ESPN’s Monday Night Madness

From Mike and Mike to Chris Berman, ESPN has given little regard to proven play-by-play skills when it comes to Monday Night Football's late-night opener. The perfect choice for this year's game is right under their noses—informed, professional and proven. It's past time they gave her the assignment

By
Richard Deitsch
· More from Richard·

Promotion and vanity have long been first cousins at ESPN, and one of the annual family outings occurs during the first week of the Monday Night Football schedule. For the past seven years with little exception, ESPN management has assigned broadcasters to the second game of its opening week MNF doubleheader—the so-called “B” game that kicks off at 10 p.m. ET—with little regard for the announcers’ NFL game-calling experience. Obviously, that is the network’s right. When you pay $1.9 billion a year for a television property, as ESPN is currently doing for the rights to MNF, you get a few perks, and one of those perks is picking the announcers.

Some history: Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, the ESPN Radio morning show personalities, were assigned the game from 2007 to ’10. That was clearly done as a promotional vehicle for the Mike and Mike brand, though both broadcasters prepared and took the assignment seriously. During the Mike and Mike Era of Monday Night Football, NFL analyst Mike Ditka was also brought in as part of a “Three Mikes” promotion. That’s the kind of marketing idea that sounds good at the ESPN cafeteria but loses steam once it crosses the Bristol, Conn. line.

Longtime NFL voice Brad Nessler restored some broadcaster sanity to the game in 2010 and ’11 (with the always-excellent Trent Dilfer) before ESPN management foisted the Late Night with Chris Berman concept despite Berman having never called college or pro football play-by-play.

Despite a lack of play-by-play experience, ESPN veteran Berman has called the late Monday Night opener each of the past two seasons. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Despite a lack of football play-by-play experience, ESPN veteran Berman has called the late Monday Night opener each of the past two seasons. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Naturally, that announcement came with all the PR trimmings, including a podcast with Berman conducted by ESPN Pravda. If you want to call Berman’s assignment rewarding a longtime employee for years of NFL service, that’s totally fair, perhaps even heartwarming. If you want to call it a vanity play for an announcer who is as much a part of an NFL apparatus as The Duke football, that would be accurate too.

Because I’m a charitable guy, I’m going to give ESPN an idea that offers the dream tonic of promotion and boldness. Plus, there’s the bonus of having the game called by a professional football announcer:

ESPN should assign Beth Mowins to call the Chargers at Cardinals game (10:20 ET kickoff) on Sept. 8, and pair her with a quality NFL game analyst such as Dilfer or Steve Young.

If you want to compare her reps calling football to Berman’s, it’s the difference between LeBron James and Austin Croshere.

Whether it’s college football, women’s basketball, softball, volleyball or anything else she’s assigned, Mowins is a no-shtick broadcaster who is always prepared and professional. She began calling college football nine years ago. In 2011 the network wisely promoted her to a full-time slate of college football on ESPN2’s Saturday noon telecast. Every Saturday, she chips away at the antiquated notion that football play-by-play must be delivered by a man. (Note to the inevitable mouth-breathers calling me a sports feminist: Blast away, but make sure you spell it correctly. It’s D-E-I-T-S-C-H.) If you want to compare her reps calling football to Berman’s, it’s the difference between LeBron James and Austin Croshere.

A woman calling the NFL on a regular basis is an idea whose time really should have come long ago. In 1987, Mike Weisman, then the executive producer of NBC Sports and one of the most innovative producers in sports broadcasting history, assigned then-newscaster Gayle Sierens to call the Seahawks-Chiefs game on the final Sunday of the regular season. Weisman offered Sierens six more game opportunities for the following year but she opted to focus on her news career. The headline on this Richard Sandomir profile of Sierens remains unchanged six years later: “First Woman To Call NFL Play By Play, and The Last.”

Mowins has been one of ESPN's top play-by-play announcers on sports ranging from volleyball and softball to college basketball and college football. She should get a shot at the late Monday Night opener. (Porter Binks for Sports Illustrated)
Mowins has been one of ESPN’s top play-by-play announcers on sports ranging from volleyball and softball to college basketball and college football. (Porter Binks for Sports Illustrated)

Assigning Mowins the late MNF game would follow news that the CBS Sports Network will air a once-a-week, nightly opinion-based sports show with an all-female cast. That’s a smart play for CBS Sports, which needs different concepts (and more viewers). As long as the show avoids First Take buffoonery or pink ghettoizing every sports issue, the effort alone will have meaning. One of the women who will appear on the show is Amy Trask, the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders who now works as an NFL analyst for CBS. I asked Trask how NFL brass would view Mowins doing a one-off or multiple NFL games.

“The league is a business and to the extent it believes it beneficial—economically or from a public perception standpoint—to include a woman on a broadcast team, I believe that it would do so,” Trask said. “I don’t believe that players or coaches would be the slightest bit concerned about this. Stated differently, I believe that players and coaches are concerned with whether someone can get the job done and that it wouldn’t matter to them whether that person was a man or a woman.”

No broadcaster has worked more closely with Mowins than Debbie Antonelli. The two have partnered on more than 1,000 college basketball broadcasts or podcasts since they first began calling ACC games as a pair for Fox Sports South in the early 1990s.

“Beth is aware her margin for error is slim and it serves as motivation for her unique opportunity,” Antonelli said. “She is concerned with what’s in her control: her work ethic, her motivation, and her love for her job. No one dictates those things for Beth. She protects and respects the game she is broadcasting.”

I intentionally did not contact Mowins for this piece. She did not plant this idea for the column, nor did anyone on her behalf. In previous interviews with SI.com, she has said the NFL would be the highest honor for a football broadcaster but did not express calling NFL games as her ultimate broadcasting goal.

Antonelli believes Mowins would accept the assignment immediately if offered.

“As her friend, I would be thrilled for her to challenge herself at the highest level in football,” Antonelli said. “Detractors of having a woman call football say the same clichés—she didn’t play, she doesn’t know the game. Beth didn’t play football but she knows the game, the rules and it would be awesome for her to lead women into a different role in the NFL, a challenge that I’m positive she would navigate and handle.”

ESPN has been the most forward-thinking sports broadcaster when it comes to giving on-air female staffers opportunities, and assigning Mowins would be received with great pride from its employees (as well as women throughout the sports media.). As of now, alas, the late-game MNF assignment has been made:

The network told The MMQB earlier this week that Berman and Dilfer will call the game for a third consecutive year.

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45 comments
granitebp
granitebp

Was this article written by a family member. Is it a joke. Sure Berman is bad, but this is frying pan to the fire stuff. Listening to her do Maryland Penn State I ha d to look up who it was she is soooo bad. Please, someone, explain to her the difference between an incomplete pass and a fumble before she ever does another game.

greg61
greg61

how can espn continue to but berman and dilfer on play by play, berman was trending on twitter last year he was so bad, i really find it hard to believe that espn can find a qualified person to do the play by play because berman should be in studio with the rug on his head

armagecko
armagecko

I think ESPN should do it. I love it when gamblers go all in and, don't kid yourself, this is gambling at its finest. If she tanks and viewers leave in droves (so long $$$), heads will roll -- and not just Mowins'. Everybody involved in the hiring decision will soon be looking for other employment. This is a serious decision that will affect futures, lives and families. Ratchet up that pressure, boys! I love it. Go ahead, ESPN. Where's your cajones? Security is overrated anyway. 

J.B.
J.B.

An experienced play by play person would be a great start, but they also need to use camera and technical crews of the same quality for the second Monday night game that they use for the first game.  It's pathetic how the East coast game gets the regular Monday Night Football treatment but then the West coast game gets treated like a Thursday night MAC game with inferior cameras and sound.  I can't believe the NFL lets them get away with it.

unitcaptain11
unitcaptain11

"with the always-excellent Trent Dilfer"

No no no.  He is not excellent, he is tedious.  He is constantly lecturing.  He talks a blue streak from the moment a play ends until the next snap.  He never shuts up.  Dilfer is awful.

amorosotom
amorosotom

Sometimes I can't understand the success of some programs. This Mike and Mike in the morning on ESPN radio drives me crazy. Greenie  is the worst  a** kisser and Golic never says anything remotely enlightening or incisive. Gene Hackman some years ago admitted that success in show business depends on luck as much as anything. He said he knew plenty of actors who were better than he who  never got a break. There are probably hundreds of good sportscasters who wonder how the hell do these guys keep their jobs. 

amorosotom
amorosotom

Here's a thought.  Try Obermann and Dan Patrick.  Two class acts. Intelligent, witty, and the NFL brass would be furious. The No Fun League would spend more time trying to control that duo than they do shaking down the government for stadium hand-outs. 

amorosotom
amorosotom

The only good announcer in the last 50 years has been Howard Cosell.  What the right wing media did to tarnish his career  was cruel. So they dropped Cosell and stuck us with suck-up, never say anything remotely critical "color commentators."  You younguns  if you never saw or heard Cosell, you don't know what you missed. 

tom.aikins
tom.aikins

Can we have a guy call our games? Why do we need a woman? There are really no guys that are qualified? Can't we have anything any more that's just for us? Can't we keep women out of anything? This writer is an idiot.

Chase Wilder
Chase Wilder

What a joke that Brad Nessler winds up playing second fiddle to a couple of studio guys named Chris...( Fowler & Berman ) 

Phroggo
Phroggo

I don't know Mowins but I do know what I like, and that's the minimalist approach.  Put me in charge of training announcers and I'll lock 'em in a room watching NFL reruns until they all come out sounding like Ray Scott.


I don't need to be told it's an empty backfield.  I can see that.  I don't need to be told it's a long count - just shut up and let me listen to the quarterback calling signals. 

Mike26
Mike26

Richard:

I enjoy most of your stuff even though I don't always agree with your opinions (you know, when you're "wrong") - like now. Mowins is an average-at-best announcer of football games = very formulaic but sometimes a step behind with terminology during gameplay. Her best calls are usually off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment and occur with sudden changes/plays in the game itself (some announcers thrive here, some fail epically because they "over-talk" those moments). Sometimes when her formula fails she attempts to become an analyst instead of play by play, which fills the air with words and detracts from the action at hand. Overall, there's better choices, gender be danged...

help4mac1
help4mac1

Put Erin in the booth with the woman she replaced. 

tomcamma
tomcamma

ESPN should have Ian Darke call the second Monday Night game.

maastrichtian
maastrichtian

Sorry, you all respect when you used "always-excellent" and "Trent Dilfer" in the same sentence...

Steve Phillips
Steve Phillips

I won't watch, mute, or find something else to do if this happens

humdrumdrumhumming
humdrumdrumhumming

TYPO RICH:   “First WOMEN To Call NFL Play By Play, and The Last.” ... this should be "WOMAN" singular - i checked their headline, mostly because i thought you were making fun of the typo, as well as the premise --  but they correctly used the singular..



ps i'm a big fan of yours but i disagree vehemently with this assertion : "the always-excellent Trent Dilfer", perhaps my opinion is colored by his disastrous studio work, although it's hard for me to name any former players at ESPN doing outstanding studio work..


pps i really like Beth Mowins, i also love Doris Burke, but it does make me a little sad that it seems any women looking to aspire to the highest rungs in broadcasting are required to do so as "no-nonsense" or "all business" types in order to be taken seriously-- i guess we'll have to wait another decade or two for any colorful (talented and insightful) gals to be referred to as anything but 'frivolous' and/or 'unprofessional'..


keep up the good work Rhiacheslov D-e-i-t-s-c-h, and know that i for one encourage you to keep cutting the legs out from the Mothership when at all possible, and if they are more deserving than usual, well, that's just what we like to call a fortunate confluence of events...

parkerstreet
parkerstreet

It's so easy to bash any and everything about ESPN when everyone turns in to THEM and can get their sports fixes with zero involvement what-so-ever from YOU!

I can get back to not knowing Richard Deitsch and my day won't skip a beat.

Tatumspop
Tatumspop

I typically "like" or "dislike" an announcer as much for the sound (pitch, timbre, cadence, etc) of their voice as much as their knowledge. I prefer my announcers to say as little as possible, to be honest. I think technically Beth is great. I think the sound of her voice grates on me almost as much as Brent Musberger's. That's preference, not bias. She "sounds" like a girls HS basketball coach. Which is annoying. But I have zero issue with anyone being an announcer on NFL, MLB, NHL or NCAA broadcasts so long as they aren't an idiot. Which eliminates Berman, Sanders, Irvin and Cowherd.

LarsHanson
LarsHanson

I find it fascinating that the opinions expressed here mostly don't question Beth's ability as a PBP announcer (her competency is well-established) but deal with Deitsch's treatment of ESPN and it's other on-air staffers. At least we seem to moving toward a world where women in traditionally male roles aren't automatically disqualified in the minds of reasonable people.

Now about those who take Richard to task for his treatment of other ESPN air personalities, The World Wide Leader exposes itself to mass criticism on an almost daily basis - what do you expect a sports media critic to talk about?  And it isn't like Fox, CBS, and NBC aren't also in his crosshairs.  I enjoy it immensely when observant reporters notice that the emperors aren't wearing any clothes.  If you want the big bucks and national exposure of network sportscasting, be prepared to take the heat when you aren't prepared or just say stupid stuff to fill air time. 

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

she couldn't be any worse than Gruden, Berman or Brian Billick

Beaudreau
Beaudreau

Have you ever even heard Mowins call a college football game?  I would be delighted to have her call the MNF B game if she gave up calling Big Ten games.

TeeZee1
TeeZee1

Richard, I think the bashing you take as a supposed "sports feminist" is unfortunate and unfair.  


That said, the issues you make with Berman come across no better than what Phil Mushnick does in the Post every three days with Mike Francesa.   Beth Mowins is a great listen every week on CFB, but to use her as a conduit to take another shot at Berman looks petty.  The quality of your work remains the top in your field, but the grandstanding against Berman, ESPN et al, comes across as you shilling for a spot on Around the Horn.

kemp1313
kemp1313

And of course no doubt announcer assignments for this game were made months ago, which makes the premise of this column silly. ESPN isn't going to change announcers at this point. Re-run this column in March and maybe somebody will notice

richarddeitsch
richarddeitsch moderator

@Mike26 I think this is too harsh an analysis of Mowins' work but I respect the civil tone and take and thank you for reading.

Mike26
Mike26

No thank you on Erin Andrews. I don't get the love for all things Erin: professionally, personality-wise or even physically. She's OK as a sports talking head - better than most of the idiots at Around the Horn, The Herd, First Take, and Sportscenter. Her quality as a sportscaster is greatly overrated.

humdrumdrumhumming
humdrumdrumhumming

@maastrichtian i feel you dawg, and i feel the same way about Dilfer, but Deitsch has a long track record of excellence that allows me to overlook occasional poor opinion, and mistakes of opinion are far better than mistakes of fact or sins of omission...


speaking of beating a dead horse..


unlike someone without the track record, so far as i know, omitting the critical verbiage in their sentence, in this case 'lose', prior to unnecessary hyperbole...


jk, at least you said sorry =+)

Mike26
Mike26

It's fine if you like ESPN - many, many of us watch it for games only nowadays (and sometimes muted) because it became a caricature of itself about 15 years ago. Attacking people who disagree with you is juvenile - and defending ESPN is laughable considering their vast array of PR folks to handle that for them.

humdrumdrumhumming
humdrumdrumhumming

@parkerstreet yes, curiosity killed the cat and all that... if only you understood that it's not up to you what you learn about sports..


Monopoly:


In Economics, monopoly exists when a specific individual or enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service to determine significantly the terms on which other individuals shall have access to it. Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide and a lack of viable substitute goods. Alternatively (a modern and less common usage), it may be used as a verb or adjective to refer to the process by which a firm gains persistently greater market share than what is expected under perfect competition. The latter usage of the term is invoked in the theory of monopolistic competition 

It is often argued that monopolies tend to become less efficient and innovative over time, becoming "complacent giants", because they do not have to be efficient or innovative to compete in the marketplace. Sometimes this very loss of efficiency can raise a potential competitor's value enough to overcome market entry barriers, or provide incentive for research and investment into new alternatives. The theory of contestable markets argues that in some circumstances (private) monopolies are forced to behave as if there were competition because of the risk of losing their monopoly to new entrants. This is likely to happen where a market's barriers to entry are low. It might also be because of the availability in the longer term of substitutes in other markets. For example, a canal monopoly, while worth a great deal in the late eighteenth century United Kingdom,was worth much less in the late nineteenth century because of the introduction of railways as a substitute

Christopher Mobley
Christopher Mobley

@Tatumspop Dan Patrick had the perfect home run call.  "Gone".  Nothing else needed to be said. Let the game tell the story. 

Christopher Mobley
Christopher Mobley

@Tatumspop She can't be worse than Berman.  Too many old stale phrases, too many references to the distant past (when John Carney kicked, "Art Carney, Jackie Gleason, and the Honeymooners" - WHAT?)  I like Billick's knowledge.  Gruden almost tries too hard and easily becomes a caricature of himself. 


As for a woman announcing football.  Knowledge would be #1.  Voice unfortunately would be #2.  It would need to be deeper than Pam Ward's for one when she announces college football games.  Cowherd is a joke.  His popularity escapes me.  


I have to admit that I grew up with the comfort level of hearing a Curt Gowdy or Pat Summerall.  Getting past that will mean an adjustment.  I was used to Cosell from his boxing work with Ali so his schtick wasn't unfamiliar.   If I had to pick someone I'd want to have a higher profile, Kevin Harlan and Joe Tessitore. 

richarddeitsch
richarddeitsch moderator

@TeeZee1 Appreciate you reading and the post. The column wasn't meant to blast Berman but to highlight what the MNF B assignment has been about. As for Around The Horn: I don't see that happening. I am North Korea to that show.

DrAstroZoom
DrAstroZoom

@kemp1313 It's not silly, but I do wish it would've come out a little sooner, because it's an outstanding piece.

Phroggo
Phroggo

@Mike26

I agree with you on Andrews, but I think you need to adjust your sarcasm antenna.  What I got from mac's comment is they oughta lock Andrews in a booth with Pam Oliver and let Pam mop the floor with Erin's flowing locks.

amorosotom
amorosotom

@Christopher Mobley @Tatumspop If you ever heard his radio talk show with Dibble as his sidekick..it was incredibly witty and incisive. Quickest mind on air. Obermann and Dan Patrick..smart guys who are recented because the Neanderthals want to criticize the smartest kids in the classroom.

humdrumdrumhumming
humdrumdrumhumming

@Christopher Mobley @Tatumspop


Dan Patrick was just a Sportscenter host doing voiceovers on replay...


he 'let the game tell the story' four hours later... they are talking about play-by-play announcers who are doing events live, totally different...


(but i did like the 'gone' shtick)


Berman is also just a former sportscenter and studio host but the article refers to him 'trying' to do play-by-play live for a monday night game...


studio host, play by play, color commentator - these are all different skillsets..

amorosotom
amorosotom

@Christopher Mobley @Tatumspop So Berman goes down memory lane. Children, those were glorious years. The Stones, Elvis, James Brown, Dylan,Beatles and Motown. What has the last 25 years produce?  Let me think? .Hmmm.  Beyonce? Huh?Gaga?

TeeZee1
TeeZee1

@richarddeitsch Fair enough...appreciate the reply.  Best of luck and congrats on your Twins.  ESPN programming is delightful at 3am diaper changes & feedings.

humdrumdrumhumming
humdrumdrumhumming

@unitcaptain11 @humdrumdrumhumming


right, look lively gentleman... we'll be happy to participate in all these communist activities you speak of --- once you proved that we haven't already learned how...


perhaps we are simply free mammals doing as we wish..... 


because your less than adroit sentence implies that your malodorous melon is privy to those things unknowable... and having sized up one more tedious, awful, gleefully grammar-conscious go-go-go-nad, my only suggestion for you (besides avoiding overreaching with your future, and surely [if the present is our guide] generic and tedious [attempted] smack-down), is that the sentence you left dangling above me like tissue paper on your bloated uranus, really could've used a final master stroke, a declarative whatnot, ingenuity, or barring that, something that made you anything other than what you are now -- a gigantasauras horse's ahzz that was found to be both unoriginal and inaccurate... 


if you're going to be a moron your whole life, at least be an entertaining one so you'll get invited back...


i.e., aka -- snark works better if it's not so fuhkin' stupid and tired, ya dig?


but perhaps i wiped all those semicolons from my ahzz with my master's degree prior to presenting it to america's representative of joe mccarthy's grammar nazis --- corporal unitcapitanonce... 


no, no, no -- quit kicking me...


no no no!    


no no no.    ( this is your choice? sad, really...)



~and twas ever thus...


bdelander
bdelander

@humdrumdrumhumming @unitcaptain11 This comment has been sitting here, quietly, in all of its undeniable glory ... and it took me two days to find it. Those are two days lost, my friend. 


Bravo!

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