Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SEC on CBS, Verne and Gary: I'm a fan

     This might bring the wrath of civilization on me, but I will declare this: Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson are the best television announcing team in college football.
     Darned right I'm partial -- nothing I like better than watching SEC football on CBS. And nothing is better than the 2:30 p.m. (Central time) game on Saturdays (or the occasional night-game/holiday feature).
Gary Danielson and Verne Lundquist: No college football broadcast
team is better than they are, not on my television.
      As I look over Facebook and Twitter and the Internet, I realize that there are many people out there who can't stand Verne and Gary. Frankly, I am surprised ... and dismayed.
      What is wrong with those people?
      I will come back to this, but remember this phrase: lunatic fringe.
       More than a week ago, I happened upon a web site discussing the announcing teams for that week's SEC games, and the CBS feature that Saturday -- with Verne and Gary -- was Florida-at-Alabama. Fine with me.
      Except then I saw a storm of rejoicing from LSU fans (and I use the term loosely) that Lundquist and Danielson were not doing the LSU-Mississippi State game that night. If I saw one comment belittling Verne and Gary, I saw 25 ... or 50.
      Man, I thought LSU fans were smarter than that. I was wrong. They're just as biased and slanted -- and misguided -- as any other school's fans.
      Gosh, I never realized how much Lundquist and Danielson hated LSU, how prejudiced they are toward LSU.
       What a bunch of crap. What they are is ... flat-out honest. Verne Lundquist, who does the play-by-play, is a reporter; Gary Danielson, the analyst, sums up what's happening.
        My view: When LSU (or any team) does well, they say so. When LSU (or any team) deserves criticism, they say so.
        I was willing to let this subject pass until this past Saturday when I watched the Arkansas-Texas A&M game from Cowboys Stadium (that's what I'm going to call the place, thank you), with Verne and Gary at the mikes. That was an old Southwest Conference rivalry -- now in the SEC -- revisited and, just before the second half began, in the weekly SEC feature, the CBS crew did a short tribute to Mr. Lundquist.
        It recapped his career, building on his ties to Texas, the Southwest Conference, and the Dallas-Fort Worth market. It was well done, and Verne was surprised -- and emotional -- as he thanked his co-workers.
        It made me realize how much I appreciate his place in sports announcing, and that I wanted to write this piece.
        I've never met Verne Lundquist, but do have a couple of personal favorites that he was associated with -- Terry Bradshaw and the Dallas Cowboys (yeah, that's a heck of a combination.)
        Through much of the 1970s and through 1983, Verne was the sports anchor at WFAA-TV (Channel 8) in Dallas and -- maybe even more prominently -- the play-by-play announcer for the Dallas Cowboys. Beginning in 1976, he teamed with Brad Sham, who succeeded him as "Voice of the Cowboys" and still holds the job. 
         I spent many a day listening to them doing Cowboys' games on radio, much preferring  their broadcast over whatever TV announcing crew was there. 
         When Bradshaw retired from the NFL after the 1983 season, he began his broadcasting career in '84 doing NFL games on CBS as an analyst alongside the play-by-play guy, Verne Lundquist.
          They became good friends, close enough that -- as someone remembered -- Lundquist was one of the first people at the hospital when Bradshaw's first daughter was born. Close enough that when Terry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 1989, his presenter was not someone tied to the Pittsburgh Steelers; Terry chose Verne.
         I know from my journalism career that discussing TV sports announcers is always a popular -- and controversial -- subject. We could do ratings or take polls, and any story our staff did drew lots of attention. Everyone has their opinion.
         I don't profess to be an expert; I'll leave that to others. I do have my likes and dislikes.
        As I've written previously, I don't watch or listen to pregame, halftime or postgame shows, or any of the talk shows and, more often than not, I will "mute" the sound on live sports events. Just can't, or won't, deal with the announcers any more.
         I do make exceptions. On college football, in addition to Lundquist-Danielson, I like the Chris Fowler-Kirk Herbstreit and Brad Nessler-Todd Blackledge teams on ABC/ESPN. On NFL games, I can take Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (only because I love Aikman's honesty, and how diplomatic he is with criticism on the Cowboys). I think Al Michaels is one of the great play-by-play announcers of our time; his partner, Cris Collinsworth, is sharp, but won't shut up.
         Another who won't shut up: Brent Musberger. He wants to be bigger than the game itself. Enough already.
         On the few times I watch the NBA -- only the Dallas Mavericks -- I like their TV announcing team of Mark Followill and Derek Harper (and the pre- and postgame comments by Coach Bob Ortegel). But my wife is the Mavericks' expert at our place.
          I do listen to Jim Nantz on CBS' golf coverage, partly because Verne Lundquiest is usually part of the announcing team. But the pompous, know-it-all Johnny Miller is a complete turnoff on NBC.
          Miller is right there with -- here we go -- Lou Holtz, Mark May, Lee Corso, Dick Vitale. Cannot listen to any of them. I know they're good people, knowledgeable, and lots of people are entertained by them, but they're not what I want.
          If I happen upon Bradshaw on Fox's NFL coverage, I will listen to what he has to say, crazy as he can be.
          And speaking of crazy ... Charles Barkley. He's wild and unpredictable on NBA coverage -- mostly on TNT -- but he can be so funny, and as "out there" as he is sometimes, he's often correct.
          Back to the original topic: Lundquist and Danielson. In addition to the critical comments from LSU fans, I found criticism of them from other SEC schools and -- in my usual 5 minutes of research for this piece -- I found them linked to web sites entitled awfulannouncing.com and Uncle Verne/Aunt Gary. How stupid.
          Lundquist is a Hall of Fame announcer, several Halls of Fame. He's been doing this for 40-plus years, he's wonderful at football, basketball, golf; he's done figure skating and bowling and the Olympics.
          He does it with accuracy -- sure, he has some bobbles ... who doesn't -- and with humor, with self-deprecation and, as I said before, with honesty. He doesn't scream or go out of control at big moments; with a minimum of words, he knows how to let the moment carry itself (such as Auburn's game-ending return of the short field-goal try against Alabama last year).
          He's been at the mike for some of the great moments in NCAA men's basketball tournament history and at the Masters (Jack Nicklaus, 1986; Tiger Woods several times). Look 'em up on YouTube or elsewhere.
           He's modest about all his honors and his success, and this year he received the Vin Scully Award for lifetime achievement in sports broadcasting. My opinion (and that of many others): Vin Scully is the best ever in the business, for more than 60 years. 
            I keep seeing that people think Verne is too old, has been around too long. That's called age discrimination, and it's not right.   
            Danielson has been Verne's partner on SEC football since 2006. He was a very good quarterback at Purdue and a pro QB -- not a great one, but decent -- for 14 seasons, but he's a much better TV analyst than he was QB.
            He obviously does his homework, he studies the teams he's covering -- the personnel, the formations, the strength and weaknesses, the trends. He's bluntly honest and he's right on top of the game. He spots what's going on almost immediately, often calls penalties before the referee announces them.
            If fans don't like his bluntness, that's their problem.
            And let's revisit the lunatic fringe phrase. I had two Shreveport-media friends use that term Monday -- one in a phone conversation, one on Twitter -- in reference to all these people being critical of anything and everything, on Facebook and Twitter and the Internet.
            It applies to politics -- I don't even want to start on that -- and to sports. There's no reasoning with these people. They believe they're right, and there's no dissuading them. There's no "gray" area for them.
            These are the people who booed LSU sophomore QB Anthony Jennings on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium; it is, in my view, just inappropriate to boo college kids. These are the people criticizing Cowboys' cornerback Morris Claiborne, belittling his play and his career even after his season ended with a knee injury Sunday night. Cheap shots. It's not enough that the young man faces surgery and rehab.
             These are the people who criticize the offensive and defensive coordinators, no matter how successful they've been, and the QBs -- and, of course, the head coach -- for every little thing that goes wrong with their football team.
             I wish they'd go away, or shut up. Or maybe I just should stop doing social media. Not a bad idea. One of these days ...
             Look, I'm not all that happy with CBS Sports. They let an old Shreveport buddy, Tim Brando, go from the host role in the SEC studio desk show after last season, and I thought -- think -- that was a mistake.
             But as long as Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson are doing the SEC games on CBS, I will tune in ... with the sound on. Even if people (LSU fans, too) don't agree or don't understand, those guys know what they're doing.



  1. From Josh Wellen (nephew): think Verne may be the worst play-by-play announcer currently on the air, in any sport. Not because he's old, but because he's incoherent. He literally makes 5-10 mistakes every game and it is distracting. He may have been great years ago, but he either isn't there mentally any more or his vision is too poor to be announcing the biggest games in he sport. I don't think he hates LSU; I'm just not sure he knows where they play football any more. He doesn't yell at big moments but he does say "ohhh, my goodness" or "oh, my" or "my goodness" or "oh, Lord" 4 or 5 times a game. It's time for CBS to give Gary a partner who is relevant. Sorry to be harsh, but I disagree with you on this one.

  2. From Jim Robinson: Great announcers, and they normally state the cold, hard facts, but they are not particularly fond of LSU from what I see. Just a personal observation.

  3. From Jesse Grubbs: They do a great job, in my opinion. The best in the business at this time.

  4. From Tom Arceneaux: I think they are terrific, too. Don’t know the cause of the LSU fan consternation.

  5. From Jim McLain: Completely agree with you on Verne and Gary. They are the absolute best. There is no better football analyst than Danielson on any network and their announcing chemistry is unmatched.

  6. From Pesky Hill: I got to know Verne from l978-81 when I was SID at TCU. He is a class guy and very humble. I don’t see him very often these days, but when I run into him at a SEC game I may be scouting for the Independence Bowl, he always makes me feel like I am his best friend. I also think Verne is one of the best, but the fact that he is a nice guy really helps. I also have met Danielson and he too has always been cordial to me. Thanks for speaking up for one of the old guys. Hey, man, we are all getting old.

  7. From Casey Baker: While I lived in Dallas, Verne was simply the best local sports anchor. I would watch the other guys from time to time, but always went back to Verne. He made me feel as if he was a knowledgeable friend talking about sports. After I moved
    from Dallas I was glad to see that he had moved to national sports so that I could see him from time to time. I am never disappointed in his reporting. He became even more likable a couple of years ago when Danielson made a disparaging remark about the Independence Bowl. Verne stood up to him and said he knew the people involved, he liked them and they worked very hard. Now, I believe that Verne and Gary are simply the best football announcing team out there.

  8. From Tommy Youngblood: I also find Verne Lundquist to be an outstanding broadcaster and Gary makes a great sidekick. He is also a very nice guy. Quite unassuming.

  9. From Mike Richey: I like them. Verne tends to be a little too jocular at times, something that especially bothers me if it's at the expense of my team (usually LSU). And I used to joke about how Danielson would at every opportunity explain the advantage of having the ball at the end of the first half and the start of the second. That said, I think Danielson is the main reason this pair is the best. He is simply the best analyst of any sport at any level. I'm sure I haven't heard them all, but I can't think of anyone who even comes close. He helps me understand why and how things are happening on the field. One of my complaints of most writers is that they simply report what happened, and not why. Danielson (suddenly I feel I'm scripting the original Karate Kid) ... Danielson tells me why.