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9 Greatest Athletes-Turned-Analysts

by: Howard Cosmell On  Thursday, June 2, 2011

The leap from pro athlete to studio host or analyst is something of a no-brainer. “Hey, this guy played sports. He should have no problem talking about them in front of a national audience.” Of course, anyone who watches sports knows the success ratio here is like 14%. Becoming successful in this arena usually takes eloquence, wit, knowledge, and a work ethic that some players just don’t have. Here are 9 guys (well, 8 guys and 1 girl) that do.

9. Steve Young
Any studio host that can get into it with Michael Irvin on the air is okay in my book. He’s eloquent, he’s smart, but he’s not that engaging. He’s extremely competent, which is high praise for a former athlete that’s foind their way into the studio, but he lacks an interactive quality that many of the goofier studio hosts have. That said, he holds down the fort well, and tempers a lot of the other personalities in the room. Case in point being Michael Irvin.
 
 
8. Charles Barkley
He’s not a “numbers guy.” Far from it, rather. But he’s smart, observant, and, above all, hilarious. He drinks a 12-pack of Heineken during the games, so if he seems a little loopier during the final segment than he did at halftime, that’s why. He says tons of inappropriate things during the program, but the rub of it is: he’s rarely wrong. EJ pulled the plug on him when he and Tracy Morgan went on a diatribe with Barkley eliciting from Morgan that Palin was “good masturbation material.” He drinks, he calls everyone out, he has a good sense of humor. He’s the lynchpin of the best studio team in sports.

7. Troy Aikman
When he first stepped into the booth, Aikman appeared to be something of a novelty act. To have called him “wooden” would have been an insult to trees. The guy took a long time to find his groove, his cadence, and his tone. But now that he has, he’s widely considered one of the best in the booth. He isn’t particularly funny, he sure isn’t wacky (thank God), but he is one of the most reliable guys out there. If San Diego has been running traps all day, you can count on Aikman to let you know why they’re working, and to call out when they run them later in the game. His professionalism is commensurate with many other players in the league, but his insight is far better.

6. Jalen Rose
His playing days peaked in college, but after his NBA career, Rose found a new calling as one of the best young analysts in any sport. His work with ESPN shows an insight and eloquence that one rarely sees from former players, as evidenced by his work as a contributor to the Huffington Post. Many players make the leap to announcing or analysis because they don’t know what else to do. Rose has done it because he has something to say. Strangely, I hope that he doesn’t end up anchoring a studio show, but continues his role as a participant. I like him against bigger personalities as he lets others take the spotlight as he’s content simply being right.

5. Al Leiter
One of the smartest guys in the game, I only really see him during Fox’s playoff coverage, as I don’t watch the MLB Network’s studio show and sure as hell don’t watch YES. He walks the delicate lines between captivating and gimmicky, professional and dry, smart and condescending. There’s so much minutiae in baseball that will escape even serious fans. Leiter is able to draw on his experience and knowledge to pick it up and share it.
 
 
4. Steve Kerr
Steve Kerr went from being a situational player to an announcer to a front-office exec, back to an announcer. His time spent as President of the Suns didn’t go as planned, as he dismantled the team while failing to create a nucleus in its place. Although his stint as President didn’t work out, the Suns were able to see something in him from his time spent as an analyst. He knows the game forward and backwards. He can talk as easily about what happens off the court as what happens

3. John Kruk
While many argue that Kruk’s presence in the studio is largely that of an entertainer, I would respond by saying a) no it’s not, and b) so what if it was? Baseball, more than any other sport, is driven by statistics and situational analysis, yet the most iconic announcers, color guys, and analysts aren’t the ones that can spout off the most figures, but the ones that can tell a story and educate you in the process. Sure, Kruk comes across as more gruff than say, Peter Gammons, but he knows what he’s talking about, and his ability to bring some color to the conversation is virtually unmatched.

2. Mary Carillo
Rather than hold her to a standard of former players or female analysts, I will simply say that Mary Carillo was the best tennis analyst around and is now following the career arc of Bob Costas, participating in any sporting event where a network needs a knowledgeable, well-spoken analyst. Of course, tennis will always be her bread and butter, having been called the sport’s best analyst by no less than Sports Illustrated, but she’s gone on to anchor everything from the Olympics to the Westminster Dog Show on her talents.

1. Nick Faldo
To the untrained fan (me), it’s very hard to tell a good announcer or analyst from a bad one. Of course golf is a game of nuance, but the low whisper of the announcers and the relatively joyless delivery by so many involved leads many to believe that the characters are interchangeable. Well, Faldo differentiates himself not only with knowledge, and the credibility of actually having played, rather than just been a country club rat. He also brings *gasp* levity to golf.




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