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Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy of a Broadcaster: Joe Buck

“Buck finds a way to make games exciting. Whether it be a great call in a huge moment or his ability to set the scene for a game that has a lot on the line.”

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He’s been the guy calling pretty much every big event on Fox since the late 1990’s. Joe Buck has become a regular part of many people’s Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, well you get it. Buck calls the NFL and Major League Baseball for the network, covering the biggest events on the biggest stages. The Super Bowl and of course the World Series.

Busy should be his middle name. During the baseball playoffs, he’s still working his Fox NFL gig, which can also include a Thursday night game. A couple of times in the last decade he’s called his own “doubleheader”. On October 14, 2012, Buck called an NFL game between the Giants and 49’ers in San Francisco, which started at 4:25pm Eastern Time. He then made the 7-mile journey across town via trolley for Game 1 of the NLCS between the Cardinals and Giants.

Buck has also become one of the most polarizing national announcers in recent memory. He is opinionated, sometimes sarcastic and is usually accused of having a bias against, well, pretty much every fanbase in sports. He’s been called a jinx to whatever team it is that a viewer follows. That’s a power many of us in the industry wish we had. Of course, it’s not true.

ROAD TO THE NETWORKS

Buck called play-by-play for the then Louisville Redbirds, a minor league affiliate of the Cardinals. He was a reporter for ESPN’s coverage of the Triple-A All-Star Game in 1989. Buck became a reporter for St. Louis’ CBS station KMOV in 1991, the same year he began broadcasting Cardinals games on local television and on KMOX radio. He would fill in for his father Jack Buck, while the elder Buck was working on CBS telecasts.

Buck continued to call Cardinals games after being hired by Fox Sports in 1994. Though as he got busier and busier with the network job, his local duties shrank. Prior to the 2008 season he announced that he would no longer be calling Cardinals games. It marked the first time since 1960 that a member of the Buck family was not part of the team’s broadcasting crew.

LIFE AT FOX

Buck has been the face and voice of Fox Sports since 1994. He was hired to work the NFL in the inaugural season on the network at age 25. Buck became the youngest person ever to announce a regular schedule of NFL games in network TV history.

He took over as the top play-by-play man in 2002 replacing the legendary Pat Summerall. Buck is only the third announcer to handle a television network’s lead MLB and NFL coverage in the same year. He joins NBC’s Curt Gowdy and ABC’s Al Michaels.

Buck, as mentioned, is also the top guy at Fox on the network’s coverage of Major League Baseball. In 1996, he was named Fox’s lead play-by-play voice teaming with Tim McCarver.

On September 8, 1998, Buck called Mark McGwire’s 62nd home run that broke the single-season record. The game was nationally televised live in prime time on Fox. Not a normal circumstance at all, but the record, at the time, was of huge national interest.

One of the other well-known broadcasts by Buck, included a tribute to his late father Jack. It came during the broadcast of the 2002 World Series. Game 6 between the Angels and Giants came down to an Anaheim comeback in the bottom of the 8th to take a lead on San Francisco. The Angels needed to win to stave off elimination. When the final out of the Angels victory was recorded, Buck said, “We’ll see you tomorrow night.” Buck’s father Jack had passed away only a few months earlier and it was a perfect hat tip to his dad, because Jack said the exact same phrase in 1991. Jack Buck made the original famous call when Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett hit a home run off of Atlanta’s Charlie Leibrandt to end Game 6 of the 1991 World Series.

Through 2020, Buck has called 22 World Series and 21 All-Star Games for Fox, the most of any play-by-play announcer on network television.

WHY IS HE SO GOOD?

For some, being the son of a Hall of Fame announcer would be enough for them to think, I can do this broadcasting thing, my dad did it so why not me? Yes, some get jobs based on their name. But just a few last as long as Joe has, because of one thing. No, not his name. Talent. He’s not his dad, he’s his own guy. As I wrote last summer.

Joe had a difficult time dealing with his dad’s shadow, but learned later that there was no reason to feel that way.

“I was broadcasting Cardinal baseball in the major leagues at the age of 21, and that only happened because my last name was Buck. At the time, I fought that.”, the younger Buck told NPR in 2016. He continued, “But there’s also a little bit more of a sharp knife out there, as far as critics are concerned, that you better be as good as the old man, or in some cases better, to be considered a success.”. Being modest, Joe continued to NPR, “I know I do a decent enough job to keep my job, but I will forever be known to some people as Jack Buck’s son. And thank God he and I were best friends or that would drive me nuts. Instead, I consider it a high compliment.”

To me this is why the younger Buck is so polarizing. Some feel that since he’s not his old man, how can he do this job? Some may feel he’s just on the air because his name is Buck and dismiss him? There are those that don’t like his wit or sarcasm, saying he seems to come off as a know it all or aloof. Whatever the reason, it is a thing, Buck hating is real. There are Twitter accounts dedicated to the practice. Petitions online call for his job routinely. This is broadcasting in a new era of social media. Thick skin is required. Buck proves he’s above it, because here he is, a couple of decades later, still going strong. To know all of that is out there and still be able to do your job at a high level is an extraordinary thing. It’s a testament to his talent.

Buck finds a way to make games exciting. Whether it be a great call in a huge moment or his ability to set the scene for a game that has a lot on the line. It is such a compliment to a broadcaster when you achieve the level of “you know it’s a big game when you hear that voice” and Buck has.

I appreciate the enormity of the job he has, in being expected to get everything right. It’s an awesome responsibility.

CONTROVERSY

Buck has had to deal with some controversy over the course of his career. Several of them have popped up over the last few years, about things he said on air, and things picked up while not on the air.

There was the famous “mocking” of a flyover in Tampa. Before the game started, someone recorded the duo of Buck and Troy Aikman making comments about the planes overhead.

“That’s a lot of jet fuel just to do a little flyover,” Aikman is heard saying in the video.

“That’s your hard-earned money and your tax dollars at work!” Buck replied in a mocking tone.

Buck told the St. Louis Dispatch that he was a fan of military flyovers before sporting events. He also says that what sounded like he and partner Aikman mocking them that weekend was in fact an inside joke and sarcasm that was taken entirely out of context.

“The perception that we’re not supporting the military is crazy,” Buck told the paper. “We were being completely sarcastic. I’ve seen some of the most chilling flyovers you’d ever see. It’s like a communal experience. Flyovers are great.” Buck suspects that someone who isn’t with Fox clipped the audio, packaged it with video that wasn’t Fox’s and then sold it. 

Buck, in another recent controversy told Colin Cowherd on his podcast that he and Aikman used to sip tequila mixed drinks on occasion in the broadcast booth during games, and that he liked to nurse “the biggest beer” in the stadium to call baseball.

“I’ll say this. We have had that glass of bourbon in the booth. Although it’s not bourbon, it’s tequila, splash of Grand Marnier and grapefruit juice,” Buck replied. “I went through a couple years where, in the first inning of every postseason baseball game, I had the runner go get the biggest beer that the stadium sold. And I had it sitting there and I would sip it from time to time to remind myself to relax and have fun. I’m just doing a game.”

Buck says the remarks were just a tiny segment in a long conversation. He is not happy about the way it is playing out, leading some people to perceive that he slams drinks during the game — something that never was said.

“It is just another reminder that journalism is indeed dying and clickbait rules the day,” Buck tweeted. “… I am 51, not 15. I believe I am old enough to understand what a drink is.”

He said the drinks were just one of the tricks he has used over the years to calm his mind.

He puts notes to himself on his spotting boards to remind him to put things into perspective.

“The notes on my board ‘have fun’ ‘relax’ are examples from every Super Bowl,” he said. “Texts from friends pop the bubble and are needed during the game. The coffee machine and almost fake trips to it to leave the front of the booth are necessary for me.

HALL OF FAME

For his work over the years in the NFL, Buck is headed to Canton. He will receive the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s prestigious Pete Rozelle Award, given for “longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.” Buck joins his father, Jack Buck, in receiving the award, the first father-son duo to do it.

Hall of Fame president David Baker surprised Buck with the news on a Thursday Night Football broadcast between the Bengals and Browns. Buck will be officially recognized during next summer’s enshrinement week in August, during the enshrinement of the Centennial Class of 2020.

The announcement left him speechless for a moment during the broadcast. “I don’t even know what to say. I feel like – what? That’s unbelievable.” 

JEOPARDY!

TV Sports Announcers for $400 please…

This NFL announcer for Fox TV shares a name with a male deer and will also be the host of Jeopardy.

Who is Joe Buck? Correct.

So, Joe Buck is going to appear on Jeopardy! as a guest host. His episodes are set to air in early August. Buck joins a long list of those that are interested in replacing the late Alex Trebek who passed away last year. He joins Aaron Rodgers, former Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, Anderson Cooper and Mayim Bialik on the roster of potential new hosts for the show.

CONCLUSION

I understand that Buck isn’t for everyone. People seem to enjoy picking him apart for every word, every nuance and every call. Seriously though, the guy has enjoyed a long and successful career, so he’s doing something right. You don’t stick around and perform at a high-level just because you have the same last name as a legendary broadcaster. I enjoy how Buck seems to play off the negativity and turn it into something to laugh about. Deep down, nobody likes to hear bad things about their broadcasts. At the same time, you can’t cave to the trolls and haters, they’re always going to be there, but seemingly so will Buck.

SUMMARY:

Joe Buck is the voice of the NFL and Major League Baseball on Fox and has been at it for a long time. The son of the late Jack Buck, he has carved out his own niche in the industry. Joe Buck has become the soundtrack for some of the biggest sporting events in the last 20+ years. Buck has dealt with controversy and detractors, but it hasn’t affected his longtime grip on the top job at Fox.

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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