By: John Molori
September 04, 2007

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THIS WEEK:

- Jim Dandy
- Roger and out

Nantz carves a classy niche in sportscaster pantheon - Red Sox followers need to fire the "Rocket"

A few years ago, I wrote a column criticizing CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz. The gist of the critique was that Nantz was very blasé and even kind of boring in his approach. In response to the column, CBS Sports and now also CBS News president Sean McManus emailed to voice his displeasure at the column.

It made me wonder if I was missing something. Time has shown that I was. The versatile Nantz covers events with an understated grace that has become the exception, not the rule in sports television.

Nantz has no catch phrases, no desire to exceed the volume of a police siren and no political agenda. These days, that makes him quite the exception and extremely interesting.

"I never will go there," says Nantz, who will call this Sunday's Patriots at Jets season opener alongside Phil Simms. "For young kids who want to break into the business, there is a feeling that you have to be goofy or, in some similar way, attention-grabbing.

"There is this in-your-face attitude that many sportscasters have, like they are on the brink of a tantrum. If you look at them the wrong way, they will explode."

Nantz compares his own style to that of Bill Belichick, and the two coaches who met last February in Super Bowl XLI. He states, "Belichick, Tony Dung y and Lovie Smith are wonderful role models for their players and the public. It is a rarity to see men succeed in a role of leadership without raising their voices.

"These guys barely talk above a whisper. They don't cheapen the message by falling back on a swear word. They are dignified, distinguished gentlemen. "

This past winter and spring, Nantz enjoyed a 63-day stretch that saw him work Super Bowl XLI, the NCAA men's hoop tournament and the Masters. In all these endeavors, he maintains a terrific consistency.

"I don't say, 'It's time to turn on my football voice.' It's more of a natural thing. If the crowd is stirred to frenzy, you talk louder to cut through it. In golf, we are only a few yards away from the action. Sometimes, we get ridiculed for whispering, but if not, we'd be disturbing play."

While Nantz's focus this weekend will be football, he considers golf the most difficult to broadcast, this from a man who has partnered on the course with former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.

"Golf broadcasters get the least amount of credit. It's the most difficult sport to do. When you are at the 18th hole and you have 20-minute stretches to fill, it's a challenge to hold the audience's attention. Media writers don't watch golf, so it doesn't count to them. They wouldn't recognize the work if Shakespeare was in the booth."

With his unique class and unquestioned versatility, Nantz has become our generation's Curt Gowdy, a compliment he relishes. "I was smitten by the voices in my living room on weekends," says Nantz, the 2005 National Sportscaster of the Year.

"Before there was cable TV, ESPN or VCR's, broadcasters had a knowledge of language and did not draw attention to themselves. There was an elegance to the broadcasts of men like Gowdy, Ray Scott, Jack Whittaker, Dick Enberg and Jack Buck. They were storytellers with a graceful style. I have a reverence for this profession."

Nantz moved from CBS "NFL Today" studio host to lead play-by-play announcer in 2004. Change has become natural to the veteran broadcaster. "Sean McManus wanted me to do it. He thought I should be doing games.

"I've been at CBS for 22 years and we used to have all the major events. We acquired Major League Baseball in 1990 and it was a bad deal for the network. I lost a lot of colleagues."

Nantz has seen it all at CBS, but has yet to do it all in media. "I'd like to do something where I can give more of my opinions. I am considering writing a book about the Super Bowl, NCAA Tournament and Masters 63-day stretch, but I'm not sure I'd have the time to do a talk show."

Regardless, Nantz has climbed to the top of his profession and shares that current rarified air with an elite trio of contemporaries, Al Michaels, Bob Costas and Joe Buck (Sorry Chris Berman).

Michaels is the best football play-by-play man in the business, but he cannot match Nantz's studio hosting skills or versatility.

Buck's forays into what he considers humor and commentary detract from his overall performance. The same can be said of Costas who, while immensely gifted, tends to impose himself on a story too frequently, as evidenced by his late entry into the Barry Bonds beat-down.

The latest edition of Premiere Network's "Costas on the Radio" was the clincher. Costas and his guest, the aforementioned Buck, spent several minutes of the interview discussing each other's cameo appearances in movies. Yikes!

Nantz, meanwhile, was most likely focused on the Pats-Jets opener, and his approach to a big game is typically cerebral. "This is how I see it. This Sunday, I'm going to watch a football game with a great friend of mine, Phil Simms. Oh, and there will also be 100 million people eavesdropping."

Retread Rocket

Well, Roger Clemens did it to the Red Sox again. The Rocket's two-hitter against Boston last week once again had fans and media alike poetically pining for the Rocket that got away. To be honest, I'm sick of it.

Clemens' gem against Boston was the highlight of his latest ho-hum comeback. Other than that, he's won a few, lost a few and had a decent commercial for Cingular. In two words: Big Deal.

The hope here is that Red Sox fans and media once and for all let go of Clemens. Since Clemens left in 1997, and despite the heralded arrivals of Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling, Boston has retained this odd attachment to Clemens.

The organization has also clinged, as evidenced by their pathetic wooing of Clemens last spring and the silly fact that no one has worn number 21 since Clemens left. It's foolish. Granted, Clemens was forced out by the small-minded idiocy of ex-GM Dan Duquette, but since then, he has been nothing less than a self-serving mercenary.

He cares about Boston about as much as he cares about Toronto, Houston or New York, and that is about as deep as his wallet. Clemens may be forced to go into the Hall of Fame in a Boston cap, but he is hardly a sacred New England treasure.

Number 21 is not Tiny Tim's crutch. It's time for the Red Sox organization to give the number to someone else, and for fans and media to stop the pining and let Clemens go. He let you go a long time ago.

John Molori's columns are published in Boston Sports Review, Boston Baseball Magazine, New England Hockey Journal, BostonSportsMedia.com, BostonSportz.com, PatsFans.com and several newspapers and websites throughout New England. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.


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