Steve Eighinger

Michaels, Meredith and Madden top best-ever list

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 4, 2018 8:20 am

Now that the Labor Day weekend has come and gone, that means two things:

1. Summer is over. Not officially, but for all intents and purposes, summer is kaput.

2. Football season and all of its glory are officially underway.

Autumn does not officially begin for a couple of weeks, but when the kids return to school, the last warm-weather holiday is out of the way and wall-to-wall football is filling the weekends, it's time to close the pool down, put the grill away and get your favorite recliner -- and TV remote -- in place for all of the upcoming college and pro football games we are already experiencing.

A major slice of the enjoyment for any football season are the announcers. Many times I choose which game I'll watch by the play-by-play guy and/or color man, which brings us to today's column topic.

Since my football-watching days date to ye olde black-and-white TV sets, I have been fortunate to listen to a bevy of great announcers, and in many cases developing some undying allegiances. Here are my favorite football voices (from an original list that was close to 50):

1. Al Michaels: Incredibly, at age 73, Michaels remains the finest football play-by-play man on television. He's the principal reason NBC's Sunday night NFL telecasts are the most popular show in the weekly Nielsen ratings. Ironically, though, he's probably best remembered for that 1980 Olympic ice hockey call of "Do you believe in miracles?!" when the underdog U.S. team stunned the Russians in the semifinals at Lake Placid, N.Y.

2. Don Meredith: "Dandy Don" was elevated to American cult hero for his role on ABC Monday Night Football in the 1970s. The Danderoo, as sidekick Howard Cosell referred to him, managed to come off as a jokester, smart aleck -- and keen analyst. He clearly knew his football, plus how to have a good time. Highly respected NFL media writer Ed Sherman once heaped heavy praise on Meredith when he penned, "He changed the whole profession." That he did.

3. John Madden: Many tend to forget that Madden was an accomplished NFL coach before undertaking his career as an analyst. On screen, he emerged as one of the great television characters ever, due mostly to his honest -- and exciting -- analysis of the games he covered.

4. Cris Collinsworth: Collinsworth, who now pairs with Michaels, has always possessed a gift to be able to call out players and coaches who underperform, as well as those deserving of praise. Fans, including myself, love Collinsworth's easygoing approach.

5a. Lindsey Nelson: One of the game's all-time great play-by-play voices, Nelson's wildly colored sports jackets were as much of a trademark as his entertaining and fast-paced accounts of the games he was broadcasting.

5b. Howard Cosell: Love him or hate him, Cosell attracted viewers and listeners. "Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff," Cosell once said. "I have been called all of these. Of course, I am."

Here are a few others who just missed my final cut: Jack Buck, Charlie Jones, Chris Schenkel, Merlin Olsen and Dick Enberg.