London 2012: Medals for Commentators

Right then, the Games of the XXX Olympiad are now closed. Regardless of TV coverage and Canadian performances (or lack of), London put on a great show. It was a great Olympics for the United Kingdom. Now that the Olympics, and CTV’s reign as official Olympic broadcaster in Canada, are over, I thought I’d have a little fun. Rank the commentators who most deserve medals. I’ve included any commentators that I’ve heard on a regular basis over the past couple weeks. CTV and NBC. I know some (many?) will disagree, but I don’t really care because the Games are done now. Chances are Rod Black won’t call a gymnastics competition anytime soon. And Blythe Hartley and Joanne Malar won’t be on TV at all.

I’ve divided everything up into three categories. They are: Play-by-play, Analyst and Studio host. I’ve also created a top 3 list exclusively for commentators working in Toronto. Here it is.

Play-by-Play (on-site)
Gold: Terry Gannon (rowing/canoeing, NBC)
Silver: Rod Smith (swimming/diving, CTV)
Bronze: Paul Romanuk (weightlifting, CTV)
4th: Gord Miller (athletics, CTV)
5th: Mike Emrick (water polo, NBC)

Gannon is one of the more versatile play-by-play commentators in North America. A play-by-play announcer for Golf Channel, he is now part of NBC due to the Comcast takeover. While Rob Faulds is a good rowing commentator, Gannon’s calls were level-headed and rarely biased.

Smith has a prime role in Canadian sports broadcasting as the 6pm ET host of SportsCentre. Personally, I think his talents are better used in the broadcast booth. His booming voice was great for speed skating in Vancouver and swimming in London. I’d like to see him get a spot calling play-by-play for the CFL on TSN, personally.

Romanuk is one of the all-time great Canadian sportscasters. He’d probably be right there with Chris Cuthbert and Dan Shulman, had he not decided to move to London a few years back. He called basketball in Beijing for CBC, before moving into the obscure (in Canada at least) sport of weightlifting in 2012. Not only did he impress, especially on the call for Christine Girard’s bronze medal, but I often watched a sport I had never watched before.

I was also pleasantly surprised by Miller. For me, the trio of Miller, Moorcroft and Smith was the best during the Olympics. They put the biggest night of the Games, day #8 in athletics, into great context. His call of “an extraordinary Saturday night in London” paid homage to the great Don Wittman in a way. I’ll never forget watching that athletics session and Miller’s commentary goes hand-in-hand with it. I also loved that Miller let Jamaica have their moment of glory before mentioning that Canada had finished 3rd in the men’s 4x100m relay.

Emrick is best-known as the main play-by-play commentator for the NHL on NBC. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of water polo. However, Emrick’s voice during the middle of summer makes it worth tuning into.

Play-by-Play (Toronto studio)
Gold: Luke Wileman (soccer, CTV)
Silver: Eric Smith (boxing, CTV)
Bronze: Jim van Horne (tennis/badminton/boxing, CTV)
4th: RJ Broadhead (beach volleyball, CTV)
5th: Bryan Mudryk (various sports, CTV)

Luke Wileman was the voice (in Canada) of the greatest soccer game in Olympic history (as British commentator Dan O’Hagan put it). Not only was he the voice of that match, but also the redemption game for Canada against France for bronze. The team captured the hearts of the nation. Wileman called it from Toronto, and very well-so, I may add.

Eric Smith might not be a familiar name to many. He works on The Fan 590 as a Raptors analyst. For the Olympics, he was as boxing commentator. Even though he was in Toronto, he caught things that some at Excel might not even have noticed.

Jim van Horne and Bryan Mudryk get on the list for being versatile, if nothing else. Van Horne called Milos Raonic’s marathon match against Jo Wilfried Tsonga, the Bruce/Li doubles semifinal (badminton was never even originally scheduled to air in Canada in English) and the debut women’s boxing with Mary Spencer. While none of those athletes went on to win medals, they were some of the seminal moments in the Games. Van Horne is an Olympics veteran, and a valuable asset to the CBC come 2016.

Heese and Broadhead impressed me overall. I actually preferred them to NBC’s beach volleyball commentators, who seemingly repeated the same, tired cliches day after day. They did their research, attending the Canadian Olympic Trials in July. Broadhead new the athletes, the terms and the rules. He impressed on Nordic sports in Vancouver and again on beach volleyball in London.

Mudryk only beats van Horne in that he called judo, taekwondo, equestrian. Who knew he was so versatile. I’d honestly never watched judo before, but Mudryk explained the rules perfectly, better than the analyst Frazier Will in fact. I’ll admit, I almost gave this spot to Vic Rauter simply for his counting-up of points during Martine Dugrenier’s repechage match.

Gold: Michael Smith & David Moorcroft (athletics, CTV)
Silver: Emily Cordonier (volleyball, CTV)
Bronze: Mark Heese (beach volleyball, CTV)
4th: Rowdy Gains (swimming; NBC)
5th: Russ Anber (boxing, CTV)

Smith amd Moorcroft were exceptional on CBC in 2008, and again this time for CTV. Moorcroft put Britain’s super Saturday into a great British perspective, without coming across as biased. Canada had great results in the heptathlon and decathlon. Smith was a decathlete for Canada, so he was able to analyze the competitions better than both. Both Smith and Moorcroft acknowledged the rule broken by Canada in the men’s 4x100m relay. In fact, they were first to say it must be a lane violation because all of the handovers were legal. Again, not biased. By luck, and preparation, CTV’s athletics team was Olympics broadcasting at its finest.

Cordonier was very impressive in her broadcasting debut. She was another example of a Canadian commentator who was better than her American counterpart at NBC. Her and Kevin Quinn worked well together. She explained many of the technical rules of indoor volleyball (which are more detailed and confusing than the beach version). It didn’t hurt that her and commentator Kevin Quinn had a couple of spectacular comebacks in the men’s and women’s gold medal matches.

The same things I said about Broadhead and Cordonier apply to Heese.

With no Byron McDonald in London and the annoying Joanne Malar on CTV, Gains was the top analyst for swimming in 2012. Sure, he is a bit American biased at times, but he knows his stuff. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping McDonald is back for Rio on CBC.

Those who like Russ Anber really like him. Those who don’t, well they really don’t. He is excitable. I miss the days of In This Corner on TSN, as well as the time when TSN would produce their own coverage of World Championship fights taking place in Canada. Having Anber back on TV was a bit of a flashback to that.

Studio Host
Gold: Brian Williams (Primetime, CTV)
Silver: Al Michaels & Dan Patrick (Daytime, NBC)
Bronze: James Duthie (Daytime, CTV)

Williams is Williams, regardless of what the haters say. He knows more about amateur sports than the rest of the country combined. It will be a sad day if Sochi rolls around and Williams isn’t on Canadian televisions.

Michaels and Patrick are two legends in American sports broadcasting. I actually really enjoyed their daytime show on NBC. Michaels will now go back to being the best NFL commentator with Sunday Night Football starting next week.

I was actually quite impressed with Duthie. Who knew he was so well-versed in amateur sports? Hopefully if TSN sub-licenses 2014/16 Olympic coverage from CBC, he will host their primetime show.

Coming up later this week, I’ll have some final thoughts on CTV’s brief era as Canada’s Olympic broadcaster and how they changed the way we watch the Games forever. I’ll also look ahead to CBC’s coverage of Sochi 2014, which is less than 18 months away. I’ll also have a complete ratings report for the 2012 Olympics, hopefully on Wednesday.

4 thoughts on “London 2012: Medals for Commentators

  1. CTV wasn’t terrible at broadcasting the games, but they are not CBC, I’m looking forward to seeing CBC back in the game (without the annoying “I Believe” song I might add)

  2. I want to offer my Gold, Silver, Bronze Medalist in terms of Play by Play, Analyst & Hosts. I excluded NBC because I didn’t watch a minute of their coverage.

    Play by Play
    Gold – Gord Miller (TSN) – Athletics
    Silver – Rod Smith (TSN) – Swimming\Diving
    Bronze – Rob Faulds (Sportsnet) – Rowing, Canoe\Kayak


    Gold – Micheal Smith – Athletics
    Silver – Dave Moorcroft – Athletics
    Bronze – Larry Cain – Canoe\Kayak


    Gold – Brian Willams – CTV
    Silver – James Duthie – CTV
    Bronze – Brad Fay – Sportsnet

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with this post other than the comments for Russ Anber. The guy lacks any fundamental knowledge of boxing. He is a laughing stock within the boxing circle. But my point is to emphasize how much I enjoyed reading this post and how I agree. Very well done.

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