Complaint to ESPN, c/o The Sports Arsenal

From time to time I get e-mail responses to things I’ve written on the blog.  They tend to run the gamut, from words of encouragement to criticism to spam (plenty of spam).  However, I got an e-mail on Saturday that I think is worth sharing.  I won’t include the name of the lady who wrote it, because I don’t think that would be fair.  

First, some background.  On Saturday afternoon Michigan played Indiana in a game televised on ESPNU.  The announcers for the game were Pam Ward (play-by-play) and Danny Kanell (analyst).  I didn’t see it, as I was at Johnson Hagood Stadium watching The Citadel’s game, but apparently the matchup in Bloomington was an exciting contest that featured very little defense.  The Wolverines prevailed, 42-35.  Shortly after the game ended, the following e-mail was sent to me:

If Pam Ward was the announcer for the U of M game today (Saturday, 10/2/2010) at 3:30 p.m., you should be ashamed of yourselves.  Aside from the mispronounciation of Denard “Dernard???!!!” Robinson’s name, could you please find an announcer who’s excited about the game?  She’s boring and uninformed, maybe why she falls back on the criticism she’s ridiculed everywhere for?  There are so many awesome sports broadcasters in the industry – please get creative!  We hate every game she announces and we’re sick of being forced to listen.  Not as agonizing as watching the Lions play every Thanksgiving… BUT CLOSE.  Thanks!

This is, obviously, a fantastic e-mail.  That last line about Pam Ward as an announcer not being as agonizing as watching the Lions play on Thanksgiving puts it over the top.

Some points:

– While she criticizes Ward, the e-mailer doesn’t seem entirely certain it was actually Ward doing the announcing (“If Pam Ward was the announcer…”).  However, that doesn’t stop her from blasting Ward anyway.

– More importantly, to me anyway, is the notion that I might somehow be affiliated with ESPN (“you should be ashamed of yourselves”, “could you please find an announcer who’s excited about the game?”).  I am guessing that the e-mailer googled Pam Ward’s name and found this post I wrote about ESPN’s announcers for 2010, and assumed I was a publicist for the network or something.

I found this amusing, because while I do write about things that involve ESPN on occasion, so would anyone who writes about sports in this country, given the pervasive nature of the network.  I haven’t always written favorably about ESPN, either (see this post or this post, just for a couple of examples).

– The e-mailer is apparently a Michigan fan.  She is sick of “being forced to listen” to Ward, but to be honest I don’t think Ward has done a whole lot of games featuring the Wolverines.  When she was calling the noon game on ESPN2 the past few years, she usually called Big 10 games  — but the two schools I always associate with a Ward call are Michigan State and Northwestern.  Michigan usually was televised on ESPN (or the Big Ten Network) if it drew the noon slot.  At least, that’s how I remember it.  I could be wrong about that.

Incidentally, Ward now wants to call NFL games.

– I couldn’t agree more with the e-mailer about the Lions, though.  Why should the entire country be subjected to that franchise every Thanksgiving?  Can’t they rotate host teams?  I’m tired of the Cowboys too, but at least Dallas usually has a good team.  The Lions are almost always bad and boring.  This year, turkey day at Ford Field will include the visiting New England Patriots, so at least one of the teams involved should be good.  Of course, that means the score will probably be something like 47-10 or 34-12 (the score of the last two games played on Thanksgiving in Detroit, both losses by the Lions). 

That game will be on CBS.  I suppose Phil Simms will give away a silver iron again.  It’s a lame gimmick, but not as lame as the thing Fox hands out to its game MVP.

To sum up, I’m sorry I can’t do anything about Pam Ward (or any other ESPN announcer) calling your team’s game(s), but I’m not affiliated with the four-letter.  If I’m going to field complaints about ESPN, though, the least the folks in Bristol could do is send me some free stuff. 

I’m not asking for an ESPY gift pack or anything; I would settle for a College Gameday t-shirt (size XXL – I’m fairly tall).  I would ask for a hat, but I doubt ESPN carries a lot of promotional caps in size 7 ¾.  If they did, Mark Schlereth would probably grab all of them anyway.  He looks like he’s got a large noggin.

As always, thanks to the e-mailers (and commenters) for all their feedback.

ESPN College Football Announcers for 2010

ESPN has released its assignments for its college football game coverage, as well as its studio coverage.  As always, there are some new crews.  Highlights:

– Among the tandems that work the high-profile ESPN/ABC games, the one significant change is in the “west coast” team, where there will now be a three-man booth — Carter Blackburn, Brock Huard, and Mike Bellotti.  The former Oregon coach is in his first season as an analyst; he works with Huard, who was the analyst for the SEC ESPNU primetime game last year.  Blackburn called mostly west coast games on the U last season after moving over from CBS College Sports.

That team essentially replaces the Terry Gannon/David Norrie duo from 2009. Gannon is not listed on this year’s release; he may just have too much already on his announcing plate (Dave Lamont filled in for him a few times last season as it was). Norrie is going to ESPN Radio, replacing Dennis Franchione as Bill Rosinski’s analyst.  Norrie will also work a few midweek TV games (along with Robert Smith), teaming with Beth Mowins.

– That’s right, there is now a second woman play-by-play voice calling college football for ESPN.  Mowins will apparently have a limited schedule.

Pam Ward is still around, and presumably as intolerant of injured players as ever. However, she’s been moved from the noon ET ESPN2 slot to 3:30 pm ET on ESPNU, much to the relief of Michigan State and Northwestern fans everywhere.  Her analyst will be Danny Kanell.

– Kanell, the former FSU quarterback, also will do some studio work.  He’s the breakout star, I guess, of the multitude of game callers/analysts who worked ESPN360 (now ESPN3.com) games last season.  What does that say about the talent featured on ESPN3.com in 2009?  Well…

The release doesn’t mention anything about who will work ESPN3.com games this year; it does note that “additional commentators will contribute throughout the season”.  There will be a lot of “additional contributors” both on ESPN3.com and on the regular TV platforms.  Week 1, for example, will include 11 games that will be shown live exclusively on ESPN3.com.

– Erin Andrews will be hosting the first hour of an expanded College Gameday (that was announced last month).  She will also be the sideline reporter for the game site from which the program originates, assuming it’s on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2.

That means the other high-profile game tandems will probably flip-flop sideline reporters a bit more often than normal, although most of the time Andrews will likely work with Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit.  Last year, the sideline reporter with that duo was Lisa Salters, who will not be back this year.

Quint Kessenich moves from the Big East regional game of the week to a national gig; his replacement on the sidelines for the Big East games is Eamon McAnaney.  I think there is a lacrosse announcer quota involved in that switch, but I’m not sure.

Andrews won’t be roaming the sidelines on Thursday night any more.  “The new EA” is Jenn Brown, who like Andrews is a Florida grad, blond, and destined to become a sports blog/message board favorite.

– The other change on Thursday nights is Rece Davis taking over play-by-play duties from Chris Fowler.  I like Davis, although he isn’t really a natural at play-by-play, but I’m not a fan of the Craig James/Jesse Palmer dual threat.  I find their combined analysis rather banal; at least James wears a properly sized tie.

– Fowler remains the ringleader for College Gameday, with Lee Corso (who I hope has now fully recovered from his stroke), Herbstreit, and Desmond Howard.  There was little change in personnel for the major studio shows. That’s right, another year of Dr. Lou (with Davis and Mark May) and The Bachelor (with John Saunders).  Robert Flores takes over as the new update guy on ABC.

There were some moves on the SEC-on-ESPN desk.  Dari Nowkhah will now be the syndication studio host, as Rob Stone will call games on ESPNU (he’s working the noon U game with David Pollack).  Another change of interest for SEC fans is the new primetime team for that league on ESPNU.  Clay Matvick and Herm Edwards will replace Eric Collins and Brock Huard.  Edwards may be a San Diego State alum, but he strikes me as a natural pick to analyze SEC action, as teams in that conference definitely play to win the game.

As mentioned earlier, Huard is working west coast games this season, while Collins has apparently moved to the Big 10 Network.  If I see a release listing announcers for the BTN/CBS College Sports/etc., I’ll post it here; the other BTN announcing news of note I’ve seen suggests that Tom Hart will be joining that network.

Edit (8/25/10) — Here is the BTN release, with Hart and Collins listed as announcers:  Link

Another non-ESPN announcing note:  The ACC game of the week, produced by Raycom, will have a new analyst this year, with David Archer replacing Rick “Doc” Walker.  This, if not a national tragedy, is at least a regional outrage.  I need to know which ACC players are actually cyborgs.

– Anish Shroff will take over from Charlie Neal as the play-by-play man for ESPNU’s Thursday night games.  Luckily, CitiField will not host a football game this season.

– Joe Tessitore will call the Friday night ESPN2 games with Rod Gilmore again, but Tessitore (who I find enjoyably bombastic) will also be the play-by-play voice for the ESPN-3D games, which will feature separate production teams for “regular” and 3D broadcasts.  He’ll work with new analyst Tim Brown and sideline reporter Ray Bentley (who had worked with Pam Ward for the last three seasons).

– The noon ESPN/ESPN2 games will each have Grieses in the booth.  Bob Griese returns with Chris Spielman and Dave Pasch on ESPN, while the ESPN2 game will feature Brian Griese (who had a promising debut last year) with play-by-play man Bob Wischusen.

Pasch and Wischusen are both guys who could/should work higher-profile games, but each is a radio announcer for an NFL team (the Cardinals for Pasch, the Jets for Wischusen) and are basically limited to early-afternoon Saturday games on ESPN.

– Ron Franklin, who was planning on retiring, is back and working again with Ed Cunningham.  I hope that team gets some heavy-duty games this year.

Getting closer to kickoff…

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