As a sports fan, there is often nothing better than watching an elite athlete perform at the highest level on the biggest stage. However, there is often a flip side that can make such moments unbearable — or, more accurately, unlistenable.
Of course, that is when a former great player opts to jump behind the microphone after his playing career. While nobody can deny certain athletes’ abilities on the field, forming coherent thoughts and making them public does not automatically come with the territory.
A Saturday afternoon Red Sox-Yankees game could be considered the perfect activity for any sports fan … until you tune in and hear Tim McCarver (just ask Brandon Arroyo). Likewise, a big Sunday night matchup can easily be ruined by extended storytelling from Joe Morgan, much of which is apparently false.
If you need advice on how to make incredible tie knots, Michael Irvin is your man. Football analysis? Not so much. If you need to know that “it’s loud” and “the rain is coming down” on a football field, Tony Siragusa can tell you, but that’s about all he can offer.
Indeed, it seems as though the best broadcasters were either average players or didn’t play at all. With that being said, here are the top 10 ordinary athletes who turned into extraordinary broadcasters.
Honorable mention: Frank Viola
Unfortunately for Franky V., with three All-Star appearances, a World Series MVP and a Cy Young Award, he may have been too good a pitcher to qualify for the list. However, Red Sox fans were treated to “sweet music” for six beautiful games in mid-August. He may not be destined for Cooperstown or any broadcasting hall of fame, but Viola’s thick New York accent and clear love of baseball made those games enjoyable.
10. Steve Lyons
A career .252 hitter, Lyons’ playing career was remembered more for the time he pulled down his pants than any athletic accomplishment. Still, he began working as an analyst for Fox, and the man once nicknamed “Psycho” welcomed himself into the homes of millions of fans. He caught some negative attention for making the occasional racially insensitive remark, and was eventually taken off the national telecasts. But no one can deny he is informative and entertaining. The national audience can now only catch a glimpse of Lyons in Big Foot-like footage on YouTube.
9. Rex Hudler
Another fill-in for Jerry Remy this year on NESN, Hudler appeared for just a few innings back in April, but he left a lasting memory with Red Sox fans. He’s been the color analyst for the Los Angeles Angels for more than a decade after spending a good chunk of his career with the team in the early ‘90s. Hudler also introduced himself to the country by providing commentary on numerous video games. He was just a career .261 hitter, but his one-liners are the stuff of legend:
"Man, that ball was tattered and battered!"
"He just keeps fouling them off, waiting for that cookie!"
"You could put more than a slice of cheese under that one!"
8. Andy Brickley
Andy Brickley was the final pick in the 1980 NHL draft but still turned in a decent career. Once his playing days ended, however, Brickley found his true calling in life as a color commentator for the Bruins. Brickley, who registered 222 points in 385 career games, brings the know-how and attitude that only a hockey player can bring, while still maintaining a universal appeal. Brickley’s work on NESN was good enough to get some national credit, as he has broadcast a number of games on Versus, including playoff games. A New England resident and former University of New Hampshire Wildcat, Brickley’s settled in nicely to a role that he could serve in for years to come.
7. Sean Casey
It should be no surprise that the man nicknamed “The Mayor” in his playing days became an enjoyable broadcaster as soon as his baseball career came to an end. Sean Casey, who spent his final season in Boston in 2008, quickly jumped aboard the newly launched MLB Network and showed why his teammates loved him. Though he did hit above .300 for his career, at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he lacked the typical power of a big first baseman. That never stopped Casey from speaking his mind, and he even got a head start working on his interviewing skills while still with the Red Sox.
6. Mike Golic
Until Mike and Mike in the Morning became a fixture on morning TV, Mike Golic was probably often confused with his brother Bob, who had an unforgettable starring role on Saved by the Bell: The College Years. However, since Mike and Mike became a part of many sports fans’ morning routines, Golic has become one of the most well-recognized personalities at ESPN. He’s even lost over 50 pounds on Nutrisystem!
5. The Exceptions
To lump all great athletes into the “awful broadcaster” category would be wrong. That’s why people like Troy Aikman, Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Ditka and Terry Bradshaw are worthy of mention for being some of the best in the business (though Bradshaw still owes the world an apology for his nude scene in Failure to Launch).
4. Ken “Hawk” Harrelson
The Hawk had a couple of good seasons in the majors, but he entered into the television world before his playing career even ended. Once he hung up the spikes for good, Harrelson embarked on a broadcast career, eventually landing in Chicago. He popularized the call, “You can put it on the booooooard … Yes!” as well as the more subtle, “He gone.”
3. Barry Melrose
Barry Melrose’s career stats are worse than bad. They’re horrible. In 300 games, he registered 33 points and an impossible plus-minus rating of minus-119. His 728 penalty minutes were his best stat, but that didn’t stop Melrose from essentially becoming the face of hockey for most American sports fans. Given hockey’s reduced presence in the national spotlight, Melrose has fought hard to keep the sport on TV. It may have taken an objectionable mullet, some brutal pronunciation of the English language and the occasional poorly executed spoof, but Melrose is winning the fight.
2. Pat Summerall
The 79-year-old played in a different era in the NFL, playing all over the field but primarily as a placekicker. His 47 percent career field-goal percentage is dreadful, but his work in the booth as a play-by-play man was some of the best. Patriots fans were likely too busy screaming and hugging to hear his nearly perfect call of the game-winning kick in Super Bowl XXXVI , one of many legendary calls. His ability to balance the unnecessary telestrations and the barrage of “Booms!” from his partner only added to his impressive resume.
1. Jerry Remy
Jerry Remy was not a bad ballplayer. He finished his career with a .275 average and one All-Star appearance. However, what Remy accomplished after his playing career is something that most athletes could only dream of.
Remy has been the color commentator on NESN’s Boston Red Sox telecasts since the late ‘80s. In that time, he has developed a tremendous following as one of the most beloved people in New England. His extended absence during the 2009 season left millions of fans yearning to once again hear “Buenos noches, amigos.” When news broke that Remy would be missing time, the outpouring of support from fans from all over the country was incredible.
Fortunately, Remy is back where he belongs, in the booth at Fenway beside Don Orsillo. Though he may never bring back his famous air guitar, his mere presence in the booth enhances many a summer night for Red Sox fans from coast to coast.
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