Ravens TV: I finally bailed on CBS audio, and found joy at WBAL radio

Gerry Sandusky

I couldn't do it again. Honest, I tried, but I just couldn't.

I saw Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf on my TV screen at the top of the Ravens telecast Sunday, and I knew I couldn't spend another Sunday afternoon listening to dumb and dumber of CBS Sports without my head exploding.

It was radical, I know, but after too many Sundays spent with Gumbel and Dierdorf, I dared to consider the possibility of actually enjoying a Ravens game over the airwaves.

And so, I did what dozens of readers have been encouraging me to do all season: I watched images of the game on CBS, and I listened to the play-by-play and analysis on WBAL radio from Gerry Sandusky, Stan White and Qadry Ismail. And it was sublime compared to my usual Sundays with Greg and Dan in the dark.

I had tried turning down the TV sound in the past, and always had problems with the radio call and the action on the TV screen being out of synch. But that wasn't the case Sunday as I watched the WJZ-TV carriage of the CBS Sports telecast over Comcast without sound. Or, should I should say with the sweet, sweet sound of silence from Gumbel and Dierdorf as the Ravens won a huge game over the Cincinnati Bengals 31-24?

The enthusiasm and authority of Gerry Sandusky's play-by-play announcing are as impressive as anything this side of an Al Michaels' broadcast on NBC's "Sunday Night Football." I know that's a big statement, but I have considered it carefully.

I'm not saying Sandusky always plays in that league as an announcer, far from it. And I have my issues with him as sports reporter and anchor.

But when he's doing the Ravens and it's a clutch game, yes, he's that good on play-by-play. There's a passion, a sense of history and a love of Sundays in the NFL that absolutely light up the air waves when he opens his mouth.

You want to talk about "love of the game," that's what you hear when Sandusky is at the microphone calling the Ravens as he was Sunday. I am glad I didn't miss it. Compared to the ham-handed CBS crew, it was bliss.

I had listened to Ismail doing analysis in the past, and wasn't that impressed. But either he has improved exponentially -- or my standards have sunk. I think it's the former.

He showed terrific anticipation and instincts Sunday in the second quarter when the Ravens were struggling. With about 12 minutes and 45 seconds left in the half, quarterback Joe Flacco threw a very short pass to Vonta Leach when he had Ed Dickson down the field.

"I think Joe is trying to find his swagger right now, and that's why he took the safer throw," Ismail said -- not defending Flacco's choice, but suggesting that the quarterback might not be as lost as he looked.

Sure enough, one play later, Flacco hit Anquan Boldin with a touchdown pass that got the offense finally moving. And Ismail did a great job of explaining how Flacco didn't "panic" when he initially saw that Boldin was covered on the play. And he also explained how for all their troubles running the ball, the Ravens used the "threat of a run" to make that pass play work. By the time Ismail stopped talking, you felt like he had drilled down two or three levels deeper than anything you ever heard Dierdorf come near doing.

And as good as Ismail is on offensive play, Stan White is even better on defense. He explained the success of the touchdown pass to Torrey Smith that made it 31-14 in favor of the Ravens by telling listeners how the Bengals' "free safety was settling in" to one side of the field opening the door to the post pattern Smith ran.

And the trio works exceptionally well as a team. Their dialogue is crisp, focused, informative, friendly and sometimes even funny.

Late in the game, the Ravens came up short on a key third down.

"That's going to be about a foot short," White said.

When the chains were actually brought out and the measurement conducted, it was considerably more than a foot.

""That's a good half yard short," Sandusky told listeners.

"What, you couldn't have said a foot?" White asked in mock outrage.

You know what I love about White? Here's this former NFL linebacker and attorney who does not consider himself too good to scramble down to the field and grab quotes from John Harbaugh and players at the half and end of the game. The truly accomplished professionals like White are often the ones with the least hotdog in them -- and we have plenty of hotdogs in this market.

Hats off to executive producer Mike Wellbrock as well. The taped interview pieces that ran Sunday during the telecast were intregrated seamlessly, and I loved the levels of ambient sound from the stadium in the background. The mix was perfect.

I will keep the TV sound on Thursday for the NFL Network broadcast of the Ravens game, because I have yet to review that crew. But the guys in the NFL Network booth are going to have to be very good to top what I heard Sunday on WBAL radio.






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