NFL games on radio: Simple pleasure made better with Ian Eagle on call

Last night, while driving home from downtown Chicago, I spent a good 45 minutes listening to Ian Eagle and Boomer Esiason call the Chiefs-Eagles game on the radio.

My awareness level was elevated because earlier in the day I had read Richard Deitsch’s piece on the NFL and radio at MMQB.

Deitsch wrote that despite all the new advances in technology, there’s still something to be said for being able to hear a football game on radio, just as we did in the 1970s.

Deitsch’s story includes this passage:

Howard Deneroff, the longtime executive producer for Westwood One Sports, is also bullish on the future of NFL radio given how society has become mobile with its sports consumption. Deneroff said more than 23 million listeners tuned into a portion of last year’s Super Bowl broadcast on Westwood One Sports. (That number does not include satellite radio, online, or mobile, which all carried the Westwood One broadcast.)

“Radio, or audio more appropriately nowadays, is accessible everywhere—via radio, cars, online, and mobile devices,” says Deneroff. “We have immediacy, mobility and other intangibles that TV doesn’t have, especially in unusual times. I will point out that at last year’s Super Bowl, we were the first media entity back on the air reporting the power outage, the first to report it was isolated to the Superdome and not affecting other parts of New Orleans, and the first to report what caused it. All were important because unfortunately the word terrorism was an immediate thought that entered everybody’s mind. Radio is still an important means of communication, even though ways of consuming it have changed.”

Listening to last night’s game reminded me that football still sounds pretty good on the radio. Of course, it helps if you have a pro’s pro like Eagle on the call.

Here’s Eagle in Deitsch’s piece.

What makes a successful radio broadcast for football? “It’s all about your ability to relay the action in a timely and descriptive manner while also conveying the emotion of the game,” says Ian Eagle, who calls Thursday night football for Westwood One Radio, as well as wild-card and divisional playoff games. (Kevin Harlan is the radio voice of Monday night football and the Super Bowl.) “There is a certain ebb and flow to a radio broadcast,” Eagle adds. “But most importantly you have to ask yourself the question, ‘Are the listeners getting the information they need to follow along?’ ”

Eagle says the score, time remaining, down and distance, which team has the ball and which direction its driving is the basic framework of an NFL radio broadcast.

“Then you get into the particulars—who has the ball, who made the tackle, did the ball carrier run left or right, where are the receivers lined up pre-snap, was the play inside or outside,” says Eagle. “The next step is being more specific with your calls: Did the runner slash or stutter step? Did the pass hit the receiver in the numbers or did he catch it with his hands? What color are the uniforms? What are the weather conditions? This is often where football play-by-play announcers can separate themselves from others. In addition, you should be ready to ‘tag’ what your analyst is saying if there is something that you can add to enhance his point. But it can’t get in the way of describing the next play.”


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