Now that we're well into the second half of the NFL season, it's time to give the game's most frequently seen TV announcers their midterm grades. As usual, the CBS team of Pat Summerall and John Madden is at the top of the class, followed closely by the NBC tandem of Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen. At the other end of the curve, several analysts are in desperate need of remedial work, most notably ABC's Frank Gifford and ESPN newcomer Joe Theismann. Here, then, are the report cards for the play-by-play men and analysts who make up the 11 leading broadcast teams:
Al Michaels, Dan Dierdorf, Frank Gifford ( ABC)—Monday Night Football has become the Al and Dan Show. Michaels and Dierdorf get along famously in the booth, provide most of the pertinent information and more or less tolerate Gifford, who seems to be along for the ride. Michaels, the play-by-play guy, doesn't have the same feel for football that he has for baseball, but he's a delight just the same. Dierdorf has clearly taken over the lead analyst position from Gifford. His confidence has grown, and he provides unusually fresh insights.
Gifford lost it once he stopped doing play-by-play in 1986. He's a tad more incisive than he was last season, but he still tends to be an apologist for the players and the league. If it weren't for his marquee value and the fact that he has been a part of the Monday Night team since 1971, ABC might well have gotten rid of him long ago.
Grades: Michaels, A-; Dierdorf, A; Gifford, D+.
Pat Summerall and John Madden ( CBS)—Summerall uses one-third as many words as most of his colleagues, never intrudes on the game and usually keeps his comments pertinent. His reticence acts as a counterpoint to Madden's flamboyance and is one of the keys to the team's success. In recent years Madden has transformed the nature of sports announcing, showing that a commentator can entertain as well as analyze. His most overlooked gifts: a keen eye for the peculiar and a knack for getting to the point quickly.
Summerall, A+; Madden, A-.
Vern Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw ( CBS)—Lundquist is the archetypal CBS play-by-play man: a personable guy who's excellent on the nuts and bolts but lacks charisma. He comes across better, however, with the lively Bradshaw than he did with his previous partner, Dick Vermeil. Bradshaw, in turn, has put away his cowboy hats and stopped forcing his down-home humor. Why, with his three-piece suits and horn-rimmed glasses, he looks like an investment banker. His twang can be grating, but he's honest and enthusiastic, and dispenses well-reasoned criticism. It has taken him four years to come into his own as an analyst. That should come as no surprise. It took him four years to find himself as a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lundquist, B; Bradshaw, B-.
Dick Stockton and Dan Fouts ( CBS)—The quintessential basketball play-byplay man, Stockton is a little too up-tempo for football, especially if the game he's covering lacks drama. He has a big-event voice that's filled with anticipation, and he never fails to note the down and distance and who made the tackle. Stockton's rookie sidekick, Fouts, has been a big disappointment. His delivery is so laid-back that he often sounds as if he's broadcasting from a beach in San Diego. Fouts also imparts little more than what the camera has already shown us and usually muddles the point he's trying to make when he uses the telestrator.
Stockton, B; Fouts, D.