We continue our year-end extravaganza at Awful Announcing with this recap of everything in the sports media world in our Best & Worst of 2014. Stay tuned over the next couple weeks for the rest of our 2014 Year in Review posts including the top broadcast bloopers of the year, top stories, best clips, and predictions for 2015. You can check out our look at the best sports media feuds of 2014 right here.
Without further ado, the Best & Worst of Sports Media in 2014…
BEST: 30 for 30
The best is 30 for 30. ESPN puts out a lot of nonsense, but those documentaries are generally of excellent quality. They can really bring a forgotten story back to life. The slate of documentaries this year, including Brothers in Exile, Slaying the Badger, and Requiem for the Big East were particularly strong.
– Matt Verderame, @mattverderame
BEST: Dan Shulman
His work behind the microphone has made ESPN the premier baseball TV outlet in the land, and his presence on college basketball broadcasts with Jay Bilas gives the WWL its best hoops tandem yet. We live in an era when the great voices — Pat Summerall, Dick Enberg, and others — are becoming more a part of the past. (Stick around, Al Michaels and Bob Costas.) In a sea of mediocrity, Shulman stands above the crowd. Sports fans are lucky to have him on the air.
WORST: TBS baseball playoff coverage
It was one long Amateur Hour for Turner’s postseason run. Thankfully, the ALCS lasted the minimum of four games, and the two ALDS series also resulted in three-game sweeps. That was someone’s way of taking care of the general public. From a lack of down-the-foul-line camera angles, to Ernie Johnson’s “can you just stick with the NBA, which you’re really good at?” play-by-play, to the slowness of the production truck in numerous crucial instances, TBS failed viewers as a matter of course. Special shout-out to Bud Selig for entrusting TBS and “chronically late in getting back to broadcasts” Fox Sports 1 with the baseball postseason. It’s always neat to contemplate the fact that Vin Scully hasn’t called a World Series on TV since 1988. Only the best for baseball fans in October? That’s a nice fantasy… emphasis on the “fantasy” part.
– Matt Zemek, @SectionMZ
BEST: Thoughtful commentary from sportscasters and athletes
Legendary Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen provided a very moving essay in the wake of Michael Sam coming out in February. James Brown of CBS had a strong editorial after the Ray Rice scandal about putting an end to domestic violence. New Orleans Saints TE Ben Watson had a powerful Facebook essay go viral after the Ferguson decision. And Cleveland Browns WR Andrew Hawkins spoke out for justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford. Those were just a few of the best in commentary this year. As long as thoughtful people like these continue to speak out, there’s hope for progress in sports and society.
– Matt Yoder @myoder84
BEST: ESPN’s renewed focus on journalism
The WWL was roundly bashed after pulling out of the PBS Frontline documentary on NFL concussions last year, and we wondered if this was going to be par for the course for ESPN going forward when it came to their relationship with the NFL. Well, the Frontline debacle was simply the low point, because ESPN attacked the NFL and several of its teams with stunning frankness in 2014. ESPN was all over the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson incidents, and didn’t hesitate to torch Roger Goodell every time new details leaked out. Keith Olbermann, Don Van Natta, Andrew Brandt, and even reporters like Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen didn’t sugarcoat the situations, and instead focused on a level of honesty we haven’t seen from ESPN in quite awhile. ESPN also stood firmly by its reporters when criticized by the NFL and it’s teams – Van Natta and Britt McHenry immediately come to mind. In a sporting year that was such a mess, ESPN’s commitment to their journalists should be commended.
– Joe Lucia, @Joe_TOC
WORST: ESPN & Media Reports
While ESPN’s commitment to holding the NFL accountable was commendable, we saw sourcing controversies rear their ugly head yet again with local and national reporters raising complaints about ESPN’s lack of credit. If ESPN really wants to be the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” then they should start being a leader when it comes to acting ethically and honestly in reporting breaking news instead of playing games with the facts. The empty phrase “ESPN & Media Reports” simply doesn’t cut it in a world where seemingly every other sports outlet can give credit to others.
– Matt Yoder @myoder84