Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Sean McDonough a Cut Above the Rest

If you pay attention, you’ll realize that a lot of television and radio sports broadcasters are really bad at their jobs.

We hear about Joe Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman, who is an obvious example, since in recent years he has had trouble completing full sentences with nouns and verbs and everything. (ESPN didn’t renew his or partner Jon Miller’s contracts, so it looks like it’ll be Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser in the Sunday Night Baseball booth, maybe with Bobby Valentine.)

But since Morgan will be gone, it opens the door for the next play-by-play guy or color commentator that nobody likes to step into the spotlight. I always hear from people how much they dislike Joe Buck and his pomposity. But in my opinion, when he is just calling the action and not inserting his own opinion into the telecast, there aren’t many people as smooth or with a better voice for television than him. There’s a reason why Fox has him as its lead guy for both baseball and football.

People like to pick on Tim McCarver, Troy Aikman and even Dick Vitale, too. And after this postseason, I think it’s pretty clear Ernie Johnson from TBS is just atrocious.

But we seldom hear about who does their job well. To me, the best play-by-play announcers stay out of your way, accurately describe what is going on, set up their analysts and let you enjoy the game. And to me, even though Mike Breen is in the conversation, the best play-by-play guy in sports is Sean McDonough.

McDonough, if you don’t know him, works for ESPN as a play-by-play guy for college basketball and college football. He usually works the Big East tournament and has done a ton of Georgetown games through the years. Not coincidentally, he is part of one of the best broadcasting trios I’ve experienced – McDonough, Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas, who are by far the best broadcasting team in college basketball and maybe sports in general.

cDonough is known for calling the six-overtime game between Syracuse and UConn two years ago and was also the play-by-play announcer when David Justice scored the winning run to beat the Pirates and send the Braves to the World Series in 1992.

cDonough may not be a household name like Al Michaels, but I don’t think that’s a coincidence either. Like a good referee, he recognizes that people watch games for what happens on the field and not for the officials or the broadcast team. And like Buck, he’s got a smooth voice. But he also describes the action fairly and without bias, allowing his broadcast partners to jump in and contribute insight at appropriate times.

He may not have a signature call, but again, that is an example of McDonough simply doing his job – no more and no less. At the end of the day, announcers with over-the-top calls are ultimately inserting themselves into the games they’re calling and making a viewer’s experience more about themselves and less about the on-field or on-court action. McDonough doesn’t get overly excited about a big play, but he doesn’t sell those moments short either.

True, he doesn’t have the charisma of Jim Nantz or the natural “in” of Buck, whose dad is the late, great play-by-play guy Jack Buck (he of the “I don’t believe what I just saw!” fame), but I challenge anyone to say one negative thing about the way McDonough artfully calls a game, letting the action he and the rest of us are watching take center stage.

He hasn’t been awarded a spot on a Super Bowl broadcast by Fox, CBS or NBC, but McDonough is a living testament to what play-by-play broadcasters should do – provide viewers important game information, describe the action and the atmosphere and let the sport itself do the rest of the talking.

Dave Finn is a senior in the College and a former sports editor at The Hoya. Couch Talk appears in every third issue of Hoya Sports.

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