Fan-friendly 'GameDay' is a winner


BRISTOL, Conn. -- Which of the NFL pre-game show casts has been together the longest?

Go to the head of the class if you picked the gang at ESPN's "NFL GameDay," the program that coordinating producer Bob Rauscher describes as "the pre-game show without a game."

Starting with the nucleus of host Chris Berman and analyst Tom Jackson -- finishing up their eighth season together -- and adding Joe Theismann, Chris Mortensen and newcomer Phil Simms, to go along with a solid core of field reporters and production crew, you get a solid show each week.

"This was our best year. We had a new producer [Craig Lazerus], we brought in Phil, who worked his butt off, Tommy had his best year and Joe was solid as always. We had a blast," said Berman.

The show's ratings dipped slightly this year for the first time in eight seasons, due as much to the fact that "GameDay" -- an hourlong show which for four years had operated without a competitor for the first 30 minutes -- had to go up against Fox this season.

Indeed, "GameDay, which won a third straight CableAce Award this week (see below), has taken its rightful place among -- and many times atop -- the network pre-game shows, because it is fan-friendly.

That starts with Berman, who also received a CableAce, and is affectionately known among his colleagues as "Boomer," because he is unabashedly loud.

But Berman, a three-time sportscaster of the year in voting by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, is also pretty good, particularly at keeping the show moving and getting Jackson, Theismann and Simms into the show and looking smooth.

"I would say this even if he weren't sitting here," said Theismann, as he sat next to Berman while being made up for yesterday's show. "Chris is an absolute joy to work with and the ultimate professional."

"Here you go, Joe," said Berman, handing Theismann a $20 bill as mock payment for the compliment.

"It's going to cost you a lot more than that, big boy," said Theismann.

Passing the Bucs

As was the case in the Orioles' managerial comings and goings story this summer, Channel 2 was the clear winner Friday night among the local stations in "Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers move" coverage derby, combining the most information with good old-fashioned hustle.

All the stations reported that the deal between the club and Malcolm Glazer, while not final, seemed nearly certain and all outlets paid the requisite call on Peter Angelos at the "Tops in Sports" banquet for reaction.

But Channel 2 went the extra mile. From Baltimore, Scott Garceau had the details of Angelos' bid to the trust that is operating the Bucs, while Keith Mills was the only local reporter to make the trip to Tampa.

Channel 13, which is usually left at the roadside on stories like these, actually devoted the most air time, eight minutes at the top of the newscasts, and was the only station to reach CFL owner Jim Speros for reaction.

Most of Channel 13's package, however, was devoted to the now timeworn device of gathering reaction at a local sports bar; although, in fairness, Mills did the same from Tampa.

Aces high: ESPN

ESPN captured six of nine sports CableAce awards handed out in a preliminary ceremony over the weekend, including trophies for Berman as outstanding host and Dick Vitale as outstanding analyst/commentator.

An "Outside the Lines" special -- "Ali: Still the Greatest" -- was named best sports information special and "NFL GameDay" got the nod as best sports news series. Director Doug Holmes won a statue for his work in directing the network's coverage of last season's Stanley Cup finals, which also won an award for special events coverage.

Marv Albert was chosen best play-by-play announcer for his work in calling New York Knicks games for the Madison Square Garden network, which also received a sports events coverage series award. CNN's "The Sporting Life with Jim Huber" was selected best sports information series.

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