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Masters of the Mic: Best of the Rest



Masters of the Mic
Masters of the Mic
Frank Deford details the connection between a fan and The Voice.
Dr. Z thinks solid NFL play-by-play announcers are few and far between.
The gems in the baseball booth stand out like no others, says Tom Verducci.
Jack McCallum wants an NBA announcer to know when to step back.
Michael Farber says NHL broadcasters are a matter of personal taste.
College Football
Stewart Mandel weighs in on the current crop of college football announcers.
College Basketball
Grant Wahl wants those in the college hoops booth to tell him something new.
Jon Wertheim is happy with today's roster of tennis broadcasters.
Chris Lewis reveals his All-Star team of golf announcers.
Best of the Rest
Richard Deitsch fills us in on the top announcers from a variety of sports.

BEST: Andrés Cantor, Telemundo

Tune into FOX Sports World on any given Saturday afternoon and you'll be treated to audio smorgesboard unlike anything on your dial. The collection of Sky Sports announcers, such as Martin Tyler and Alan Parry, who call the English Premier League -- where else can you hear an announcer refer to a hard foul as a "cynical challenge"? -- are worth the price of cable. Still, the best soccer announcer in the world is Cantor, who calls games with Viagra-like enthusiasm and has a goal call that's so intoxicating it should be illegal. Great news for soccer fans in the U.S.: Telemundo's 169 1/2 hours of Olympic coverage means plenty of Cantor next month.


BEST: Jim Lampley, HBO (blow-by-blow); Al Bernstein, Showtime; Larry Merchant, HBO (analysts) and Brian Kenny, ESPN2 (studio show)

Along with calling a great fight, Lampley offers viewers integrity. He's hard on HBO fighters when they take a pounding. Bernstein, a longtime ESPN hand who joined Showtime in 2003, has journalistic chops, integrity and brings credibility to any broadcast. Merchant's gruff postfight inquisition usually produces introspection from his subjects, as well as heated and delicious television. The versatile Kenny (who can be seen weekdays hosting The Hot List on ESPN NEWS) possesses all the skills of a terrific studio host: he's smart, fast on feet and brings out the best in his colleagues.


BEST: Darrell Waltrip, FOX

Last year Sports Illustrated sent a reporter (yours truly) to interview nearly 1,400 NASCAR fans at racetracks from Sonoma to Daytona. As part of the survey, people were asked which coverage they preferred among the networks that broadcast the Nextel Cup. Seventy percent chose FOX, and Waltrip was the reason. Along with having the bona fides from being one of the best at his sport, Waltrip, more important, is able to articulate the intricacies of his sport in a way that empowers viewers. He also gives you a healthy dose of enthusiasm. His "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity" to start races is Nascar's battle call.


BEST: Tom Durkin, NBC (race-caller); Jeannine Edwards, ESPN (reporter)

The sport of kings is rife with great race callers (including Dave Johnson and Trevor Denman among others) and Durkin, as the most prominent in the business by virtue of calling the Triple Crown races on NBC, proved he was up to the challenge. His call of Smarty Jones fading at the finish in the Belmont Stakes was as good as it gets. When you watch Edwards on ESPN, you can't help but feel that you're watching someone so passionate about horse racing that she'd do the broadcast for free. 


BEST: Doris Burke, ESPN, Pam Ward, ESPN

Forget just women's basketball: Burke may be the best basketball analyst, period. She floats between the NBA, WNBA and college hoops and no matter the broadcast she's assigned, you always feel you've learned something following her broadcast. Ward isn't promoted as heavily as ESPN's other play-by-play voice and that's a shame. She calls a college game as good as anyone at the network.


BEST (all-time version): Jesse Ventura and Rowdy Roddy Piper

The on-air battles between Vince McMahon and partner Ventura (he of the pink feather boa before running the state of Minnesota) on NBC's Saturday Night Main Event were as entertaining as anything seen on television. With apologies to David Letterman and Johnny Carson, Piper's Pit was the best talk show of the '80s.


BEST: Lon McEachern and Norman Chad, co-hosts, World Series of Poker, ESPN.

Poker is everywhere these days on television, though we'd argue a sport jumps the shark when Kathy Griffin is playing it, as she did on Bravo's Celebrity Poker. Thankfully, there's McEachern and Chad to guide us through the river (card) and other flops.


 BEST: Paul Sherwin and Phil Leggett, OLN

Even if you don't know Bernard Hinault from Peugeot or Lance Armstrong from Henry Armstrong, it's a thrill to listen to these guys call the Tour de France. The two have worked together for 19 years and are the gold standard among alltime sports broadcasting partnerships.

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