Monday, October 19, 2020

What's Up, Doc? Unfortunately, It's His Time

The national play-by-play announcers come under criticism from fans of the participating teams seemingly all of the time, with one exception. And now, sports fans have lost that exception, albeit due to a partial retirement.

Mike "Doc" Emrick announced that he is stepping down from play-by-play of NHL games after exactly 50 years of having done so. It doesn't seem as if any hockey fans criticized his descriptions at any time. His incredible enthusiasm for the NHL came through as solidly this month in the Stanley Cup Finals as it did 40 years ago.

Emrick, who took the "Doc" nickname after graduating from college with a PhD, was the lead voice for NBC over the past 15 years. Some will recall his years as lead voice for USA Network when they carried the NHL in the 80's and early 90's, working with Bill Clement as his analyst.

He called the Stanley Cup Finals 22 times, along with an incredible 45 calls of Game 7 of a Stanley Cup series. Although Doc will continue with NBC Sports on a part-time basis, this is a blow for hockey fans. From here, he has been, by far, the best of all of the lead national announcers of all of the pro sports.

Speaking of lead national announcers, like him or not, you have to give Joe Buck a ton of credit for dealing with the broadcast schedule Fox (and 2020) brought his way over these couple of weeks. Last week, he called 6 consecutive games of the NLCS between Atlanta and L.A. on Fox and FS1. (That came off of doing NFL games the previous Thursday and Sunday.) Buck was unable to call Game 7 of the NLCS because he was scheduled to go from Dallas to Tampa to call the Packers-Buccaneers doubleheader game on Sunday (10/18).

Due to the  postponement of the Chiefs-Bills game to Monday (10/19), Joe called the late afternoon game, making it a highly unusual call of two NFL games in two days. His "every day" schedule continues this week with the first two games of the World Series on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday he calls the NFL game between the Giants and Eagles, and then it's back to Dallas to call the World Series games on Fox until conclusion. This schedule is unprecedented work for a national announcer.

Sportscaster Mike Yam was able to bounce back after being dropped from the Pac-12 Network as part of layoffs made before the Conference decided to play this year. Yam has been added by NFL Network as an anchor, as well as continuing on SiriusXM's college football channel as a host.

This coming weekend marks the return of the Big 10, much to the delight of ESPN/ABC and Fox Sports. Here is the schedule, with Eastern Times, for this coming weekend:

    Friday, October 23rd: Illinois @ Wisconsin, 8 PM, BTN
    Saturday, October 24th: Nebraska @ Ohio State, 12 PM, Fox
    Saturday, October 24th: Rutgers @ Michigan State, 12 PM, BTN
    Saturday, October 24th: Penn State @ Indiana, 3:30 PM, FS1
    Saturday, October 24th: Iowa @ Purdue, 3:30 PM, BTN
    Saturday, October 24th: Michigan @ Minnesota, 7:30 PM, ABC
    Saturday, October 24th: Maryland @ Northwestern, 7:30 PM, BTN

The MAC also returns and will take over with a series of weeknight telecasts. These might attract more viewers than past seasons because they will not be opposed by NBA or NHL telecasts this fall. Here is the MAC schedule for the first two weeks of their season:

    Wednesday, November 4th: Ball State @ Miami, Ohio, 7 PM, CBS Sports Network
    Wednesday, November 4th: Western Michigan @ Akron, 6 PM, ESPN3
    Wednesday, November 4th: Ohio @ Central Michigan, 7 PM, ESPN
    Wednesday, November 4th: Buffalo @ Northern Illinois, 7 PM, ESPN2
    Wednesday, November 4th: Bowling Green @ Toledo, 8 PM, ESPNU
    Tuesday, November 10th: Kent State @ Bowling Green, 7 PM, ESPN

    Tuesday, November 10th: Akron @ Ohio, 7 PM, CBS Sports Network    

    Tuesday, November 10th: Miami, Ohio @ Buffalo, 8 PM, ESPN
    Wednesday, November 11th: Toledo @ Western Michigan, 8 PM, ESPN2

   Wednesday, November 11th: Eastern Michigan @ Ball State,7 PM, CBS Sports Network                 

   Wednesday, November 11th: Central Michigan @ Northern Illinois, 8 PM, ESPNU

Overall it will be interesting to monitor the ratings for the NFL and college football starting next week, since there will be no major competition from other sports during November and December.

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