Give Penn State a Better National Broadcast Team
When not packed inside Beaver Stadium, Penn State fans take to bars, apartments, homes, and Twitter to connect. There’s an interesting wrinkle added to the mix when watching on TV — the broadcast team.
Last week, all the tired, drunk eyes in State College were fixed on Dublin. But as Christian Hackenberg dominated and Justin Holman brought UCF to life, ESPN’s Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham became almost as much a part of the story as the players themselves, and as Sam Ficken booted the winner and celebrations began, many had the same question: what the hell was going on with that broadcast team?
Patrick has been a favorite of the indispensable Awful Announcing for as long as they’ve been around, including being a competitor in its Joe Morgan Memorial tournament, which seeks to identify the worst broadcasters in America. They’ve talked at length about his strange affinity for Britney Spears and his on-air gaffes, including an unfortunate remark about Virginia Tech not long after the tragic mass shooting in 2007. He’s been around quite a while and has called everything NCAA, from baseball to football to basketball.
Cunningham is a different story. His Awful Announcing search results don’t contain anything of substance, and as a color man he’s been, at worst, relatively inoffensive. He was a center on the 1991 National Championship-winning Washington Huskies team and played five years in the NFL. As an interesting aside, he’s an incredible accomplished documentary film producer, with The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Academy Award-winning Undefeated both must-watch features.
Cunningham and Patrick have been a team for a while now, but that hasn’t produced much of a rapport, with awkward silences and miscommunications plaguing the duo more often than they should. This is the worst of ESPN/ABC’s Saturday broadcast teams, and it isn’t particularly close. Patrick’s an odd bird, to say the very least. He stumbled his way through a dead ball that he may or may not have thought was alive, repeatedly pleading for someone, anyone, to tell him what was going on. Cunningham might as well have been watching the Premier League’s Burnley/Manchester United matchup happening across the Irish Sea at the time. As Onward State alum and current Black Shoe Diaries contributor Devon Edwards put it,
“It’s not that Cunningham’s commentary wasn’t insightful, it’s that it was about as wrong as a color guy could be. A pass that required a leaping catch was “intentionally underthrown.” A helmet to the chest of a punter is a questionable roughing penalty. A kick that was exactly as long as Sam Ficken’s career long was “clearly outside his range.” I’m not sure if Ed Cunningham was paying attention to the game, but for his sake, I hope he wasn’t.”
I was curious after the game: had anyone heard a worst broadcast than what we sat through on Saturday morning? Friend of the site Evil James Franklin was quick to provide a response:
@NamelessRanger maybe PSU Wisconsin 2013, but it was that same crew
— Evil James Franklin (@JamesFrankwin) August 31, 2014
I went back to highlights of that Wisconsin game, and it’s more or less a tossup between the two, with the same problems stated before. Cunningham seems out in space, and Patrick forces jokes that not even the corniest of fans could love. His Wikipedia page has the gall to claim that the “Holy Cow!” call that legendary Yankees broadcaster Phil Rizzuto made his trademark is Patrick’s. If you go back to his basketball calls, you get some of the most vanilla calls to otherwise exciting moments possible. If you took Brent Musberger, then removed every endearing quality about him and replaced his insight with random tangents, you’d have Patrick.
This Saturday, Patrick and Cunningham will again call a Penn State game, and we can only hope it’s the last. ESPN, you’ve done enough damage to Penn State as it is. Please, stop the madness, get us a new broadcast team. One of the most exciting programs in college football, with the biggest alumni base in the country, surely deserves better. #PatrickCunninghamOut