Posted: Wednesday December 27, 2006 10:15AM; Updated: Wednesday December 27, 2006 7:12PM
Dan Shulman (right) has proven to be a good foil for Dick Vitale on hoops and a solid voice in the baseball booth.
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
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BEST PLAY-BY-PLAY ANNOUNCER: Dan Shulman, ESPN and ESPN Radio. Shulman and baseball partner Dave Campbell form as splendid a duo as there is on radio. Plus, anyone who makes Dick Vitale palatable deserves an award.
Honorable mention: Mike Breen (ESPN and MSG)
RADIO PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR: Jeff Rickard, ESPN Radio. There are bigger and more famous hosts on ESPN Radio, but like Fowler and Brown, Rickard stands out for his understated professionalism. He's a sports-talk host who opts for a reasoned and mannered approach to topics. No screaming. No shtick. No declaring to his audience why he's the smartest guy in the room. Every time I heard him in 2006 -- and I heard him with about seven different partners -- he never failed to provide well-thought-out opinions. When his bosses catch on, he'll probably get fired.
Honorable mention: Bob Valvano (ESPN Radio)
BEST UNKNOWN VOICE: Mike Detillier, WWL Radio and NFL Draft expert. With the Saints emerging as America's team, Detillier has become America's sports-talk guest. (Google his name and you'll see all the radio appearances he's made in 2006.) Detillier is a longtime fixture on the Saints beat -- he puts out a popular draft guide -- and his Bayou boosterism, engaging personality and football chops make him an enjoyable listen for these East Coast ears.
Honorable mention: Don LaGreca and Gordon Damer (1050 ESPN Radio New York)
THE BOB RYAN AWARD: Woody Paige, ESPN and the Denver Post. This is the first year Ryan hasn't won his own award, usually given to the insightful Boston Globe columnist for saying something preposterous during one of his ubiquitous television appearances. This year Paige gets the honor for declaring on Around the Horn that Italy's Marco Materazzi called France's Zinedine Zidane a terrorist. One problem: It wasn't true. (At the time, it was a wild rumor and message-board fodder.) After Paige aired this out for more Horn points, none other than Jay Mariotti saved the day. The Chicago Sun-Times columnist correctly pointed out that this was an alleged accusation and noted that there was nothing substantial to back up the claims. But I do look forward to reading Paige's column in the Denver Post, presuming he'll write often about whether young Frank Ribery will be a worthy successor to Zidane.
THE NONCORPORATE SPORTS WEB SITE OF THE YEAR: Fire Joe Morgan (http://firejoemorgan.blogspot.com/). The sabermetrically inclined band at FJM hilariously deconstructs baseball writers daily. Outside of Joe Morgan himself, no one has been skewered more than MSNBC's Mike Celizic. (SI.com writers have been sawed up as well.) Best to stay on these guys' good side. Or avoid writing about the sport at all costs.
TOUGHEST LOSS: The world is a little grayer with the passing of Hall of Fame broadcaster Curt Gowdy, who died of leukemia on Feb. 20. He was 86. Gowdy was in the broadcast booths at 13 World Series, 16 baseball All-Star Games and numerous college football games, and spent 15 years as the Boston Red Sox's main play-by-play announcer. He sounded, as author and Red Sox fan John Updike once noted, like everyone's brother-in-law. My former colleague John Waltersoffered an elegant tribute at the time of his death.