This could have been Billy Crystal’s big moment. A way to make a name for himself. Something to do when the Oscars decided it didn’t need a host.
Forget Paris? Forget Billy. He’s done.
His one-game-only appearance with Ralph Lawler on a Clippers-Lakers telecast had its “Analyze This” moments. We wanted more from the ultimate Clipper fan. Even a little Mr. Saturday Night.
It wasn’t enough of the Snoop Dogg quality work (see: Kings-Penguins, Jan. 13, Staples Center) we are now used to seeing in this burgeoning field of celebrity fill ins.
Whether it’s the “Third Chair” on Lakers radio games or the “Hockey Night in L.A.” appearances that the Kings have arranged for their Saturday night home games, you can’t fault the local teams for tapping into the Hollywood/celebrity talent pool to see how to liven up a broadcast. If used properly.
Want to liven up a Dodgers radio broadcast? Have Rick Monday slide over and let Larry King do a few innings with his pal Charley Steiner.
Oh, wait. That would kill the whole thing. Never mind.
Otherwise, former athletes with some TV savoriness have became more the desired norm. It’s a position that has more and more become a dominant chair to where the well-trained play-by-play man must yield to the opinions of his partner.
JIM FOX/Kings TV
During a nine-season run as a Kings right winger covering the entire decade of the ‘80s, Fox remains in the franchise Top 10 of all-time points scored, goals created, even-strength goals and shooting percentage. Look it up.
It’s a reminder, especially for younger viewers, about how much experience comes behind everything he says on a Kings broadcast now, what has it been now, 30 seasons?
One astute fan’s perspective: “I’ve enjoyed Jim a lot more the last couple of years since teaming up with Faust. I think now that Jim is out of Bob Millers shadow he is showing a lot more knowledge. It forced him to get out of his comfort zone a bit he had with Bob. I also love the enthusiasm he brings throughout the game. He sounds like a kid watching which makes it more entertaining for the viewer. I’ve also really appreciated his honest assessment of the teams poor play this year. Not afraid to sugar coat the teams shortcomings.”
Lately, Fox’s interactive social media participation with fans just adds to his effectiveness. Some day, we expect he’ll have enough of the travel and want to focus on his wine business with his wife, Susie.
It may be a crushing blow to Kings’ followers. Enjoy the fruits of his work while it’s still ripe for enjoyment.
OREL HERSHISER/ Dodgers TV
There was no doubt the former Dodgers’ Cy Young Award winner (sorry, it’s been decades ago now) and most recently up for a Baseball Hall of Fame vote would bring value and knowledge as a local broadcaster after his national run at ESPN. He knows all the angles. His analysis of why things happen comes naturally. His connection to the fans is real and gives them a comfortable feeling that some who is vested in this product is talking to them — even if he now partial to the “we” way of talking about the Dodgers. He communicates well and with genuine humor connected with Joe Davis. From both their backgrounds, they rap out a broadcast that’s national quality and would work on any Fox regional game. It’s still too bad not everyone in L.A. wants to access SportsNet LA to get on it.
MARK GUBICZA/ Angels TV
The ultimate team player.
Isn’t that enough said, under the circumstances?
Although we’d like to see him do some more radio pops if only to read off more of those crazy in-game sponsor-related promos.
KEVIN KENNEDY/Dodgers radio
What if the Dodgers can’t find a regular spot for The Skipper on a broadcast this season? That’s kind of the implication with the way they brought in Tim Neverett to spell Charley Steiner of some games, which keeps Rick Monday in the analyst chair full time. In this musical chair scenario — and we’re sure Dieter Ruehle has a tune ready for it — it’s doubtful you’ll come away from a Dodgers radio broadcast this year smarter than when you started. If the Dodgers’ decision makers don’t realize it until it’s too late, we could see the Kennedy campaign leverage a spot in San Diego or Anaheim.
BRIAN HAYWARD/Ducks TV
Should he be a Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame member by now? Absolutely. The only analyst this franchise has had has logged more than 1,500 games, not to mention the dozens of others he gets with national broadcasts. As he said in a recent video story about him, his background as a former NHL goalie gives him the perspective of an MLB catcher. We’ll overlook some smugness on his part as a way that he projects a sense of humor. He’s loyal to the franchise, and it shows.
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA/ Dodgers TV
For someone who didn’t want any part of the media as a player, he seems to be adjusting well to this overexposed role. The SportsNet LA telecast is always better when he is allowed to join Hershiser in a three-man disjointed booth (even if they send him to the bleachers or a dugout seat to watch).
DON MacLEAN/ Clippers TV
After all these years, the team can’t just name him the full-time guy? Head-to-head, in almost every situation, the 13-year NBA veteran and SoCal native eclipses whatever other analyst they have put in there with Ralph Lawler this season. Having him on the pre- and post-game Prime Ticket telecasts proves his value. You going to let some sideways publicity about a comment concerning the late Tractor Traylor derail things now?
JOHN JACKSON/ USC football radio/ high school football TV
The recovery process he’s going to have to endure from a recent stroke jeopardizes many things in his life, including these roles has had for a very long time. We pray he uses these jobs as an incentive to want to come back and make everyone smile again with him.
MATT STEVENS/ UCLA football radio
With a legacy of former Bruins quarterbacks who know what they’re talking about from the broadcast booth, Stevens has stayed in this role almost season seasons how because of his ability to quickly size up a situation. From a piece we did with him almost 10 years ago now, Stevens loves the balance the broadcasting gig gives him with his job in the fiancial world. “To me, sure, everyone has aspirations for a national job. Some guys can make a living just on that. But UCLA is really my dream gig. It’s 13 games, which is fine with me. I can turn it on and off, and after a season, I might be tired. But come August, I’m itching to get started again.
Now listen to Stevens describe his most memorable moment in his playing career in a season-opening win against BYU.
RICK MONDAY/ Dodgers radio
All things considered, Mo better get used to the blues, considering all the daily obstacles he must endure. One heck of an actor, we must also say. His voice, whether it be shifting from analyst to play-by-play, remains his most notable tool. We just wish he’d give up on some of the cliches that seem to be stuck in his vocabulary.
Honorable mention: Jose Mota, Angels radio and TV; Daryl Evans, Kings audio; D’Marco Farr, Rams radio; Chris Rix, high school football TV; Tony Moskal, high school football TV; Tracy Murray, UCLA basketball; Mary Murphy, Sparks TV; Cobi Jones, Galaxy TV; Daniel Jeremiah, Chargers radio
MYCHAL THOMPSON/ Lakers radio
The moment when they bring a celebrity guest into “The Third Chair” segment, the more one realizes how less and less Thompson actually has to offer as far as his wealth of experience. His energy will never match that of his broadcast partner. It doesn’t help either that Thompson will often ask, “How many shots they missed yet?” Sometimes you gotta wonder if the franchise keeps him there in hopes it will help recruit his Golden State Warriors son to consider a move back to Southern California come free agency. Meanwhile, A.C. Green is getting his reps on on Spectrum SportsNet Lakers’ G-League games.
MAURICE JONES-DREW/ Rams radio
Drew does sound invested in the team’s success. Which maybe is what fans who tune in want to hear: Someone with NFL experience talking like a fan. It works in other cities. But in L.A.?
One hopes his work on the Alliance of American Football telecasts gives him an appreciation on what goes into all this.
MARK LANGSTON/ Angels radio
He’s got some personality and fan appeal. And a wealth of experience. With the proper partner, there’s potential. Until then, the booth should be supplemented with Jose Mota as a third voice to keep the dialogue going. Or, just do it as they did once or twice last year and just let Langston and Mota have a game-long discussion about what they’re watching.
STU LANTZ/ Lakers TV
Retirement isn’t a wrong idea at this point for the 72-year-old last link to the Chick Hearn broadcast team. His recent induction into the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame would have been a nice exit point.
Instead, whatever he says now sounds like one of 18 pre-set comments that could be just attached to an audio board and allow the producer to press the buttons.
COREY MAGGETTE/ Clippers TV
Why again haven’t we heard from him lately? Oh, right …
It’s not as if he was the first-man up when the team decided that Bruce Bowen wasn’t going to last past one season. But this was never such a great fit to begin with. Now …
Horrible mention: Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk, Rams exhibition TV; LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers exhibition TV; Lionel Hollins, Clippers TV