Radio broadcasts, particularly the color commentary during games has been getting better and better each year. Jeff Joniak of the Bears Radio Network is my favorite.
Similarly, the NCAA Tourney and NFL Football games are broadcast with insightful play-by-play and color commentators.
The last place I go to for insightful commentary is TV studio shows. Tuning into ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPNU, NFL Network, or NHL Network for some next-level, thought-provoking X’s and O’s or other commentary is an often futile pursuit.
With there being so few good TV sports pundits out there, I decided to compile my five favorite ones.
1. Michael Irvin, NFL Network’s “NFL Game Day Morning” and “NFL Game Day Final”.
Here’s a guy who has close to the level of a hawk eye that Cris Collinsworth has (by the way, Collinsworth and Mayock are the best color commentary guys, bar none, but their studio work is more good than great) combine with the passion of a guy who lives and breathes the sport, and also combined with a focus on passing, receiving, and defensive back play. People get annoyed with how energetic the Playmaker is, but he’s very knowledgeable and seems to research enough to make good points.
2. Mike Milbury, NHL on NBC pregame, intermission, and post-game analyst.
Like Michael Irvin, he’s very opinionated and insightful. My expectation when I watch a halftime show or post-game is to be entertained. Milbury entertains me.
3. Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network’s “Total Access” and “Path to the Draft”.
A former scout, he’ll be doing work at the Draft this weekend, some of it with Jay Glazer. A former Browns-Eagles-Ravens scout, he puts in a lot of work and it shows.
4. Jay Bilas, ESPN College Basketball.
Thoughtful commentator who can co-host ESPN’s Mike and Mike and give you more data and theories to chew on in 16 minutes than you would get from Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic in an entire three-hour show. There are some personalities that can handle the human interest stories authentically and pragmatically, and other personalities that can give you all the statistical analysis to help you prepare for the game. Bilas does both.
5. Steve Young, ESPN “Monday Night Football” postgame, “Monday NFL Countdown”.
Young should get more airtime, as he’s more insightful on the field than all the guys who are in the Bristol studios. Of all the former QBs on ESPN, he seems to be the most thoughtful about the position, not babying QBs too much nor repeating cliched, surface-thin criticisms.
Quietly, the “Monday Night Football” studio analysis has slightly improved each year from bad to mediocre by adding Steve Young and Ron Jaworski, and by adding more insider information from Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen.
Honorable mention: I enjoy “NBA on TNT”‘s team, but I find it more entertainment-geared than X’s-and-O’s-oriented. That makes it more of a situational watch for me, like if there were some questionable calls, some fighting or something interesting or cool (like an underdog winning) happening in the game. Ernie, Kenny and Charles have the strongest chemistry of any of the groups, and Shaq has settled into his role.
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