April tends to be the busiest month on NBC Sports Chicago’s calendar. The White Sox’ season is beginning, and the Blackhawks’ and Bulls’ seasons are ending. If the network is lucky, the Bulls and/or Hawks will give it some playoff games, too.
That’s what this April has been like, and I’ve consumed a bunch of it, surely more than any doctor would recommend. I’m not just talking about the game broadcasts, which are largely enjoyed by fans (though often despite the outcome). The pregame and postgame shows are part of the viewing experience, too.
With all of the teams’ shows airing this month – sometimes simultaneously – I found myself comparing and contrasting them. Though they share the same sets, they have different energy, style and vibes. So, as is my wont, I broke them down and ranked them:
Jason Goff didn’t take long to become a great TV host after making a name for himself at The Score. He’s knowledgeable, runs the show well and keeps his fandom muted. Let’s face it: Everyone on these shows is a fan of the team, and that’s fine because fans are watching. The cast wants viewers to feel like they’re all in this together. But there must be objectivity.
Analysts and former Bulls Kendall Gill and Will Perdue aren’t carrying a torch for the team. They’re happy to praise a strong effort, but they won’t hold back their criticism. They also teach the game. But most important, they’re entertaining. They keep viewers’ attention not just with their information but with their energy and the rapport they share with Goff and each other.
2. White Sox
The show has instant credibility among Sox fans because of analysts Ozzie Guillen and Frank Thomas. It’s hard to imagine a better twosome to draw viewers. They wear their emotions on their sleeve, and they can be brutally honest. They actually can be more entertaining when the Sox are losing.
Host Chuck Garfien also is entertaining, and he speaks to Sox fans because he’s one, too. A really big one. Maybe too big. I’m all for rooting for the home team, but sometimes it’s too much. The star of the show is Guillen, who has a great combination of humor and insight.
Pat Boyle is in a tough spot. Goff works with a 15-year NBA veteran in Gill and a three-time NBA champion in Perdue. Garfien works with a World Series-winning manager in Guillen and a Hall of Famer in Thomas. Boyle works with Caley Chelios and Colby Cohen. It looks more like he’s teaching a college class than hosting a TV show. But the Hawks have been intent on skewing their broadcasts younger.
Cohen has been a lightning rod for fans, who didn’t see a need to replace Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers. Cohen can be talkative and his humor doesn’t always land, but the venom seems extreme. He has done well reporting from between the benches, and he brings personality to a studio show that’s low on energy.
Granted, the Hawks haven’t done anything to be energetic about, but that doesn’t mean the show has to suffer. At times it sounds like the cast pulls punches in a situation that requires a combination and a roundhouse. The organization certainly wouldn’t tolerate the criticism the Bulls’ and Sox’ analysts can deliver. I’ve long wanted Hawks great Jeremy Roenick on this show, but there’s no chance of that.
Those Webex by Cisco promos that feature a team reporter chiming in remotely – seemingly from a remote location – don’t do the service any favors. The picture and audio are a downgrade from the TV feed. Viewers even have seen a reporter who’s sitting in the studio appear on the promo. What sense does that make? He’s right there!