Around this time of summer each year, I allow myself to think about the bounty of both the great sports viewing that is coming our way and the variety of mediocre-to-excellent game announcing we will be hearing. Would it be fair to say that we reserve the same amount of energy and passion for loving our favorite announcing teams as we do for hating on our least favorite? I'm not sure.
Regardless, this week, I offer you my top area announcers. I included radio and broadcast since we spend a considerable amount of time listening to both, and in most cases, we feel very strongly about which way we go for any individual game (radio vs TV).
No. 1: Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier, Wizards (Comcast Sportsnet)
Buck and Uncle Phil are synonymous with the experience of watching the Bullets/Wizards for many of us, and therefore, they are number one on this list.
Buck's signature calls have become firmly entrenched in the local sports lexicon. How many times have you been standing at the bar at 2 a.m., thinking you have a shot to take home the girl you have been buying drinks for all night only to see her get ushered out the door by her friends at the last second? Is there another word that comes to mind besides "Dagger"?
Uncle Phil, meanwhile, has developed a real smooth color commentary delivery over the years. He has become so smooth as a color commentator that people forget sometimes (big mistake) that he was an All-Star player for the Bullets in the mid-70's and averaged at least 20 points per game from 1972-1977.
Thanks to over a decade of working together, Buck and Phil have earned their top rating. They are a Meringolo family treasure, and as much as the next two on this list deserve No. 1 status, I am simply unprepared to move Buck and Phil down.
No. 2: Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff (Redskins Radio)
It bears mentioning that Frank Herzog was the perfect complement to these two Redskins legends. Say what you will about Larry Michael, but he simply does not bring what Frank Herzog did for so many years. Is part of that because he got Sonny and Sam prior to their obvious, yet highly entertaining decline in coherency at times? Perhaps.
But it is precisely their rambling, all-over-the-place style that manages to entertain the masses through what has seemed like the worst of times for Redskins fans. Sonny has assumed the role of bringing Sam back to Earth when he decides he is seeing something for the first time in his life despite his 1,000 years of watching football. Sam continues to be best at calling soft players out and relishing the hits and violence of the game he loves.
But more than the expertise and schtick, it is the sound of their voices that we wait for throughout the spring and summer. When you tune into a Redskins radio broadcast, the voices of Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff by themselves have the ability to kind of pacify even the angriest listeners. They tend to say what the fans are thinking, and despite not being as good as Herzog, Michael does a decent job of staying out of their way on that.
One critique Larry: you simply must do a better job of giving down, distance and time remaining on a more regular basis. Am I off base there?
No. 3: Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin, Capitals (Comcast Sportsnet)
These two could easily be number one on this list, and many of you reading will no doubt comment on that right away. As the Washington Capitals have risen from the ashes of their pre-strike fire sale not too long ago, Beninati and Laughlin have risen from a very solid game announcing team to one of the best in the business. Their voices are synonymous with Caps hockey in this town and they miss next to nothing during each and every telecast.
Laughlin gives you just enough "former hockey player" jargon and perspective to pretty much respect anything he says, and Beninati pulls off the difficult job of articulately and accurately following the biscuit around the pond. If it wasn't for my childhood memories of listening to Sonny, Sam and Frank on the radio while watching the game on TV, as well as my reliance on hearing Buckhantz yell "Back-Breaker!" or "Dagger!" to get me through the fall, these two would be number one.
Also, when you talk Beninati and Laughlin, you can't leave out Smokin' Al Koken sitting behind the glass rinkside. He adds some flavor to the telecast as well.
Damn, these guys should really be higher on this list.
No. 4: Dave Johnson and Glenn Consor, Wizards (106.7 The Fan)
I find myself in my car on many nights at tipoff time during the NBA season. As a result, I have gotten to know the stylings of Dave Johnson and Glenn Consor.
It took me a while to get on board with Consor on the radio, but he's improved. Prior to his color analyst gig he was in studio for Comcast Sportsnet's live postgame show and did a pretty fair job of breaking things down. Johnson, meanwhile, has been around a while, serving as the play-by-play guy for the Wiz for over a decade. He is polished and always on point.
Basketball is a tough game to follow on the radio for casual fans, but if you tune into Dave and Glenn, you will no doubt be able to match up the video in your head with the commentary from these two.
Uncredited today is Johnson's work as the play-by-play announcer for D.C. United, where he is also very good.
No. 5: Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble, Nationals (MASN)
OK, I have to kind of qualify this one, since this duo is getting killed lately.
I think Dave Johnson's work for the D.C. United is better than what we tune into for the Nationals. I think that a case could be made for Johnny Holliday and his work as the voice for the University of Maryland men's football and basketball games (certainly some kind of "Lifetime Achievement" love). Finally, to be totally honest, I am not 100 percent in love with Dibble as an announcer, though I am also still in the "getting-to-know-you" period with him. Talk to me in five years, because pretty much everyone on this list except for Carpenter and Dibble have been a part of my life for quite some time.
All that said, here is what I like about this crew: people talk about the Nationals thanks to things that go on during their telecast. The Nats need some buzz. You might not tune in to watch just for Dibble and Carpenter, and you also might not tune in just to watch this team play some days. But the combination of a chance to hear something edgy from Dibble (like calling out Strasburg and telling him to "suck it up") and the chance that Dunn and Zimmerman go yard could be enough to attract more than just the hardcore fans. I think that is pretty big.
For now, the fans kind of need the entertainment Dibble is capable of on a nightly basis to make up for the lack of entertainment on the diamond. Here's hoping they grow as a team that can challenge the likes of the duos listed above them.