Honoring best, worst from TV, radio, print and more
Posted: Wednesday December 27, 2006 10:15AM; Updated: Wednesday December 27, 2006 7:12PM
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PERSON OF THE YEAR: (tie) Chris Fowler, ESPN, and James Brown, CBS. Rare is the broadcaster who can move seamlessly between the worlds of Vera Zvonareva and Vince Young. Whenever I watch a program anchored by Fowler, whether he's in Melbourne for the Australian Open or in Madison with his College GameDay crew, I know I'm being guided by a professional. You want to know the main reason why ESPN's college football coverage generally draws praise from even the staunchest anti-ESPN forces? Look no further than the name above. Last September, Fowler showed journalistic chops in speaking up when the GameDay crew was assigned to Nebraska-USC in Los Angeles (the game was airing on ABC later that night) as opposed to matchups that weekend of far more national importance (LSU at Auburn and Michigan at Notre Dame) airing on other networks.
"For 13 seasons, the locations of the GameDay road shows have been editorial decisions based on the college football landscape," Fowler wrote on his ESPN.com blog. "The basic principle was to [almost] always come from the site of the 'biggest game,' or occasionally, 'the best story.' Now, the philosophy has been rethought by upper management."
During the Australian Open, Fowler navigated smoothly between hosting the event and calling matches. If I could choose a broadcaster to follow Bob Costas as the anchor of the Olympics, Fowler would be on my (very) short list. For now, he has to settle for the Olympian task of getting a word in edgewise whenever Brad Gilbert is on set.
Brown is the most ego-free sports broadcaster on television today. He has an innate ability to defer to his colleagues (generally ex-athletes hired for their outsized personalities and ability to wear suits nicely) so they can strut their stuff. His switch from Fox to CBS this year made the ratings battle between NFL pregame shows a race again. When a broadcaster leaves a network and his former colleagues continue to genuflect long after he's gone, you know he's a valuable guy. Katie Couric was the more high-profile addition, but it says here that Brown was CBS's best hire in 2006.
Honorable mention: Rece Davis (ESPN), Ernie Johnson (TNT), Trey Wingo (ESPN)
BEST ANALYST: Troy Aikman, Fox Sports. It's the second consecutive year I'm dropping this honor on Aikman, who keeps improving (has any football analyst benefited more from leaving a three-man booth?) and is always accountable with his opinions. Why do you think ESPN approached him last year to work in the Monday Night Football football booth? Regardless of scheduling conflicts and the fact that he doesn't regularly broadcast college football, Fox should have assigned Aikman as its analyst on the BCS national championship game. I want my best guy -- and football's best analyst, along with Ron Jaworski -- if I'm making my debut in a sport.
Honorable mention: Jaworksi (ESPN), Tim McCarver (Fox)
BEST NEWCOMER: John Harkes, ESPN. Harkes made his debut as an ESPN soccer commentator at the World Cup. Pairing up with veteran announcer JP Dellacamera, he was measured, perceptive and, best of all, not Marcelo Balboa.
Honorable mention: Jamie Sale and David Pelletier (NBC Olympic Ice analysts)