I was just reviewing the recently published list of college football announcer/reporter teams for ESPN this fall, when I noticed that Pam Ward was conspicuous by her absence. A little further research revealed that on May 21 ESPN announced without supplying a reason that Pam had been removed from college football coverage.
If I were ESPN, my reason would have been low ratings and viewer discontent. She got low ratings right here in my man cave and the viewers here were discontented. Ward’s droning monotone was not engaging. Furthermore, the combination of it and the crowd sounds created sort of a white noise that I personally tried to tune out. Just when I would, Pam would add a high note to her usual alto and it would wake me up.
One enterprising blogger wrote a series of posts called “The Pam Ward Chronicles” for a blog entitled “Awful Announcing.” That site even established awards for awful announcing named after Ward: The Pammies. Our old “friend” Craig James and ex-Nittany Lion Matt Millen led the point totals when last I looked; at that time Pam herself was tied for third place with Gary Danielson.
By the way, James is also gone, although he left in order to flop at politics. I won’t mince words. James is an asshole and he subtracted from, rather than added to, ESPN’s Saturday coverage. Jason Kirk of SBNation said it this way:
“…Craig James is an awful person who was also awful at his job as a college football commentator, while Pam Ward was by comparison merely an unpopular announcer… The sport has suddenly lost its two least beloved announcers.”
Awful people might think that politics is their only recourse for a career in decline, given all the awful people one finds in Washington. Well, “Awful” James isn’t even going to join that crowd, but he’s definitely not returning to ESPN (hallelujah!). He said:
“There are a couple of networks that have called to see what I am willing to do. When I resigned in December, I went all in for politics, and I found out how many people enjoyed me as a broadcaster. They said they would miss me, and I said thank you.”
You won’t include this Turkey in those “many” people. I hope James finds a nice position with the Notre Dame network or something.
I bet Washington State Cougars head football coach Mike Leach isn’t too unhappy about the departure of James from ESPN. James used his national exposure to provide the Texas Tech administration with a flimsy reason for firing Leach as head coach, ostensibly for not apologizing to James’ son for being a meanie in practice. Leach thought the James kid was lazy and had an obnoxious sense of entitlement, which was true because the elder James frequently lobbied Leach for more playing time for him.
James, who ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Texas in 2012 against the very popular Kay Bailey Hutchison finished fourth with approximately four percent of the votes.
No Nittany Lion fan worth his blue and white glasses would ever support or defend James. He was a voter in the AP college football poll and a Penn State hater from way back.
Because James’ sports reporter and political careers were about as much of a bust as his gentility (e.g., his famous 1998 utterance, “Wisconsin is the worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl.”), he’ll be relegated to spending his time directing his eponymously named Craig James School of Broadcasting.
But I digress unpleasantly. Let us get back to good old Pammie.
I was so annoyed by Ward that I wrote the following paragraphs for my 2006 commentary after the Nittany Lions defeated the Akron Zips 34-16:
And now, a word or two about the ESPN2 announcing crew, Pam Ward and Mike Gottfried. I cringe whenever I run into a game that is being called by Pam Ward, ESPN’s semi-androgynous concession to the erstwhile feminist movement. Ward is a former sideline reporter who requested to be moved to the announcing booth. OK, I understand that ESPN is headquartered in Connecticut, whose citizens lacked the brains and foresight to nominate Joe Lieberman in favor of crackpot anti-war activist Ned Lamont—but I digress. The boys in Bristol are no strangers to political correctness. So, they acceded to Pam’s wishes. I could go along with having a woman call games, but Ward’s thready alto voice is not powerful enough to be heard above the crowd noise. She just kind of merges in with it, creating a rather annoyingly monotonous drone. She rarely gets amped up. I can’t stand her. Her commentary adds nothing. On one particular play, a Penn State player lost his helmet, which Ward referred to as his “hat.” Mike Gottfried, erstwhile Pitt head coach (1986-1989), is the other half of the team—the color man. Listening to him is only slightly more exciting than watching paint dry. He is knowledgeable about football and he prepares very well for games, but it is painful to listen to his slow, somewhat slurred speech—kind of like Forrest Gump with a midwestern twang instead of a ‘Bama drawl. At one point, Gottfried described the crowd as “107 maniacs.” He was only slightly off—by three orders of magnitude. Maybe he had been listening to Natalie Merchant’s music or something (but even Natalie had 10,000). The dubious Ward/Gottfried high point occurred when during the game the director chose to show a shot of Ward explaining to Gottfried how to use his ESPN cell phone. Fortunately, nothing was happening on the field at the time. I was hoping that with the Nittany Lions success last year, we’d get better announcers this year, but I guess I was wrong. I can hardly wait to see who ESPNU assigns to us for the Youngstown State game.
So, what we do around here to offset the horribleness of the ESPN announcers is access the Penn State radio broadcast via the internet and pipe Steve Jones and Jack Ham into my home theater amplifier, selecting it instead of the TV sound. Having a Tivo makes it easy to synchronize the video with the audio. Steve Jones is the opposite of Pam Ward—not only can his voice be heard down the block but also his enthusiasm, to put it mildly, is at Red Bull level the entire game. That can be annoying sometimes, too, but it nevertheless is an excellent antidote for the likes of Ward and Gottfried.
A lot of male announcers never played the game, but no doubt all of them dreamed of playing. I guess Pam must have, too, but the game was not quite ready for women yet, particularly for monotonic ones who could not be heard above the crowd noise. Pam broke ground for female announcers with her dogged persistence. Originally, when ESPN wanted to offer her a studio role, she held firm to wanting to be a game broadcaster. Her persistence paid off in 2000, when she became the first woman to perform play-by-play announcing for an NCAA nationally televised game.
On the other hand, her performance set back women in sports announcing at least 50 years.
This Turkey bids both Pam Ward and Craig James an enthusiastic farewell, and best of luck with their next careers, as long as they don’t involve any football I might want to watch.