The 2014 Winter Olympics have come and gone so it now gives us the chance to take a look back at the fortnight from Sochi and examine the best parts of NBC's coverage. The peacock employed a small army of announcers, hosts, analysts, and reporters in Sochi but by the laws of internet lists, there are only 10 that can make the final cutdown of those most worthy of praise. Here are our Top 10 Announcers from the 2014 Winter Olympics in alphabetical order…
Year after year, Mary Carillo is one of the most under-appreciated sports journalists by the general public. With NBC’s Olympic coverage, she seems to have found her niche moving between a late night host and doing special features. In Sochi, she played a key role in the Nancy & Tonya special and delivered other great reports throughout the games. The highlight may have been a trip to Scotland to learn about curling. Carillo’s capable of tackling the very serious stories and also having a bit of fun on air as well. Oh, and there was this moment, too.
Speaking of curling, this list would be incomplete without the voice of the sport for NBC’s Olympic coverage. While many fans were trying to watch late night or early morning streams away from NBC’s taped coverage, what we did see of curling on NBC was an impressive effort. The additions of medalists Pete Fenson and Kevin Martin in Stamford added some more mature analysis to the sport as it moved from “quirky cult hit” to “established Olympic event.” And Catalon’s job as lead play by play man shows that transition, especially a fantastic and lengthy discussion on the future of US Curling.
Maybe my favorite recurring thing about the Sochi Olympics was the way Australian announcer Leigh Diffey said “Sanki Sliding Center.” 2014 presented the Formula One announcer with his first Olympic call for NBC and he did a great job with the luge, skeleton, and bobsled events from the ice track. The only thing missing was David Hobbs and Steve Matchett.
Any list of “best announcers” that has the ability to include Doc Emrick and does not is immediately and completely invalidated. What more can you say about the veteran hockey play by play man that hasn’t been said already? He’s one of the best in the business no matter the sport and his calls of USA-Russia and both dramatic USA-Canada games were spellbinding. There are few announcers that bring others in the industry to a halt to marvel at how good they are at the craft – Mike Emrick is one of them.
Hicks is more associated with the Summer Olympics where he calls swimming with Rowdy Gaines than he is the Winter Olympics. In Sochi, he replaced the venerable Tim Ryan for skiing events and showed why he’s one of the most versatile and talented announcers in the industry. When an American is racing for gold in the pool or on the slopes, there's not many other announcers you want in the booth. Hicks is approaching that point where his presence brings a big-time feel to an event.
The host of NBC's acclaimed Premier League coverage was also on hand for her first Olympics and passed the test with flying colors. This was Lowe's first chance to shine in front of a non-soccer audience and she took the opportunity and ran with it. Her profile at NBC and NBCSN should only continue to rise when the games travel to Rio.
Bob Costas may get the highest profile gigs, Al Michaels and Doc Emrick may be the top play by play men, but it's hard to argue with the notion that Dan Patrick is NBC's MVP. From hosting his daily radio show to Sunday Night Football to his shift at the Olympics, the former SportsCenter anchor is getting better as time marches on.
Another highly under-appreciated announcer in the eyes of the general sports fan is Ted Robinson. This was his ninth Olympics overall and his eighth for NBC. With NBC out of the tennis game for the most part, we don't see Robinson on the national stage as much as we used to. As the announcer of speed skating events in Sochi, Robinson added to the excitement even though many top Americans struggled.
The Gus Johnson of cross-country skiing made a large impact on the Sochi Olympics for his breathless commentary of dramatic finishes. No matter if it was for gold, silver, or bronze Salmela spent much of his Olympics excitedly yelling over broadcast partner Al Trautwig for the closing stages of skiing events. While that would be frowned upon at journalism schools across America, you try not getting excited for the heroics of Ole Einar Bjoerndalen.
Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski, & Terry Gannon
The breakout stars of Sochi. Gannon, Weir, and Lipinski were tasked with doing something that hadn't been seen before on American television – broadcast the entire figure skating competition live. And while their Instagram antics and wardrobe coordination went viral, the real credit goes to Lipinski and Weir's work in the broadcast booth. Instead of merely having to call 8 or 9 skaters on tape in primetime, they called every skater, every jump, and every score. The challenge was immense. And yet, Weir and Lipinski not only spoke to the figure skating aficionados out there, they made it interesting for sports fans who wouldn't know a twizzle from a Twizzler. They were willing to cut past the fluff and offer praise or criticism when it was necessary.
But don't forget the straight man in this act – Terry Gannon. Who would have thought a member from Jim Valvano's championship team at NC State would go on to announce sports like golf and figure skating and be really good at it? Gannon provided the platform for Weir and Lipinski to do their thing and was the key cog in why this broadcast trio worked so well. Whatever NBC does moving forward, whether they keep these three on live coverage or shift them into primetime, they should keep Gannon, Lipinski, and Weir together.