My Top 10 Sports Broadcasters of All-Time

As Super Bowl 49 takes place tomorrow, I wanted to give my personal favourite sports broadcasters list. Sports play-by-play guys specifically are the ones who really taught me storytelling. The art of framing a situation and serve the story as best as possible. The theory of less is more. Do what you need to do and then get out of the way.

Here is my personal biased Generation X era list:

10. Jack Buck

St. Louis Cardinals play-by-play man for years, plus did some national games on TV and the radio and when I first started listening to him. Just a happy guy and it showed on his broadcasts. He also has one of my favourite quotes about life:

Life is all about choosing a path. You go and you go and you go and then soon enough you’re gone!

His quote about life sums up his broadcasting. Simple but brilliant if you’re really paying attention.

9. Joe Buck

Jack’s son. Joe Buck gets killed on the internet more than any other broadcaster on the planet. People really hate him, and I don’t get it. He’s funny and calls each game like they are their own story. No cliches or catchphrases like so many others do to get though a broadcast. He’s the David Fincher of broadcasters. He never goes back to his old tricks and the story of the game is top priority.

Go back and re-watch the 2004 Red Sox-Yankees ALCS. Buck is terrific in that series and called each game like it was an epic novel.

8. Bob Costas

His legendary status is warranted. He’s like the baseball player who lands on the top 10 list of many statistics, but is never the best. He’s just very good at a lot of things: Interviewing, play-by-play, commentary, holding non-sports fans attention when talking about sports, setting up other broadcasters to look good, doing highlights etc… He has a lot of talent and still looks like a little boy eventhough he’s now in his 50s. He’s the Dick Clark of sports.

7. Keith Olbermann

Easily the smartest person on the list and I think his intelligence gets in his way at times. No one is better at doing highlights than Olbermann and his legacy is intact with the way he and (Patrick, at #5) changed the way they are done. But, now he’s on ESPN 2 where his talent is Super Bowl worthly. He could have learned a thing or two from Bill O’Reilly (another super intelligent guy) on the art of knowing what battle to fight in the art of setting yourself up for success while working inside the corporate world. Too bad O’Reilly and Olbermann hate each other so much because if they ever aligned, they could change the TV world!

6. Chris Berman

Over-the-top? Yes. Talks to much? Yes. Is known mainly for his infamous catchphrases? Yes. Overrated? Yes.

Berman’s on the list because he’s a master at introducing sports to kids. His voice is like the harmless and lovable Fred Flintstone and he’s that uncle you always wanted to have. He makes you interested in watching sports and that’s why he’s on the list.

5.  Dan Patrick

Doesn’t do play-by-play but his 3 hour show from Monday to Friday each week is the best sports show on TV and the radio. He’s funny, plus he enhances the conversation on the topic of the day. He’s good for sports.

4. Cris Collinsworth

The only broadcasting analyst on the list. No one is better at teaching us  more about football everytime he calls a game. And he’s not afraid to “tell it like it is” and call out players and coaches when they need to be called out.

3. Al Michaels

The greatest big stage broadcaster of them all. He calls football better than anyone and seems be excited at every game he does. And no broadcaster is better at setting up the Analyst better than Michaels. The play happens, he calls it and then gives his partner 10-20 seconds to talk. Then he finishes his point and sets up the next play. What he does is extremely tough and he makes it look so easy.

2. Jerry Howard

Radio play-by-play man for the Toronto Blue Jays. The man who I listened to over 1000 times as a kid growing up. Great broadcaster who’s now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was one of the biggest influences of my life growing up.

1. Vin Scully

1986 World Series Game 6. I’m 10 years old and I’m really getting interested in baseball. So I was desperate to watch this showdown between the Red Sox and the Mets. It’s Saturday night so I don’t have a bedtime and want to make sure I watch the entire game because either the Red Sox are going to win the World Series, or the Mets are going to win at home and force a game 7.  I made it to about the 8th inning before I fell asleep. It’s the bottom of the 10th with 2 outs and the Mets are trailing 5-3. My dad wakes me up so I can see the Red Sox celebrate their first World Series since 1918. Then…

“Little roller up along first……behind the bag….it gets through Buckner….here comes Knight and the Mets win it.”

– Vin Scully’s call to end one of the greatest baseball games ever played.

Then Scully says nothing for over a minute and lets the images tell the story.

That was the moment I fell in love of my first love: baseball. And Vin Scully is the master storyteller who cinched it for me. He’s the greatest. Even today, the guy is in his 80s and still doing play-by-play (with no partner) for the Dodgers. And I still love listening to him.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

1 comment

  1. I think you have a good list here. I use to like Bob Costas until he started spouting his personal political ideology which has nothing to do with sports. Turned me off big time. I just won’t watch anything with him as the commentator. If it’s a game I want to watch, I hit the mute button as soon as he comes on.


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