Any Sports Commentators You've Actually LEARNED Anything From?

Very, very few sports color commentators are truly awful. Apart from Howard Cosell, none has ever been so annoying I had to turn off the sound (in the old Monday Night Football days, I regularly listened to Jack Buck and Hank Stram on the radio while watching the game on TV).

But 99.9% of them are, at best, amiable wastes of space. Almost all of them know far more about their sport than I do, but almost none has ever told me anything about the game that I didn’t know (or that wasn’t already obvious).

I mean, I LIKE Phil Simms (as a longtime Giants fan, how could I not?), but he’s never once taught me anything about football or offered any insights that a casual fan couldn’t have made for a lot less money. Replace the name “Phil Simms” With “Troy Aikman,” “Randy Cross,” “Dan Dierdorf,” or any number of other guys, and my point would remain. But I’m not interested in bashing those guys. Honest. All of them are bright, likable guys. I don’t HATE them, I just find them unnecessary.

I’m just curious… are there any sports color commentators that you’ve actually learned something from? Anybody who’s given you some genuine insight or understanding of their games that you lacked before?

One of the VERY few I can think of is Ron Jaworski. Not a brilliant sportscaster, but from time to time, he’s shown me things on video that I wouldn’t have caught on my own.

Anybody you can nominate?

Jaworski and Dick Vermiel are the only two I can really think of.
Aikman has the personality of wet cardboard, but he occasionally says some intelligent things. Cris Collinsworth is a preening ass, but he does too.

I think most color commentators are at least able to offer anecdotes or random bits of trivia, which range from inane to insightful to funny. Some of them have offered bits that explain perhaps why so-and-so is sitting out today, or why Gonzalez is coming in to relieve instead of the ace closer. I might not agree with the decision, but usually they are closer to the manager (or pitching coach’s) frame of mind, and have helped me understand why such decisions are being made.

Ken Venturi (yes, I know he is retired), Johnny Miller, Joe Morgan, Hubie Brown and (as tired as I get of hearing him talk) Tim Mccarver.

Jerry Remy, who works the Red Sox games on NESN (New England Sports Network), has a lot of good insider baseball things to point out throughout the game. I really think he’s helped me develop a great appreciation and enjoyment of baseball. Before I started watching regularly I always thought baseball soley consisted of one guy throwing the ball as fast as he can across the plate, while the other guy just tries to hit the ball as hard as he can.

Trust me, the whole city of Boston groans when games are showed on ESPN or Fox.

About the same here. I think MNF will be much improved having Jaws in the booth, as he’s a real X’s and O’s guy and nowhere near as annoying as Joe Theismann.

I’ve been watching Formula 1 races for years but never fail to learn something new from Speed Channel’s Steve Matchett, who was an F1 ex-mechanic.

Most of my knowledge of baseball comes from Steve Stone’s work calling the Cubs back in the days.

Cosell was play-by-play, not color. I hear the OP’s complaint a lot. I wonder if people even really try to learn something when they watch, or if they just let it wash over them.

Madden has taught me more about how offensive lines work than I ever would have picked up on my own.

Phil Simms is excellent at describing coverages, and how to attack them. I’m really surprised that you’ve never learned anything from him.

Vermeil, though, is TRULY outstanding when he has the chance to do games. It’s unbelievable how much information he can process from a single play. He’ll tell you what’s happening before the ball is snapped, sometimes.

Joe Girardi, Joe Morgan, Lou Pinella all have been good teachers at baseball. Recently, I heard Girardi make a great comment. . .there was a game situation where it was like a 1 run game, runners on second and third with a couple outs. . .that kind of thing. The stadium was going crazy, pitcher is checking his runners. Pitcher’s fired up. Batter’s fired up. And he mentioned that young pitchers in that situation like to bring the heat but he thought the best thing to do was take something off it. Not an earth-shaking revelation, but something I don’t usually consider.

I know that everybody likes to take pot shots at Madden for being old and stating the obvious but I’ve definitely learned a few things about the game from him. Considering he used to be a coach he has a very broad knowledge of the game. Also because I’m a Cowboys fan I’ll always enjoy it when Aikman is on, even though it seems like he goes out of his way to show he’s impartial whenever he’s commenting on a Cowboys game.

I don’t think that’s correct. Gifford was play by play while Cosell and Meredith were color commentators. Actually, Cosell was color man and Meredith made fun of Cosell.

Well, I always think of “color” as “analyst” which was much more Meredith.

Giff was more play-by-play than HC, but that booth kind of had a dynamic all its own. Cosell isn’t someone I would have expected to learn something from, similar to Dennis Miller.

Cosell told about the politics and the inside sports that no other sports announcers deal with. He was arrogant and abrasive but I was a fan.
Ernie Harwell has stories that go back to the stone age. He gave you insights into the players through many generations.
Madden is a waste of a lot of space. First couple years he was ok. Has gone downhill rapidly
Gary Danielson shows promise. His insights are very good.
Zinger and Miller are very good golf announcers . They do educate.
Boxing has the best in sports. Foreman as color is very good. Atlas , Manny Stewart and others are excellent.

I was popping in here to mention Jaworski, so I’ll third him (fourth him? I lost track.)

I feel like Jaworski has taught me more about football than anyone else in my life. I never played organized ball, but his play breakdown makes everything make sense, and enlightens me to everything going on away from the ball. Superb stuff.

I hadn’t heard that he will be doing MNF. That literally thrills me.

After Don Sutton joined the Braves as an announcer, I learned so much more about pitching strategy, and I had been an avid fan for over 20 years. Just one example: I didn’t understand the concept of an “out pitch,” and why when a pitcher had an 0-2 count on a batter, he’d throw him a curve down and away. Sutton made the whole concept of setting a batter up for the out pitch clear.

I really miss him as an announcer.

Cosell was color. He was actually a pretty good analyst for boxing and football, though he sucked when having to do baseball.

However, the best football color commentator was Al Derogatis. Everyone else follows in his path.

For Boxing, I did learn a lot from Cosell, for Football, he was annoying and for baseball he was horrifying and more often than not wrong or off subject. He was a lot worse than McCarver who is my least favorite current baseball announcer.

In baseball, I learned a lot listening to Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto growing up, especially about bunting and when & how to bunt. I was an excellent bunter and my lessons consisted of listening to Scooter and practicing what he talked about. A more recent announcer I learned from was the excellent Jim Kaat. He provided many insights about pitching.

Early on Madden and Summerall did a good job of entertaining and explaining football strategy. As a team they where very good and entertaining. That time is now long past.


For baseball, let me second Steve Stone, the Cubs color man until 2004. He would regularly set up pitching strategy and even guess a pitcher’s best pitch in a certain situation (if he threw it, it routinely resulted in an out; if not, a base hit). He’s so knowledgeable, in fact, that a local Chicago radio station has him on taking listener calls once a week, even though he no longer lives or works in Chicago. Here’s hoping once the Cubbies get sold, sthe new owner will be bright enough to patch up whatever bad blood was there when the Trib owned the team, and get him back in the booth where he belongs (maybe when Bob Brenley accepts another managing job).

Joe Morgan, on the other hand, is not really that great (and it pains me to say that, being a fan of the 70’s Big Red Machine). His insights are often brusque generalizations, and when he gets a hold of something he just won’t let it go; in his view, a minor baserunning/fielding/umpiring mistake in the 2nd inning becomes the catalyst for everything that happens later (“You see, John, X was playing a couple steps back on that ball because he misjudged that grounder five innings ago, and the batter was able to take advantage of that.”).

I’ve never been much of a fan of color commentator stories either, usually because they get recycled so often. Joe Garagiola, IMO, told that story about how his Pirates being the first team to have batting helmets EVERY TIME a pitch came inside on a batter…

No kidding. And I’m a Giants fan, so I “should” like him too.

I’ve been watching baseball for 25 years, and almost every color commentator I’ve ever heard had nothing of any insight to say, and quite a few of them are just flat-out retarded. Most are simply there so you don’t have to listen to just one voice. Once in about every 20 games they’ll notice something about defensive positioning.

It’s so unusual to hear good color commentary that when I do hear it I take notice. A few years back FOX used Al Leiter as a third man in the booth. He was quiet and kind of unsure of himself but when he did say something he knew what he was talking about, and a few times he actually came up with some really cool insights. He’s moved over to YES now and I never hear him, so I don’t know if he’s still as good as he was then or if the network has forced him to be another boring voice.

Hockey’s no better. CBC has been using the same color guy on their eastern broadcasts, Harry Neale, since the invention of hockey. Neale repeats the same platitudes in every game and his observations usually amount to just saying what the slo-mo replay is clearly displaying. I think he’s drunk a lot of the time.

Football may be different story (perhaps because it’s not always possible for the viewer to ascertain the entire play’s development) but baseball and hockey are bad. There are some good color commentators in basketball, but most of them are bad too. Jack Armstrong is a pleasure to listen to.

Everyone once and a while Don Cherry shocks me with an intelligent observation. Pierre McGuire, when he’s not going on about how such-and-such a player is a monster, also has some interesting things to say.

The trouble with both is that the signal-to-noise ratio is pretty bad.