I don’t want to be the guy who just complains about something without suggesting alternatives – something inherently Jon-Barry-like about the laziness of that approach. I do want Jon Barry fired, though. Since I do, probably makes sense to suggest some options if the Fire Jon Barry movement is successful. (Keeping it upful and right here at FJB). I wrote earlier about the different criteria that you can use to objectively evaluate announcers (Accuracy, Insight, Communication, Storytelling, Joy, Sense of Humor) and I’ll be using that lens to analyze who or what might replace JB when he gets fired. Focusing on the light instead of the dark.
The alternatives I will lay out below fall under these categories, which get progressively more realistic as options to replace Jon Barry:
- From Deep in the Q (longshots)
- New School Analysts
- Glue Guys
- Pro’s Pros
From Deep in the Q
It’s more likely that Jon Barry pronounces the name of a random Lithuanian dude at the end of the bench correctly than it is that ESPN adopts any of these Deep in the Q ideas, but I’d love to see them happen.
Go Announcerless: Do away with announcers entirely. But not like the 70’s announcerless game. This time, mic up the players, make it adult pay-per-view and simulcast so it wouldn’t matter that the players swore, and let us listen to the dudes run smack, complain to refs, make fun of each other, call out rotations, etc. Would also be great to hear the coaches talk in the huddle. This is by far my favorite option, and also probably the least likely to happen. Side note: The mics in NBA arenas are picking up more and more chatter. Almost every broadcast features a loud audible swear out of a player who is either hacking, getting hacked, or pretending to get hacked to get a call.
Basketball Comedy: Why not get some funny non-traditional basketball people together and just let them riff on the game? There would be some enthusiasm, some comedy, some analysis. It would probably be a trainwreck at times, but also hilarious/awesome/transcendent at times. This option extremely unlikely to happen. I’d vote for @talkhoops, @netw3rk, @freedarko, @stackmack, @wayneembryskids, @YahooBDL @sherwoodstrauss and whoever else I missed.
New School Analysis
Every NBA team is expanding it’s analytics department or launching one. Using a handful of advanced statistics to evaluate players is no longer enough to be considered on the cutting edge in the NBA. Every NBA team sent people to the Sloan Conference this year. ESPN is launching the Nate Silver thing. There is an opportunity here for some of this attention to analytics to spill over into the broadcast world. What would be the harm in letting a couple new school analytics guys give broadcasting a shot? We already know what we have, so to speak, in our low upside, low output, low talent Jon Barry placeholder.
Kirk Goldsberry & Zach Lowe Why not provide Zach and Kirk with some ESPN airtime? Both do excellent analysis for Grantland, and would provide much deeper insight into the analytic side of the game than anyone calling games right now. Sharp, funny writers. Unlimited upside in “Analysis” announcing category. Would need work everywhere else. Intriguing broadcast. Put them on games like Celtics/Lakers to start, making those broadcasts a bigger draw (sort of like the celebrity SportsCenter, but even less odd). Putting them both on with an experienced play-by-play guy could reduce some of the pressure and allow them to bounce ideas off each other and drive conversation. Would make for interesting, must-watch TV for #basketballtwitter.
The Starters The Starters are kind of a combination of the new school analysis and the comedy idea. How about having these dudes just riff on the game while it’s happening, instead of just breaking down games and stories? Why does a broadcast booth have to be one play-by-play guy and one guy who was either a coach or a player and is now trying to keep getting paychecks while doing neither of those things? Let’s try something different. Also that is the worst PR shot. ahaha.
One of the things that even a casual viewer picks up on is what a jerk Jon Barry is about his job. He is condescending and smug, and is generally a prick to everyone he talks to. It seems like he hates basketball. These Glue Guy dudes are the opposite. These are the basketball lifers, who have a cup that overfloweth with enthusiasm and weird/funny little basketball catchphrases (There’s a mouse in the house), and generally make calling games seem like regular life – not really a job. They are the glue that holds things together. As we see with Hubie Brown and Bill Walton, infectious enthusiasm has a way of covering up a whole lot of deficiencies elsewhere in an announcer. (It also should be noted that there are fans who don’t like the glue guys, I happen to disagree and find them entertaining). These guys tend to be self-deprecating, have a palpable joy for the game, throw a catch phrase or two around, and use flowery (usually grammatically incorrect) language. Glue guys will also tend to be hated on by opponent fans. You have to project the team announcer glue guys a bit, as they would have to be more objective if they were to bump up to the national stage.
Austin Carr – Cavs Analyst Signature phrase: “Get that weak stuff outta here” and “From Deep in the Q” (amongst others) Probably the most hated home announcer of all the glue guys. Hardcore homer. Like watching the game with your funny uncle who has had a few pops. Off the charts “Joy” high “Storytelling” sub-par everywhere else.
Has a laugh that soothes infants, as you can see from the Tweet above.
Stacey King – Chicago Bulls Analyst Signature phrase: “Give me the hot sauce!” (amongst others) Damn funny. Called Brian Scalabrine White Mamba. Pronounces Dragic correctly. Ranks super high on the “Joy” scale, high on the “Sense of Humor” scale, relatively high on the “Storytelling” scale, and is decent enough everywhere else. Here is a clip of some of his stuff. Again, imagine he was just calling the game, and wasn’t working for the Bulls. More examples of funny Stacey King stuff.
Stan Van Gundy - Part Time NBA Radio Hilarious dude. Steely Dan level master of dark sarcasm. Increased visibility of dress mocknecks under sportcoats on television, could be boost for Mossimo shareholders: boosting the economy. You can’t watch the following video and not want to hear more from Stan Van Gundy. Here’s a quotation: “This was an awful quarter, played with no energy and no intelligence.” He is talking about his own team. I would like to hear things like that when I am stuck watching the Zombie Knicks battle the Zombie Lakers. It’s a mortal lock that Stan Van Gundy would be entertaining. Not a “Joy” guy, but, like his brother, funny and insightful. Also willing to say what’s on his mind.
Chris Webber Ahahahah that pose^ (!) Great analyst. Completely outspoken. A latter-day Charles Barkley. Funny. Insightful. The thing that sets C-Webb apart is his willingness to speak his mind, even if he is stepping on big toes. There is nothing wishy-washy about him, no sense that he is worried about being attacked for what he says, no pause. Ready Fire Aim type of guy. Seems primed for an expanded role. High marks across the board for C-Webb. Lacks in-game analysis experience, but only one way to get that. Give the man a shot.
Brent “Bones” Barry – NBATv Studio Analyst Coming back to this post and adding Brent Bones Barry to the mix after breaking down his debut broadcast on TNT. He was stunningly good. Funny, insightful, interesting, well-prepared. He was literally everything you could want in an analyst. No idea why he hasn’t been hired to do more game work. Here’s hoping that changes soon.
Jim Peterson – Timberwolves Analyst Jim is the top choice of the people on this list that could realistically have a legit shot at replacing Jon Barry. He is a fantastic announcer. Polished communicator. Insightful analysis. Sometimes surrounds self with magic digital casio numbers to show his dedication to analytics. Discusses strategy and the game of basketball itself at length. Uses analytics to illuminate his points. Errs on the side of explaining more of the game rather than less of it. Respects the audience. Reads blogs (!) about the Wolves and respects the people that write them. Coached in the WNBA and credits that experience with helping him become a better communicator. Knows who @talkhoops is. Read this article if you don’t believe me. Call JP up from the D League.