"Never write a critical column about NFL announcers when you're in an ugly mood," advised Paul Zimmerman, the pro football maven better known as Dr. Z. The good Doctor has never suffered broadcasting fools gladly, and in his annual SI.com column that ranked commentators, Zimmerman castigated broadcasters who trafficked in "idiotic clichés and talked through live action." (Those no-frills types who mastered the intricacies of trench warfare fared much better.) His is an impossible act to follow, but in honor of his 80th birthday on Oct. 23, here's a Z-inspired list of the NFL's best and worst announcing teams.
AL MICHAELS AND CRIS COLLINSWORTH, NBC
Michaels (below, right) is a fanatically prepared play-by-play maestro whose game calls are flawless. His partner is sensational at foreshadowing the action, as he did at last year's Super Bowl when he suggested the Giants should go down at the New England one to waste time—just as New York's Ahmad Bradshaw tried to do so. And when a player or issue demands criticism, Collinsworth habitually delivers. If only this pair could call every game.
IAN EAGLE AND DAN FOUTS, CBS
Eagle rarely gets listed among the best broadcasters—and that's a huge oversight. He's a terrific game caller with a big-game voice. Fouts—an insightful and thoughtful analyst—has long been underrated. But what makes this pair so euphonious is how organically they infuse humor into their broadcast. Neither guy takes himself too seriously on the air, a miracle in an ego-filled business.
BRAD NESSLER AND MIKE MAYOCK, NFL NETWORK
Nessler always registered high on the Z-meter thanks to his soothing pipes and professional manner. Here was his call for Adrian Peterson's 64-yard touchdown run last Thursday against Tampa Bay: "And Adrian Peterson pops it into the secondary. Peterson at midfield! Footrace now! Adrian Peterson is going to win that race. Touchdown, Minnesota." Simple and elegant. Sure, Mayock talks a ton, but he explains the finer points of the game in a digestible way. A viewer always ends up learning when Mayock is around.
DICK STOCKTON AND JOHN LYNCH, FOX
You can count on Stockton to be late on a couple of calls each game, and he'll occasionally pass along an incorrect score, as he repeatedly did a couple of years ago during a Jets-Falcons game. The duo absolutely butchered the end of the New Orleans--Tampa Bay game on Oct. 21, when they were clueless regarding the rule that nullified an apparent game-tying TD catch by Bucs receiver Mike Williams and failed to provide clarity before leaving the air. Brutal.
KENNY ALBERT, DARYL JOHNSTON AND TONY SIRAGUSA, FOX
This isn't on Albert—a competent and versatile announcer—or Johnston, a serviceable analyst. This trio makes the list because of Siragusa (right), an endless chatterbox from his end zone reporting perch. It's too much shtick and too little substance from Siragusa, who works each broadcast as if it's open mike night on the Jersey Shore.
CHRIS BERMAN AND ANYONE, ESPN
In a shameless attempt to sate a longtime employee's desire to call an NFL game, ESPN foisted Berman on the football public for the Chargers-Raiders opener. Naturally, the broadcast featured predictable grunt-speak ("The Raaiddddaazz!"), outdated references (he name-checked former Raiders running back Marv Hubbard, who last suited up in 1977), and on a sack by San Diego's Donald Butler, Berman (left) bellowed, "The Butler did it in the conservatory with the lead pipe!" As Dr. Z once wrote about Joe Theismann, another broadcasting butcher, "Personally, the whole thing makes you sick."
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Pounds of butter used to sculpt a model of a proposed design for a new arena in Seattle's stadium district.
Inches, at least, by which Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma says the rim should be lowered in women's basketball, in an effort to improve play and draw more fans.
Signing bonus paid to Pilar Sanders (then Biggers) for inking a $1 million prenuptial agreement before marrying Deion Sanders in 1999, a detail that emerged in their ongoing divorce proceedings.
Consecutive seasons in which an Aho brother has played on the Dassel-Cokato (Minn.) High football team, a streak that will end after this year when senior Seth plays his last game.
Goals by Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, who tied the MLS single-season record set in 1996 by Roy Lassiter of the Tampa Bay Mutiny in San Jose's season-ending 1--1 draw with Portland last Saturday.
JUSTIN LUBIN/NBCU PHOTO BANK/AP (MICHAELS AND COLLINSWORTH)
JASON O. WATSON/US PRESSWIRE (SIRAGUSA)
HOWARD SMITH/US PRESSWIRE (BERMAN)