Remember the scene in Ocean’s 11 where Brad Pitt gives Matt Damon advice before he goes undercover as a gaming warden to swindle Andy Garcia? “Be funny, but don’t make him laugh. He’s gotta like you and then forget you the moment he’s left the safe.” That’s what I want from my sports booths, and that’s how I’ve felt about the Kevin Burkhardt-Greg Olsen duo all season. They’re not particularly anything, and it’s perfect.
Burkhardt and Olsen know what they’re doing. They add a suitable amount of energy, and at no point do I feel like they shift the spotlight off the game. It’s the proper blend of enthusiasm, professionalism, information, and entertainment. The only thing missing is the necessary reps to put the audience at ease with the sound of their voices.
We eventually got there with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, and that’s why Fox’s NFL Game of Week broadcasts were so strange this season. Yet it appears the network’s big plan for next season is to reset their lead booth, and parade Tom Brady from city to city like a new show pony in hopes that he’s not as bland as Drew Brees or as high as Tony Romo.
I think we can all agree that the last thing NFL Sunday needs is another Tony Romo situation, where he’s yelling a catchphrase because he doesn’t have anything of substance to add. CBS might as well slap “Here we go, Jim!” on T-shirts, and try to recoup some of the $17 million they’re paying Tony annually to play hype man.
And that brings me to Tom Brady. The Romo obsession led Fox to believe that the viewers want big-name QBs in the booth, and there is no bigger name than Brady. My issue, however, was even before Romo fell into the job, there was anecdotal evidence that he’s a pretty good hang.
I know Brady is probably the best person ever at identifying coverages and play calls, but that’s a party trick. Like Romo, the novelty has worn off, and unless Brady has a new angle or has been hiding a personality, the only thing that will sparkle in the booth is his smile.
Brady spent the majority of his career saying absolutely nothing by design. He learned how to deal with the media via Bill Belichick, and the only regular non-NFL-mandated media I can remember Brady doing were vanilla radio hits with Jim Gray. He didn’t exactly let his hair down when he got to Tampa either.
This isn’t a Shaquille O’Neal or Draymond Green situation. TNT rushed to sign those two because they made as many headlines with their mouths as they did with their play. Peyton Manning was affable his entire career, and he would destroy in the booth if that’s the route he wanted to go.
Being well-spoken doesn’t mean you have a personality. Everything surrounding Brady has been so contrived and manicured over the years that it’s hard to decipher between his thoughts and those of his publicist.
The short answer is no. As I mentioned, Burkhardt and Olsen do a great job of being likable and then instantly forgettable. Announcers don’t have a ton of opportunities to put their signatures on a major sporting event, and unless there’s a transcendent play or moment, Burkhardt’s signoff, once the game is decided, will be his only chance.
So with that said, I don’t see the Burkhardt-Olsen booth creating enough buzz on social media to outweigh the allure of Brady or the millions committed to him. The broadcast isn’t going to be the greatest broadcast ever because that’s dependent on the game. Killing dead air during a blowout is a learned skill, but it’s not particularly entertaining.
To be honest, people only really notice the announcers when they’re shitty. They’re like referees in that sense. Only once the game has ended and people realize they didn’t notice them do announcers or referees get credit for doing a good job.
And that’s the issue with Brady. He’s the GOAT, fans have preconceived opinions of him, and no one is ever going to forget that he’s on the call.