Fans who spend their lives rooting for one team in one town and listening only to the hometown announcers don’t have much of a basis for comparison of the men and women behind the microphones. As a kid in Cleveland, after the Indians’ games I’d catch a few innings when atmospheric conditions were right from games on WJR in Detroit, WLW in Cincinnati, KDKA in Pittsburgh and KMOX in St. Louis. But I didn’t listen critically, and during football season I only listened to the Browns’ games. It was and remains harder to catch a distant football broadcast on radio, as most games are played during the day when AM signals are limited.
With the advent of satellite radio, fans have an opportunity to listen to broadcasts from other markets. I listened to enough broadcasts on XM Radio the past two baseball seasons to get a sense of the best, such as Bob Uecker on the Brewers network and the John “Yankees win” Sterling. (My opinion is certainly burnished by having lived in both markets, listening to each over several seasons.)
XM has also exposed the “homers” who are shills for their teams and those whose delivery leaves me cold or at least unmoved.
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I don’t have access to the other teams’ NFL broadcasts, so my football impressions are based primarily on local broadcasts as I’ve moved around the country. I always catch the 49ers and often take in Raiders’ games – at least until I can no longer stand the pain. Which leads me to the point of this post: Gary Plummer (pictured at right from his days as a 49ers linebacker) must rate as one of the finest color men in professional sports.
In his smooth baritone voice, he consistently offers clear, honest, rational commentary. He praises each team on the field when they deserve it and, just as even-handedly, criticizes the failings of each. He brings his experience from his playing days to the booth, but it never overshadows what’s happening on the field.
I wish all football fans had a chance to hear him.