Comrade Petchesky’s ode to Mike Emrick is the sort of thing that normally winds up the 35 percent of angries who hate whomever is being lionized in retirement. Not that Emrick would mind, frankly; he’s 74, he got to retirement under his own steam, and now he can live off the fat of his 401K while watching the lake go by. He won, big time.
But here’s how much Emrick won. He wasn’t a 35-percenter; he was more like a two-percenter. His work was enjoyed, admired, and imitated as much as Vin Scully’s, and Scully’s next critic will be the guy being shouted out of the bar with the handle of a beer stein hanging from his bloody forehead. Scully won, too, and in ways that maybe no sports broadcaster will ever win again.
There are local favorites, to be sure, like the also recently retired Marty Brennaman in Cincinnati, or Gary Cohen in New York, or Duane Kuiper/Mike Krukow, the two-headed Albanian flag in San Francisco, Rick Jeanneret in Buffalo, or Ian Eagle in Brooklyn, or Gary Gerould in Sacramento, or any of a number of others that you will nag us about in the comments. We’re not here to give some pseudo-Catholic litany of the larynxes. You like someone else? Swell.
Because we are generous sorts, you may choose Chris Fowler, Joe Buck, Al Michaels, Mike Breen, Jim Nantz, Mike Tirico, Rebecca Lowe or whomever the hell you like. But there will be blowback for each of them, as there always is. That’s where we live, after all. Life is all about the 35 percent. Remember Gus Johnson being promoted to Fox’s first chair for international soccer? He got slaughtered so that Arlo White might live.
Emrick sets two ridiculous bars as he heads into the mail-order-clothes portion of his life. One, his successor at NBC will be ripped for failing to sufficiently Emrickize the game, because viewing habits formed are listening habits cemented. And two, the list of national broadcasters above measurable criticism is reduced to perhaps only one: ABC/ESPN’s Doris Burke.
This will not be the place where we encourage you to climb into a Burkeian Youtube wormhole to get why she is so regarded. You either know it or you’ll never be interested enough to find out. But if she ever gets the big chair at Disney, she is as well-positioned as anyone to reach Emrick status.
So it’s Burke then, and we say that while not knowing what level of biliously sexist invective lives in her message queues. She probably gets the standard anti-female sludge from the Lonely And Disaffected Irregulars, but on her work, almost nothing uncomplimentary can be found.
And what of the possible replacement for Emrick at NBC, who will almost certainly be doomed on arrival by the cloth-eared throw-pillows who want time to be reversed and for Emrick to work against his will by being chained to his desk for their comfort? Whether it is a regional fixture like John Forslund or Joe Beninati, a cross-sport pro like Kenny Albert, or a Canadian lift like Chris Cuthbert, Jim Hughson, or Gord Miller, not being Mike Emrick will be held against them, loudly and aggressively. They are to be congratulated fulsomely, pitied mercilessly and encouraged to drink remorselessly.
Hey, maybe Doris Burke does hockey too.