Here’s my picks for the state’s top five college football broadcasting teams. Honorable mention would have to go to OSU’s current team of Dave Hunziker (“Pistols firing!) and John Holcomb.
1. John Brooks and Mike Treps, OU, 1978-1990. John Brooks’ colorful calls (“Geeminy Christmas!) and Treps’ thoughtful analysis brought excitement to the broadcasts.
2. Curt Gowdy and Bob Murphy, OU, 1945-1950. The pair covered OU’s first national title and went on to become Hall of Fame baseball announcers.
3. Bill Teegins and Tim Dirato, OSU, 1991-2000. The underrated team covered the Cowboys with flair until Teegins was silenced by the plane crash.
4. Bruce Howard and Rick Couri, TU, 1993-2011. Howard’s excellent play-by-play skills and Couri’s passion for TU sports makes for an entertaining broadcast.
5. Bob Barry and Merv Johnson, OU, 1999-2010. As the voice of OU athletics for many years, Barry thrived with many partners. Johnson brings interesting analysis through his insights in the program.
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit discussed the OU-Florida State game and other topics during a conference call Wednesday. Herbstreit will be part of ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew in Tallahassee, Fla., to preview the game Saturday, and then will broadcast the game with Brent Musburger that night.
Here are a few excerpts:
Do you think Florida State has closed the gap enough on Oklahoma?
“That’s why we’re going to play this game Saturday night. That’s what everyone wants to know. Florida State was kind of the dynasty. They were the team for 14 straight years and everyone tried to compare themselves to being Florida State. And for the last nine or 10 years, they have been about an 8-4 team. And they won 10 last year with Jimbo Fisher. They have 16 starters back. And now they get another big moment with Oklahoma. Last year they kind of spit the bit. They weren’t ready to go to Norman. Here they are a year later. They feel that they are more familiar with Jimbo’s and Mark Stoops’ schemes the second year. They feel at home, at night this year, it’s going to be different. That’s why I think this game is going to be so big. It’s not just Florida State trying to beat Oklahoma, who is No. 1. It’s trying to knock on the door of the elite of college football and say Florida State is back. This game represents much, more than the opportunity to knock off the No. 1 team in the country.”
The Sooners haven’t played real well on the road in past years. Is that going to be a factor Saturday night?
“I’m not big on trends of teams of last year or the year before, or ‘Big Game Bob’ or any of that stuff. The one thing I noticed about this team is they have a good group of characters on this team. They have great leadership. I think they have been through a lot as a team. Obviously, some great moments, winning some big games, going to a BCS bowl game and winning that. Beating Nebraska in the Big 12 title game last year. Losing not just a teammate, but a guy a lot of them looked up to in Austin Box, and can kind of mourning his loss and really sharing a lot about how that was tough for all of them. Probably bringing them closer together. Then losing Travis Lewis in camp, who is probably their spiritual leader on the defensive side of the ball. I think there is something really unique about this team. Sometimes when you go on the road and play in a tough environment, those intangibles really come to play and they can really impact the outcome of a football game. I might be wrong. We haven’t really seen Oklahoma tested, but I really like this team. I like the leadership that I am seeing from them.”
Where do you think college football is heading with all this realignment talk?
“I guess it’s inevitable. We’re heading to these four megaconferences that everyone is talking about. I’m a big traditionalist so I am not necessarily real excited about it. I think that there is a lot of posturing right now and a lot of bureaucracy that is going on. I don’t have any sources, but I think eventually you will see Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech all join the Pac-16. And then I think after that, you will see the Big Ten and the SEC get really aggressive on who they try to pursue. It’s really going to be interesting to see how it affects the ACC and the Big East. I think it’s inevitable. I think it’s a shame that we’re going to get away from some of the great rivalries that we have been watching for 70 or 80 years. I hope that we can somehow have those great rivalry games even though we are kind of going in another direction.”
Two transplanted Easterners — a New Jersey journalist with a crackling, grating voice and a temperamental ex-jock from Maryland — have formed the state’s most entertaining sports talk tandem.
Al Eschbach, 65, and Jim Traber, 49, appear as the “Dominant Duo” from 4 to 6 p.m. on the Sports Animal radio network.
“We’re like the ‘Odd Couple’,” said Eschbach, who this month celebrated his 35th anniversary as a sports talk host. “He’s Felix. I’m Oscar. We’re so different. But it has been a lot of fun.”
The pair are a ratings powerhouse for the men’s 25 to 54 age demographic. They ranked second in the demographic from 2 to 8 p.m. for the spring ratings book, trailing only rock station KATT-FM 100.5.
A Columbia, Md., high school star, Traber was recruited to play quarterback at Oklahoma State by head coach Jimmy Johnson and assistant coach Dave Wannsted. He also played baseball for the Cowboys, leading to a major league career and pro stints in Japan and Mexico.
Eschbach, who attended an all-boys Catholic high school, moved to Oklahoma in search of excitement. “OU was ranked as one of the top 10 party schools by Playboy Magazine,” he said. “It was cheap and it was easy to get in.” He now teaches sports broadcasting at the university.
Eschbach has never lost his high-strung New Jersey accent, which is his trademark along with his “See ya” farewell to callers. He relishes talking about his exotic vacations, including a recent three-week trip to Thailand.
“The last thing I would ever have expected was for me to do talk radio here with my accent,” Eschbach said. “Are you kidding me? When I started, people would go like ‘Damn Yankee.’ Was the Civil War still going on?”
Traber said. “I’m one of the only people who I think understands everything that comes out of Al’s mouth. It’s kind of hard at times.”
When the two were first paired in 1998, Traber said some listeners assumed it would become a battle of OSU vs. OU, but he said he never had no intention of becoming a “homer” for his alma mater.
“I think you lose credibility,” said Traber, who is known for lashing into callers with extended tirades. “There are OU fans who think I am an OSU homer and there are OSU fans who think I’m an OU homer. I feel if both sides don’t like me, I’m doing it the right way.”
Both enjoy serving their large throng of sports listeners. They are joined in “The Total Dominance Hour” by Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel and KWTV-9 sports director Dean Blevins.
“I can tell you that this is the most passionate place there is to do sports talk radio,” Traber said.
ESPN/ABC announcers Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Dr. Jack Ramsay discussed the NBA Finals in a conference call Friday. Here are a few excerpts:
Q: Jack Ramsay, how do you perceive the rest of the country perceives the Heat outside of Miami? I know you called their games for a long time. I’m not sure if you still live in the area. But I want to get a sense from you how you think the rest of the nation sees them compared to how they are seen locally.
Dr. Jack Ramsay: I think the rest of the country is growing to appreciate and in some quarters root for this team. They started off on the wrong foot and just aroused derision everywhere they went in the league. But they are so good. They are so dedicated. When you see, as Mike Breen said, their key players, LeBron James and D‑Wade, diving on the floor for loose balls, coming from the weak side and making incredible shot blocks, you have to acknowledge that. I think it’s happened for the Heat. They have become not America’s team but they’re now likable, and everybody loves a winner, and this team has been proved that it can be a winner.
Q: For Mark and Mike, you’ve gotten to see quite a lot of the Mavs lately. What has impressed you most about the way they’ve been playing, the way they’ve been winning?
Mark Jackson: I think the most impressive thing is how they have incredible poise. They’ve stayed calm in the face of tough runs. They totally believe in their system and in each other, and they find ways to win ballgames. I think ultimately when you’re talking about great basketball teams, you’re talking about teams that in spite of not playing their best, taking their game to another level and finding a way to win, and that’s been the most impressive thing for me about this Mavericks team.
Dr. Jack Ramsay: I’d like to add, Jason Kidd has been incredible. This guy, 38 years old, still runs the show on offense and is a surprisingly good defender. Did a great job against Kobe Bryant in the LA series in significant spots of games, and he doesn’t have the quick feet any longer, but he has great hands and great anticipation. The Mavs make a premium on defensive deflections of passes. In Game 4 against OKC, they had 19 deflections in that game. And these are all. Kidd had his share of those. Marion, Nowitzki even, everybody who plays is conscious of that. Kidd is still running the show there. He distributes the ball. He gets the ball to a player who needs a shot, needs to make a field goal. He’ll throw cross‑court to Terry giving up a shot of his own so Terry can get a free look from three-point land. This is a surprisingly tough team with veteran poise, as Mark said. That’s a key characteristic for them. And Tyson Chandler we haven’t mentioned is the defensive focus there and actually the spokesman of the team. He gets everybody going. He calls people out when they’re not getting their jobs done, and he defends the basket area.
Q. Mark Cuban has for a long time been one of the major faces of the franchise, and I’m wondering if you can compare the Mark Cuban of ’06 to the Mark Cuban of today?
Mike Breen: This might sound silly, but maybe as an owner you learn from experience, as well. And although I think a lot of this has to do with being superstitious; he was quiet early, they started winning, so he figured, all right, let me keep my mouth shut and not say a word. I just think right from the start, he’s brought so much passion, and willing to do everything and anything to make the players give them the proper tools, whether it’s a great locker room, a great plane, a good coach, spending money on free agents, give their whole team the proper tools to win. He’s been all about that right from the start. Obviously he gets emotional from the fans. I think he’s been able to control that a little bit better, and maybe he was tired of getting fined and losing money for shooting off his mouth sometimes. But to me he’s always been ‑‑ all he wants to do is win, and he wants to give the fans a great product. You know, so much of the publicity about him has always been the fines and the controversial comments, but I think most NBA fans would love to have their team have an owner like Mark Cuban.
Dr. Jack Ramsay: I think some of it has to do with his confidence in Rick Carlisle. He has, and should have, a high appreciation for Carlisle’s talents as a coach and the way that Carlisle uses his personnel and controls the tempo of games and just monitors it, and in a very low‑key fashion. It’s wonderful to watch. I talked with Mark after they had qualified for the championship round, and I mentioned to him, “I thought Rick did a terrific job.” He said, “Rick has out‑coached everyone he’s faced in the Playoffs so far.” He said, “That’s no surprise to me.” So there’s a confidence in the coach that maybe was not there with his previous coaches.
ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden hosts another one of his excellent quarterback camp specials at 6 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. Gruden had film and workout sessions with five top quarterbacks — Andy Dalton (TCU), Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), Jake Locker (Washington), Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton (Auburn).
Gruden answered questions from the media in a conference call this week:
Q: Was there one guy you sat down going into the QB camp that you came away really impressed by or you may not have thought as much of until you sat down with him and broke down the film with him?
A: Cam Newton with 14 career starts, the thing that impressed me, not only his physical attributes and his size, but his charisma. I think his eagerness to learn and prove that he can adapt to a pro style on offense. He showed very good retention to me in the meetings and the material that we covered.
I just like the look in his eyes, the eagerness and feeling that he has a lot to prove to everybody including himself. I think Newton impressed me the most in that regard.
Q. What were your impressions of Mallett? Do you think he gets it in terms of what’s going to be required of him in the NFL?
A: I think he does get it. He comes from a unique background. His mom and dad were teachers and coaches. Football is very important to him. The thing I really liked about Ryan Mallett was his background playing under Bobby Petrino at Arkansas. And I know Coach Petrino well enough to know that he coaches quarterbacks hard, very demanding. If you watch Mallett play, he’s in a lot of pro style situations, underneath the center, in the shotgun, audibling, check‑with‑me’s. They do a lot of good things on offense at Arkansas. Ryan Mallett can draw protections, blocking schemes, and he does have a beautiful throwing motion that I know a lot of guys in the league are excited about. He can really hum it.
Q. Can I get your take on Jake Locker? You seem to have a pretty good connection with him during that QB Camp episode. Wanted your take on how close do you think he is to the NFL level, and the accuracy concerns and other concerns you think he still needs to work on?
A: This is one tough guy. I mean, Jake Locker has played for two head coaches. He had to endure an 0‑12 season. This guy took a lot of punishment. The whole offense was built around No. 10. From a running standpoint, from a passing standpoint, this guy was involved significantly on every snap for the Huskies. He does have to improve his accuracy. But I think when you’re hit a lot and asked to do as much as Locker’s been asked to do, sometimes your fundamentals wane a little bit. They disappear in key situations. He does have a good, strong arm. He’s an outstanding athlete. He’s got very good elusiveness and straight line speed with some power, and I think he loves football. I think there is a real passionate fire inside this guy that somebody’s going to capture. He would be a fun guy to coach.
Q: Based on your work with Newton and your observation of all these players you’ve talked about at other positions and your knowledge of the Panthers from coaching against them, with the first pick of the draft, who do you see?
A: I think they’re going to take Cam Newton out of Auburn. In this NFC South, I believe you have Josh Freeman, you have Matt Ryan, you have Drew Brees. They have a young guy there now in Jimmy Clausen. But I think with DeAngelo Williams, assuming he’s re‑signed, Jonathan Stewart, Jordan Gross at left tackle, assuming Otah comes back at right tackle, you’re going to have the ability to put together a striking running game with Cam Newton being a part of that. Your good friend Steve Smith out there can still hurt people and off the play action pass and things of that nature while Cam develops. I think there are things this guy can do.
I wish I had more tape on Cam Newton. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight. But this is the kind of guy you’re looking for. He’s almost 6-6, 255 pounds. And everybody says yes, he sees the best conference in college football, and he really did a great job in that conference this year. I think he combined for 51 touchdowns.
Q: The consensus has been that Newton and Gabbert are a cut above the other quarterbacks in the draft. You’ve talked a lot about Newton, and I think his skills are obvious. But do you believe that Gabbert is a cut above the other quarterbacks in this draft? If so, why? And if you could give speculation on where you think he might go, and the farthest he might drop down in the draft?
A: I do think Blaine Gabbert is a Top 10 pick. All you have to do is see the ball come out of his hand. He’s got a very quick, strong arm, prototype size. He’s over 6-4, 235 pounds, a finance major, so you know he has intelligence. He has speed. I mean, Gabbert ran very well at the combine. He’s elusive back there. His scrambling and playmaking ability I think will be very enticing. Once again, here’s a junior quarterback that comes from a very unique, different style of spread offense at Missouri where he’s been in the no‑back set, and the shotgun predominantly. But I think his physical talents are very noticeable to everybody.
Just like athletes, cheerleaders are getting starter at a younger age these days. A segment of the next edition “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” which debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday, explores the world of mini-cheerleading.
Here’s the synopsis as supplied by HBO:
Mini-Cheerleaders. Competitive cheerleading is a grueling physical sport, testing the limits of even the most dedicated athletes. So imagine pre-pubescent girls, ages 5 to 8, tumbling, dancing, stunting and flying through the air on the national stage in true competitive fashion. Just like the big girls, they don lipstick, glitter and miniskirts, too. Leading up to the United States finals, Real Sports correspondent Andrea Kremer explores the lesser-known world of mini-cheerleading.
Other stories include profiles of Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and two-time Paralympic track champ Marlon Shirley, and a look at the New Jersey-based health organization P.A.S.T. (Pain Alternatives, Solutions & Treatments) that provides pro-bono treatment to former athletes.
St. Louis Cardinals fans are in for a treat as Albert Pujols is profiled on “60 Minutes,” 6 p.m. Sunday on CBS. You also might stick around and watch Oklahoma cowboys Jet and Cord McCoy in “The Amazing Race” at 7 p.m.
Here’s a synposis of the Pujols profile from the network:
When he’s not helping the Cardinals win baseball games with amazing statistics and prodigious home runs, Pujols is helping others. And not just because he is a nice guy. It’s because he was once one of those others, a poor boy in a poor country. Now a rich superstar, he says charity is his passion. Pujols, who some consider the greatest player in the game today, talks to Bob Simon for a “60 Minutes” profile.
Pujols took Simon and “60 Minutes” cameras down to his native Dominican Republic on one of his regular visits to help the country’s poor. His foundation provides essentials like medical care and mattresses to the residents of shantytowns called bateys.
“This is not so I can be Mr. Nice Guy, ‘Look at that baseball player…’” he tells Simon. He is as dedicated to helping others as he is about playing ball, maybe more so. “It’s my passion and I believe this is what God is calling me to do… I was one of those little boys with no hope.” His foundation also supports people with Down syndrome, another passion for Pujols, whose daughter was born with it.
Pujol’s warm feelings for his fellow man do not extend to National League pitchers, however. On the rare occasion a pitcher keeps him off the bases for a game, the next day he’s out for blood. “Whoever is pitching is going to pay up,” smirks Pujols.
Unlucky pitchers have been paying up for years. Pujols hit his 400th home run last August to become just the 47th player in history to reach that plateau. But he did it in the first 10 years of his career. Over that period, in each season, he batted over .300, had more than 30 home runs, and drove home 100 or more runs — a feat unmatched by any great player the game has ever know.
Pujols is a legend already, ensconced in the statistical pantheon so venerated by the game’s biggest fans. Says baseball writer Peter Gammons, “If you look at history, there is no doubt that he is in the top 10 players of all time … No question he is going to be a Hall of Famer.”
For teenagers with Down Syndrome, Pujols is already a hall of famer. Cameras capture him dancing with dozens of them at an annual prom he throws for the teens – the highlight of the year for them. “And for me too,” says Pujols.
Local HD viewers of ESPN2’s telecast of the OU-James Madison NCAA women’s tournament game Sunday afternoon missed most of the second half action as ESPN2 bounced around to several other games, including a big portion of the Purdue-Kansas State game, which also aired on ESPNU. After carrying much of the first half of the OU game, ESPN2 picked up only the last portion after the Sooners’ 19-point lead dwindled to six points before they prevailed 86-72.
ESPN spokesperson Rachel Margolis said standard definition viewers were able to watch the entire game under the network’s guidelines of protecting the home markets of the teams. However, Meadows said ESPN2 does not have the technology to do that with the HD broadcasts, resulting in the limited air time for the Sooners.
Margolis said the network ran a bottom line on the HD broadcast, notifying viewers to switch to the SD channel if they wanted to see the entire broadcast. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that line.
HD viewers will face the same problem Tuesday night when the Sooners face Miami, Fla., in the second round with several other games also taking place. At least, this time I will be prepared to go to the SD channel and not miss any of the action.
Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and David Aldridge were among the TNT analysts who discussed the Celtics-Thunder trade during the network’s pregame coverage Thursday night. The Thunder sent forward Jeff Green and center Nedad Krstic to the Thunder for center Kendrick Perkins and guard Nate Robison.
Barkley: “I was very surprised but it’s a good trade for the Celtics considering they weren’t going to be able to re-sign (Perkins). They only need Perkins against the Lakers if they get to the finals. They are going to have a tougher time getting through Chicago (Bulls) and Miami (Heat). Perkins wouldn’t have been a big factor in (a Miami) series. They got the best deal they could out of their circumstances.”
Smith on the Celtics losing the mystique of being a tough team: “(Perkins) doesn’t help you get to a championship but he helps you win it. What the Boston Celtics had over everyone else was the mystique of toughness … They don’t have that anymore. That’s what the cache was that they were a great defensive team and you couldn’t get layups or get to the basket. They have just traded that (mystique) in and said, ‘We are a new team.’ To me, that is the difference and I don’t know if that’s great if you’re trying to win a championship.”
Barkley on the Thunder getting tougher at the trade deadline: “I love the toughness that (the Thunder) have now. I love the fact that they’ll be able to hit some guys in the head when they come down the lane. (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant are going to score. Those guys will score in church, but they never get rebounds. Now they have some rebounding (ability) and some defensive toughness. This (trade) makes them a contender.”
Aldridge on the trade: “If you go back in time, (the Kendrick Perkins) trade is like Larry Nance going to Cleveland or Dennis Johnson going to Boston. Those ‘cement’ trades that make a good team a great team. I think Kendrick Perkins does that for the Oklahoma City Thunder. They were already good and they could’ve won a playoff series. What (Perkins) gives them in terms of defensive presence, toughness and championship experience; I think Oklahoma City is going to remember this day as the day they took a step up to be a true contender in the NBA.”