get to work together, listening back to a few of their matches, I’m struck by how at ease both the brothers are. They should be after growing up together, but sometimes that brotherly competitiveness can rear its head. Not in the case of the McEnroe brothers. 

ESPN / US Open Conference Call – John & Patrick McEnroe - ESPN Press Room  U.S.
Courtesy: ESPN Images

OTHER APPEARANCES 

John is obviously best known for his play, but he’s recognized for other things as well. McEnroe has been an author and actor in various roles including appearances on 30 Rock, CSI NY, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Saturday Night Live, Anger Management, Jack & Jill, and Mr. Deeds to name a few. His memoir that I alluded to earlier, You Cannot Be Serious reached #1 on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list in 2001, and was also ranked #1 on the London Times best-seller list.

CONCLUSION

McEnroe has done a nice job of using his past experiences as a dominant tennis player to move into an analyst role and explain the game to his audience. He offers personality and wit, things his fans are expecting of him, in a conversational and expert way. McEnroe could easily be that screaming and angry guy he was on the court, but he realizes that too much of that would turn an audience off. He is able to strike that delicate balance between the player he was and the broadcaster he is, which is not an easy thing to do. 

Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy Of A Broadcaster: Rick Allen

“Not only is he high-energy, he’s accurate, smooth and has a very confident and commanding style.”

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In my “Anatomy of a Broadcaster” series, I’ve basically stuck to the Big 4 (Baseball, Basketball, Football and Hockey). I figured it was time to branch out a bit and tackle one of the more popular sports in America, NASCAR.

I have to admit, I’m not a huge racing fan, but many of you that read this column are, so let’s start our engines on this “Anatomy” by focusing on Rick Allen of NBC Sports. 

Allen fulfilling lifelong dream to call Verizon IndyCar Series race
Courtesy: NASCAR Illustrated

Allen grew up in Grand Island, Nebraska, and was an athlete in college. He was a walk-on for the University of Nebraska Track and Field team and was one of those great success stories. He wound up as a letter winner all four seasons, was a three-time All-American in the sport, winning two Big Eight Conference decathlon titles (1991–92). Not too shabby for a non-scholarship athlete. 

He received his bachelor’s degree of communications from the university. After graduation, he worked as a public address announcer for the University of Nebraska athletic department. He was heard on the PA system at Memorial Stadium, where the Cornhuskers football team played. This was a time where Nebraska dominated the football landscape and a 24-year-old Allen was in the spotlight, heard by hundreds of thousands of fans in the early to mid ’90s. His work at the school led him to racing. He was asked by a Nebraska Alum and donor to do the PA at a racetrack just purchased by the donor. Eagle Raceway is where it all started for Allen. 

ROAD TO NBC/NASCAR

Rick’s path to the booth was pretty unique. He never really intended to announce races when he was a student. But the opportunity afforded to him by the owner of the Eagle Raceway, set the tire rolling down the track for him. 

Allen recalled last year to a Nebraska TV station WOWT, “A NASCAR official came to me during my second year of announcing out there, and said send my demo tape in because FOX Sports and NBC Sports were taking over the broadcasts for NASCAR, and I didn’t know anything about NASCAR, so I didn’t send a tape in and about two weeks later they said hey you really need to send a tape in, they are interested,” said Allen.

From 2003 to mid-2014, Allen worked for Fox Sports, where his main duty was calling the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series on SPEED-TV and later Fox Sports 1. He occasionally covered Nationwide Series events as well.  

In December of 2013, it was announced that Allen would become the lead announcer for NASCAR on NBC starting in 2015. He actually started some work with NBC in 2014, hosting their daily studio show, NASCAR America while he was still at Fox. His last Truck Series race for Fox was in July of 2014. 

As part of the NBC family, Allen has been able to show his versatility as a broadcaster. He’s been called upon as a play-by-play announcer for the network’s coverage of USA Track and Field Indoor and Outdoor Championships. He also calls the Millrose Games, the Boston Marathon, and the World Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Championships on NBC Sports. Makes sense since he was a three-time All-America in the sport, right? 

In the racing off-season, Allen calls Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball games on the NBC family of networks.

WHY IS HE SO GOOD?

I had to do a little research to find out why Allen is so good at what he does. Viewing several of his races and learning about his path, it wasn’t hard to figure out why. Allen first and foremost is a student of the racing game. Never intending to be in the position he is now, he had to work to familiarize himself with the sport and learn along the way. Not just about NASCAR but how to broadcast it. 

During the same interview I referenced earlier with the Nebraska TV Station WOWT, he recalled a race in 2003. It was a NASCAR Truck Series race and it was a three-wide photo finish. Exciting right? I should point out that this race was held at the Daytona Motor Speedway. Allen, feeling all of the excitement in the air and of the finish he just saw, almost made a big gaffe. He told the station that he almost proclaimed Rick Crawford the winner of the Daytona 500. Nope. Wouldn’t have been true. So, when you listen back to the call of the actual result of the race, Allen says, “Rick Crawford wins the Daytona”, and after a pause of 5 seconds or so, “250”.  All good. 

The other thing that struck me by watching some races over the years is his very confident and upbeat style. He’s taken some criticism for what some perceive as him “yelling” all the time. I felt it was appropriate in almost every situation. See, he’s working with Dale Earnhardt Junior and Junior is always upbeat in the booth. Earnhardt the former driver himself, knows a lot about the sport and is one of the most hyped-up analysts around. As a play-by-play announcer, you have to try and match that energy. Matching it without sounding completely phony is a tough chore. Allen pulls it off. 

Not only is he high-energy, he’s accurate, smooth and has a very confident and commanding style. He’s in control of his broadcast and while that amped-up style may not be for everyone, to me the sport almost demands it. These are cars traveling around a track, bunched up, going over 200 miles an hour. It’s exciting just to watch what is happening and the sounds of the track are loud and the announcer has to be able to relay the excitement in his voice. The broadcast team also seems to really enjoy each other’s company. That’s important. 

The educational style of the broadcast is interesting as well. Not having grown up myself as a racing fan, I was drawn to how Allen explains things. Even the novice gains some education and I don’t think the rabid fans get offended by the simplistic nature of some of the commentary. 

In an interview with “i80 Sportsblog” Allen explained that’s all part of NBC’s approach to their NASCAR coverage. “If you didn’t grow up in racing and get introduced to the sport via your family, how would you ever get introduced? Our goal is to explain it in an easy, conversational way.”

NASCAR on NBC crew wants to point out all that is at stake in the Monster  Energy playoffs
Courtesy: Hendrick Motorsports

Mission accomplished. 

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Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy Of A Broadcaster: Michael Kay

“Kay isn’t afraid to call it like he sees it, even if that means blasting the Yankees, an individual player or the opposing team.”

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Dreams do come true, just ask Yankees TV announcer Michael Kay. He grew up ten minutes from Yankee Stadium. He was a huge Yankees fan, so much so, that in Little League he’d wear number 1 for his favorite player, Bobby Murcer. Once he realized that a career as the Yankees’ first baseman wasn’t going to materialize, the dream turned to becoming a broadcaster for the team. To get there, Kay did all the school reports he could about the Yankees, so he could know all about them. Now many years later it’s his job to know all he can about the team. 

Sportsmedia column: Michael Kay braces for new world of MLB broadcasting
Courtesy: YES Network

Kay attended Fordham University and worked for the radio station WFUV, thinking it was the best place for him to pursue the dream. He was there with another guy that dreamed of a play-by-play career, Mike Breen, the voice of the NBA on ABC/ESPN. 

In 1992, the lifelong ambition became a reality as he joined John Sterling in the Yankees radio booth. He would spend a decade on radio, then transition to television with the advent of the YES Network. He became the main play-by-play guy for the network in 2002. So now, Kay is in his 30th year with the team as a broadcaster.  

ROAD TO YANKEES BOOTH

Kay started his professional career with the New York Post in 1982 as a general assignment writer. He had sports assignments from college basketball and the NBA, covering the New Jersey Nets. Kay worked himself up at the paper and received the Yankees’ beat writing assignment in 1987. 

In 1989, Kay left the Post for the Daily News, still covering the Yankees as his primary beat. Kay also served as the Madison Square Garden Network Yankee reporter starting in 1989. 

Kay left the Daily News to host a sports talk show on WABC in 1992, briefly returning to write “Kay’s Korner” for the Daily News in 1993, before taking the microphone job for radio broadcasts of New York Yankee games beside John Sterling. 

BUSY GUY

Kay manages to find time to do many things, aside from calling Yankees games. He hosts The Michael Kay Show weekdays from 2-6:30pm on ESPN Radio 98.7 FM and simulcast on the YES Network. The show started in 2002, the same year he started as the voice of the Yankees on TV. 

The show is now co-hosted by Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg. Kay and La Greca have been paired on ESPN New York since 2002, with the duo working to build a successful sports radio show in a tough market over the course of two decades. Rosenberg, the show’s third voice, joined in 2015.

In March TMKS moved up an hour to give Kay more time with the New York audience. But that means an extra hour away from preparing for that night’s Yankees game. Kay will look through his Yankees notes and other things to get ready for the game, during long commercial blocks on his radio show. If there is a game to call, Kay will leave the radio show anywhere from 5:45 to 6pm, with co-hosts La Greca and Rosenberg left to close out the show. 

He’s also the host of CenterStage on the YES Network. He interviews some of the biggest names in sports, entertainment and politics for the last two decades. Kay has even collected some of his favorite moments from on and off camera into a book “CenterStage: My Most Fascinating Interviews – From A-Rod to Jay-Z.”

CenterStage | Book by Michael Kay | Official Publisher Page | Simon &  Schuster

I’m not entirely sure how Kay manages this schedule. I know that the first time I was asked to host an hour-long pregame show before a game broadcast, the feeling in my stomach was not good. How could I do this show and get ready for a game that night? It meant getting to the ballpark earlier, using time between segments wisely and then getting some good exercise. I’d have to maneuver through the crowd from the home studio down the left field line, to the broadcast booth behind home plate. Stressful. 

My point is, for Kay to be able to call a Yankees game, after having been on the air already for 3-4 hours is something to marvel at. I’m sure he would tell you that a lot of the prep work comes from some of the topics on his show. He’s likely already up on the latest information regarding the Yankees and he’s pretty versed by then about what is happening elsewhere in the world of sports. Still, I admire his ability to be as busy as he is and still be sharp on his play-by-play. 

WHAT MAKES HIM SO GOOD

There is a conversational style by Kay that sets him apart from others. He doesn’t have that “typical” broadcasting voice, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He seems to speak to Yankees fans as a Yankees fan. Make sense? I mean he’s rooting for the team and he’s not pleased when they aren’t doing well. You can tune into a Yankees telecast and before you even see the score, you can tell by his tone, who’s winning and who’s not. Kay is a true hometown broadcaster and people in New York crave that. He’s happy when the viewer is obviously happy, and not when they aren’t. 

Having a highly rated sports talk show helps with that delivery. Hosts are supposed to have that conversational, passionate and easy to listen to style. You talk with your audience as opposed to talking “at” them. Sports talk hosts want to build that relationship with an audience, making them feel like the host is one of them so to speak. This holds true with a baseball announcer trying to develop that same relationship. Kay truly is one of them and while his style may not work for others, it definitely works for him. 

Kay is a throwback of sorts as well. There aren’t too many true “homers” left in booths across the country. Yes, broadcasters of local teams, scream and yell more when their team is doing well, but if their local 9 isn’t playing well, choosing the right words can be challenging. Not too many announcers have free reign to criticize their own club. Gone are the days of Harry Caray and Marty Brennaman who would frequently call out their own team and its players for a variety of things. Both had built up so much equity with the teams and fan base they were free to do and say what they wanted.  

Kay isn’t afraid to call it like he sees it, even if that means blasting the Yankees, an individual player or the opposing team. He sees it as being honest with the viewer/listener. As he told the Sports Media with Richard Deitsch” podcast, Kay doesn’t think there is anybody more critical of the team they broadcast than he is and he credits the Yankees for allowing him to do that.

“The reason I can do it is that the Yankees never say a word because they realize the value of honesty. If you are going to tell people the food stinks, then they are going to believe you when they tell you the food is great. There are so many people around the country that are blowing smoke constantly and I guess that’s what the fanbase wants. I don’t think that would play in New York. I think honesty plays in New York.” 

CRITICIZING AND BEING CRITICIZED 

In his 30-year career, Kay has done his share of criticizing. In April he went off on the Yankees for using an “opener”, Nick Nelson, in a critical game against the Rays. 

“You’re the best-looking guy at the party. Don’t try to be the smartest. Why couldn’t they start Michael King? Why were they getting cute by starting Nick Nelson, who gave up two runs and they never looked back? Why? Why were you doing that? In your organization, you don’t have another starter? It’s almost the same thing as what you did in the Division Series. You started Deivi Garcia and brought in J.A. Happ. Don’t try to outsmart the Rays!”

So, when you criticize you open yourself up for it to come back to you. He’s had back-and-forth run-ins with players on his own team, like Clint Frazier. Most recently as a result of commentary on his talk show, he’s gone toe-to-toe with Mets’ pitcher Marcus Stroman.

The funny thing is Kay claims he has thin skin. Again, speaking on the “Sports Media with Richard Deitsch” podcast he admitted to such. His inclination is to fight back, but sometimes it’s not the best way to go about it. 

Courtesy: ESPN Images

“People that criticize people do not like to be criticized. My skin is so thin, it is translucent. If I mess up a call and you say wow, Michael messed up a call. Bring it, I deserve it. When you say stuff just the way I do stuff or something that rubs you the wrong way, it bothers me. I don’t understand the meanness of it.” Kay told the podcast.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS/CALLS

Working for an organization like the Yankees lends itself to a broadcaster having some memorable calls. This is true in the case of Kay, who got to watch Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Tino Martinez, Mark Teixeira, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, Aaron Judge and even Alex Rodriguez play many baseball games. One of Kay’s most memorable came in 2011. 

Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit came on a home run, July 9, 2011:

“The 3-2, that one’s drilled to deep left field, going back Joyce, looking up, See ya! 3000! History with an exclamation point! Oh, what a way to join the 3000-hit club! Derek Jeter has done it, in grand style!” 

If you’ve ever wondered, where his home run call, “see ya!” came from, well in 2018 he joined the Dan Patrick Show and explained the origin:

“I got this job 27 years ago, and at the time I was dating a young lady who, when she would get out of the car at the end of a date, she would say ‘see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!’ And I said, ‘you know, I’m going to hijack that as my home-run call. So, I’ve been doing it since the very beginning of when I got the job in 1992.”

File:Michael Kay.jpg - Wikipedia

CONCLUSION

Kay is a multimedia superstar in New York and just keeps on going. His uniqueness is in his ability to juggle a top-rated talk show and call games for one of the iconic franchises in sports history is amazing to me. To actually be able to do BOTH jobs at such a high level sets him apart. Kay has carved out his own style and it works for both him and Yankees fans alike. 

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Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy of An Analyst: Louis Riddick

“The experiences Riddick has had over the length of his career are irreplaceable when it comes to his analysis of the sport.”

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From the field to the front office to your television, Louis Riddick is all about one thing: Football. Riddick along with his boothmates, Steve Levy and Brian Griese, will be back for a second season of ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Riddick got solid reviews and they were well deserved. He and Griese seamlessly worked together as co-analysts, which is not an easy thing to do. 

Breaking down ESPN's new 'Monday Night Football' booth, Fox and CBS NFL  announcers in 2020 | Sporting News
Courtesy: ESPN Images

Riddick is a native of Quakertown, Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. He was a four-year letterman and a two-time Academic All-America. Riddick was a ninth-round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers in 1991, and played seven NFL seasons at safety. His career included stints with the Falcons, Browns and Raiders. When his playing career came to an end, Riddick moved into the front office. His experience spanned more than a decade with the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles. He started as a pro scout in Washington before being promoted to director of pro personnel, a position he held for three years. Riddick then joined the Eagles in 2008 as a scout. He was named assistant director of pro personnel in 2009, and, a year later, he was promoted to director of pro personnel.

ROAD TO MONDAY NIGHT BOOTH

Riddick started at ESPN in May of 2013 as an NFL Front Office Insider. His role has expanded seemingly every year since. In 2015, he made his debut on the network’s NFL Draft coverage in Chicago. He was supposed to cover the draft for ESPN Radio, but when riots broke out in Baltimore, Ray Lewis went back to the city and the network needed a replacement. Since Riddick was going to be in Chicago anyway, he was going to be the guy. The network informed him the night before the draft was set to begin. 

“When we started the draft that night, within the first 20 minutes, I looked down at my phone and I probably had about 75 to 90 text messages from co-workers, friends, family and former coaches”, Riddick recalled to the Philly Voice. “I thought I was either doing really bad, or I was doing really well. It turned out really positive. I remember going back to my hotel room in Chicago that night thinking, ‘Here we go.’ That’s when it took off in my mind that I can do this.”

Riddick has been a fixture of ESPN’s draft coverage on the main set ever since. He opened up a new world for himself in Bristol. Riddick began contributing to many of their signature NFL Shows. Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, and NFL Live, as well as SportsCenter and ESPN Radio. 

Riddick also worked Friday Night College Football game broadcasts, which showcased his ability to analyze a live game. Even before settling into the current MNF booth, Riddick worked with his booth mates, on September 9, 2019, when they helped kick off MNF’s 50th season and called the Denver Broncos-Oakland Raiders game for ESPN.

The following year, after a shakeup, Riddick, Griese and Levy were called to take over the iconic franchise. They will return for a second season this year. 

WHY IS HE SO GOOD?

He’s got the credentials and the chops to be very good at what he does. The experiences Riddick has had over the length of his career are irreplaceable when it comes to his analysis of the sport. It’s almost a situation of when Riddick talks, people listen, just like that old investment company’s commercial. It’s not just the information he disseminates, it’s the timing and conviction in which he speaks. 

Riddick also plays well off of both Levy and Griese. The latter of course played the game but also has a little more experience in the booth and a different comfort level. That’s probably why you don’t see Riddick breaking down plays with a telestrator, it’s more “I’ve seen this”, “I used to run this”, or “when I was in Philadelphia, we stressed this.” The words stand alone and have power based upon having been there and done that. 

The other thing that’s striking about Riddick in this booth, is the way he and Griese converse throughout a game. It’s great football talk at a “human” level. Riddick presents the complex breakdowns of coverages, schemes and plays in a manner that is technical, yet not overly so. That’s not an easy thing to do when you are a former football player first and broadcaster second. Terminology within a locker room or front office is geared to those in the know and pretty much only those folks. A broadcast has to be treated differently and Riddick gets it. He talks to his audience, not above them or below them. He has a way of explaining things so the casual fan can follow along. He can also get it done in a concise manner, since time is critical, especially in a three-man booth. Not a skill everyone can pull off. 

There is confidence in his commentary. The delivery is clear and authoritative, commanding respect, but yet it’s not overly cocky or arrogant. He works well with his ‘teammates’ in the booth and you can feel the healthy respect each has for the other. 

BACK TO FRONT OFFICE WORK?

Off of those points, there is a question that needs to be asked and answered. Just how long will Riddick remain in the booth? The answer is not entirely clear, but based on how many teams interviewed him for front office positions this offseason, it may not be long. Riddick has made no secret of his desire to return to the NFL, this time he’d like to be a general manager. 

Louis Riddick - ESPN Press Room U.S.
Courtesy: ESPN Images

The Lions, Texans, Jaguars and Falcons talked to him about vacant GM positions, but nothing materialized. Riddick wouldn’t be the first guy to leave the MNF booth for a spot in the NFL. Jon Gruden returned to the sidelines with the Raiders in part because of his commentary and analysis from that booth. But like Gruden, Riddick has to feel like the opportunity is a good fit and the right situation for him. He has a great gig now, so something would probably have to blow him away to lure him away from MNF. 

DID YOU KNOW?

I’ll bet you didn’t know, Riddick won use of Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder’s Aston Martin.  Riddick worked in the scouting and pro personnel departments for the WFT and had the occasion to play Snyder in racquetball. He appeared on “the ESPN Daily podcast’ earlier this year to recall the story. 

“I used to whup him pretty good,” Riddick remembered. “And I used to talk to [Snyder], like ‘Are you gonna challenge me today or what? Is this gonna be a game? I’m getting bored with you.’

“He goes, ‘If you can shut me out’ — he had just bought the new V12 Vanquish Aston Martin, brand-new — ‘If you can shut me out, I’ll let you take that home.’ I was like, ‘Deal!’ I went down there to the racquetball courts and was like, “Bam, bam, bam bam!’ 11-nothing. Boom. Just like that. And he was pissed. PISSED.”

Riddick wasn’t sure that Snyder would honor the bet after a few weeks without acknowledgment of the events. But the Football Team owner finally paid up and gave him the keys to the Aston Martin.

“If you scratch it,” said Snyder, “I’ll be commandeering your salary forever.”

Aston Martin Vanquish & Vanquish S (2001 - 2007) | Aston Martin | Aston  Martin
Courtesy: Aston Martin

Riddick didn’t get to keep the car. He got to use it for three days, enough time to drive it home, impress his neighbors and his wife. Riddick was a sight to behold at the team’s headquarters when he would roll up, driving the owner’s car and parking in his personal space.

CONCLUSION

Riddick is a football guy; he knows what he’s talking about. I really enjoy his commentary from the booth and when he appears on ESPN’s draft coverage. He’s such a credible voice and is in many cases the voice of reality. That’s his schtick, it’s not to be noticed for extremely high energy or random ‘hot takes’, he’s based with his feet firmly planted on the ground. He works in facts and opinions based on factual information. A refreshing breath of fresh air. Give me that any day of the week.

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