The fly route
Another bowl season has come and gone and now as I look across the landscape of college sports, I just have to wonder.
Wonder where on earth they dragged up the majority of the announcers for the last two-weeks worth of games. From Keith Jackson's twangy mumblings to Brent Musburger's obsession with Brady Quinn's sister/A.J. Hawk's girlfriend, Laura Quinn; from John Kadlac's clueless comments to Max Falkenstein's "hey buddy" approach, it was more than I could stand.
I'll start local.
I'm not a professional broadcaster, and even if I was, I'm 23 -- who am I to question a 60-year veteran in Falkenstein? But I can't help it. The guy drives me nuts.
First of all, Max, you don't have to identify every player by, and only by, his first name, Max. First names are for friends. Somehow I doubt Max spends much time hangin' with Nick Reid or cruisin' with Sasha Kaun.
I know it's a warm little touch, but it's a desperately small-town style and I'd think KU would think it was bigger than that.
Not that Falkenstein's alone as a local homer. Kadlac, Missouri's football color man, has built a long and untouchable career around Missouri football, first as a player and later as a coach and an administrator. Neither I nor anyone else can question his loyalty as a Tiger, but could he just for a minute pretend he's a broadcaster and not a black-and-gold-bleeding fan?
My favorite Kadlac moments come when Missouri is on the cusp of an important play. "Come on Mizzou, we need a big play here," he'll bellow into the radio. Or, "we should run a screen pass here," he'll advise.
Like I said, I respect Kadlac's dedication to his university and his career accomplishments, but I'm pretty sure 75-year-old broadcasters don't run screen passes. "We" is the surest sign of a weak broadcaster, no matter his relationship to the school.
Not that K-State's a whole lot better off. The Kansas City Chiefs snapped up former-Wildcat announcer Mitch Houltus years ago and radio contract issues sent Greg Sharp packing. Enter Wyatt Thompson.
I log more minutes with Thompson and his color man, Stan Weber, than I do any radio duo, and I'm not ready to defend them.
Weber does a good enough job. A former Wildcat quarterback, it's obvious he understands the game and will often offer elaborate explanations for seemingly simple plays. At times his words paint a picture depicting continuous poor K-State luck, as if the Cats are only one unlucky break or amazing play by the opponent from scoring on every possession, but generally I appreciate what he brings.
Thompson's another story. Listening to K-State's Dec. 29 66-62 win over Belmont, I nearly died as Thompson described the Wildcats bringing the ball on a big late-game possession.
"A basket here would be ... large," he said.
A "large" basket? Don't look for the term "large basket" to appear in any of this paper's headlines anytime soon.
But maybe our local personalities draw their inspiration from the industry's leaders. Keith Jackson called his 14th Rose Bowl Wednesday, capping his 39th year of broadcasting. He retired once, several years ago. I hope he opts for that path again.
I somewhat understand the appeal of Jackson, who, like Falkenstein brings a howdy-doody approach to his broadcasts. But half the time Jackson doesn't act like he knows what's going on. He launches into long, winding descriptions of plays and players and spends more time needlessly drawing oooooouuuuuuttttt the wwwwwoooorrrrrdddddsssss than he does explaining the action.
And finally there's Musburger, who spent approximately half of Monday's Fiesta Bowl talking about Laura Quinn. Every time Hawk made a play as an Ohio State linebacker, the camera cut to his girlfriend in the stand sporting a half-Ohio State-half Notre Dame jersey. Every time Brady Quinn made a play as Notre Dame's quarterback she got similar treatment.
ABC went into the stands to interview the poor girl once and both times Hawk sacked the quarterback, Musburger nearly blew his top.
After about 734 references to the Quinn-Hawk relationship, I was ready for this bowl season to pass us by.