A couple of weeks ago, USA Today released its first power rankings for sports announcers. You might recall back in the day the great Rudy Martzke’s coverage of sports media in our nation’s newspaper. I loved those columns. I took a sports-broadcasting class in high school, and Mr. Lyons (may he rest in peace) passed out Xerox copies of them every week.
But I digress. USA Today admitted it was a “fool’s errand” to compare broadcasters in different sports and media (Joe Buck was No. 1). So I wondered, could I take it a step further and localize it, comparing ALL sports broadcasters on Chicago’s airwaves – the analysts, anchors, reporters, talk-show hosts and play-by-play voices? Could I be that foolish?
The answer was easy: Yes. Yes, I could.
I came up with four categories to consider: appeal, longevity, quality and personal preference. I’m a big fan of new Cubs TV voice Jon Sciambi (I told Marquee Sports Network to hire him on these pages), but he didn’t qualify among the roughly 100 names considered because he hasn’t called a game yet. Sorry, Boog. If I’m not tarred and feathered for doing this, I’ll put you on next time.
There’s little about this list that’s scientific, but maybe it turns into something that broadcasters put in their contracts. Like a bonus for making the list and more for making the top 10. Maybe this gains the prestige of one of those Forbes lists.
Enough jibber-jabber. Here are the first Chicago sports broadcast media power rankings:
- David Kaplan: It’s a shame NBC Sports Chicago scrapped Kaplan’s “SportsTalk Live,” but he still has a big megaphone on ESPN 1000’s first local morning show as a network affiliate. Kap knows everyone, and sometimes it seems he knows everything. But that’s part of his charm.
- Len Kasper: You say moving from Cubs TV to White Sox radio lowers Kasper’s stature? It might raise it. If the Sox win the World Series, his calls will be remembered (no local TV voices in the postseason). Plus, the response to his move showed the appeal he has in the market.
- Pat Hughes: He’s a renowned broadcaster with 25 years as the Cubs’ radio voice and 38 calling major-league baseball. Hughes has won the Illinois Sportscaster of the Year award nine times. If voters are smart – and have ears – he’ll be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Eddie Olczyk: Any hockey game is better with the Blackhawks and NBC analyst on the call. He educates and entertains. Some might not like the shtick, but I’m a sucker for it. I go around the league looking for games that are tree-tree in the turd. (Boy, that doesn’t work so well in print.)
- Jason Benetti: Name a TV broadcaster who works harder than Benetti. He calls a full season of Sox games, then shifts to ESPN for college football and basketball. He has no offseason, and that’s how he likes it. He’s creative and clever, and he has become popular nationally.
- Steve Stone: Benetti also has breathed new life into Stone, who didn’t always click with Hawk Harrelson. They were basically two analysts. With Benetti, Stone sounds as good as ever.
- Pat Foley: My all-time favorite and a Hall of Famer. Foley calls the fastest game in the world with ease. When Hawks home games were only on radio, he drew the pictures of them in my head.
- Laurence Holmes: It’s wonderful that The Score gave him a midday show, but he deserves more than two hours. Fortunately for fans, he takes advantage of podcasts and social media.
- Mark Giangreco: He has been a TV sports anchor in this city since 1982. He became so big, his move from Ch. 5 to Ch. 7 in ’94 was huge news. He always has been good for a laugh.
- Marc Silverman: An ESPN 1000 original, Silvy wears his fandom on his sleeve. He’s great with callers and is as personable as they come. He put in the work to earn the afternoon-drive slot.
- Dan Bernstein: No one’s better at handling breaking news, and he can talk about anything.
- Jason Goff: If you miss listening to Goff just riff, check out the Bulls host’s “Bulls Talk” podcast.
- Ozzie Guillen: He lets you know exactly what he thinks about the Sox – and anything else.
- Chuck Swirsky: He was talking sports here in 1979 on WCFL. Glad he returned to call the Bulls.
- Leila Rahimi: She broke a barrier at The Score, providing a much-needed perspective.
- Hub Arkush: An authority on football since the 1980s, he has been a Score mainstay.
- Jonathan Hood: His shift changed from nights to mornings at ESPN 1000, but he hasn’t.
- Danny Parkins: Still doing strong work at The Score despite a revolving door of partners.
- Olin Kreutz: A must-listen/watch for Bears analysis on The Score and NBC Sports Chicago.
- Stacey King: Great analysis, honest assessments and catchy lines. Now, let me step back and kiss myself.