College basketball fans have reason to rejoice. Billy Packer and his pro-ACC bias is out at CBS. CBS announced Monday that Clark Kellogg had been hired to replace Packer as its lead college basketball announcer. I don’t know if Kellogg deserves the top spot, alongside Jim Nantz, but he is a definite improvement on Packer, 68, who had covered 34 consecutive Final Fours.
The change was long overdue. The stodgy, know-it-all Packer didn’t deserve top billing any more. He commentary skills in recent years. He made several questional comments at at this year’s Final Four. Early in the semifinal between
Younger viewers took a particular disdian for Packer, 68, who had covered 34 consecutive Final Fours. The site Deadspin.com held a “Media Approval Rating” poll for Packer, and the younger audience gave him a 90 percent disapprove rating.
Through the years, he also has made several controversial statements that received criticism.
In 1996, he apologized on the air after he was criticized for referring to then-Georgetown guard Allen Iverson as a “tough little monkey.”
In 2000, he bristled when asked to identify himself by two female students checking credentials before a game at Duke. One of the students, Jen Feinberg, quoted Packer as saying: “You need to get a life. Since when do we let women control who gets into a men’s basketball game? Why don’t you go find a women’s game to let people into?” Packer later e-mailed an apology to the women.
In 2004, he blasted the selection of St. Joseph’s as a No. 1 seed, and in 2006, he criticized the selection of four Missouri Valley Conference teams, before Bradley and Wichita State reached the round of 16.
As a fan of “The Big Show,” the Dan Patrick-Keith Olbermann version of “SportsCenter” a few years back, I’m excited to see the pair reunited on NBC’s “Football Night in America” studio show. However, I’m also concerned the pair will try to be overly cute and funny. It’s a pregame, halftime and studio show, not “Laugh-In.” Besides, co-hosts Bob Costas and Cris Collinsworth already are on the cutesy side.
Patrick also hosts a syndicated radio sports talk show and writes a column for Sports Illustrated. Olbermann, who has strong liberal views, hosts a nightly news show, “Countdown,” on MSNBC.
With the addition of Patrick, NBC will have a seven-men studio crew, which is at least two analysts too many. NBC could dump former Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Jerome Bettis and former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber and not miss a beat. Rounding out the crew is NFL expert Peter King.
To announce the pairing, NBC held a conference call. Here are some of the highlights:
Olbermann on working with Patrick: “The key ingredient we had working together was whatever you thought we were doing out there, the actual intent of the program was an attempt by him to crack me up or by me to crack him up. As long as we kept that undercurrent going, we knew it would be fairly entertaining for the audience.”
Patrick on his role: “I will be doing the highlights for the red states and Keith will be doing the highlights for the blue states.”
Costas on the Olbermann and Patrick pairing: “I think it’s a great idea because it reunites one of the great combinations ever in TV sports. I’ve been in favor of the idea ever since NBC Sports reacquired the NFL but we haven’t been able to work it out until now.”
Patrick on his hiatus from TV: “I watch with a critical eye but I also watch with great admiration for those who can do it and do it well. So I didn’t sit there and go ‘I can do that better.’ I had a harder time watching ‘SportsCenter,’ I’ll grant you that. You do that for so long, you do it for 18 years, and then it’s kind of hard to watch. It’s sort of like Brett Favre having to watch Aaron Rodgers with the Packers. Maybe that’s what it is, I don’t know. It’s something along those lines.”
Curious who will make the All-Star teams? My favorite team, the Texas Rangers, have several deserving candidates, including outfielder Josh Hamilton, second baseman Ian Kinsler and designated hitter Milton Bradley.
TBS will announce the lineups for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at 1 p.m. Sunday. Harold Reynolds, an mlb.com commentator and former major league player, and Dennis Eckersley, a 2004 Hall of Fame inductee, will join TBS’ studio crew of Ernie Johnson and Cal Ripken for the announcement. Reynolds was fired as an ESPN Tonight studio analyst in 2006 after sexual harassment claims were made against him.
In a conference call Tuesday, the analysts talked about baseball issues:
Eckersley on the biggest surprise team thus far this season: “The biggest (surprise) that jumps out is Tampa Bay. Being in that tough division and being in first place, I kept thinking, ‘Are they going to last?’ Well, they’ve made it halfway here. Their pitching staff is better than I thought and they’re energetic. They’re happy to be where they are.”
Reynolds on standout players this season: “The players that stand out in my mind this year are No. 1, (Texas Rangers outfielder) Josh Hamilton. His comeback and the way he’s performed, he’s got a chance to win a triple crown…his performance and his off the field story is absolutely incredible. The other guy is Carlos Quentin with the White Sox. He’s putting up numbers and leading the league in home runs. He made great adjustments in the off season…with him stepping up and sitting in the middle of that order has made the White Sox the team they are.”
Ripken on whether the Yankees will make the postseason: “I say (the Yankees will make the postseason this year). Tampa Bay is going to have a lot to say about that, they are going to be a strong team down the stretch, but I think that how they handle the pressure going down the stretch (will determine their postseason outlook). We know the Yankees can, the Yankees are a very talented team.”