Sunday, October 22, 2000

Sports on TV-Radio

Gottfried has risen to ESPN's top

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Mike Gottfried figured he'd do his five games as a broadcaster and then get back to coaching football. That was 1990. Ten years later, Gottfried is considered one of the best if not the best college football analyst working.

        He didn't start out that way. Gottfried had just been fired by Pittsburgh. ESPN called looking for a game analyst. He went to Bristol, Conn., and auditioned. He was good enough to get the five-game gig.

        Game 1 didn't go as well as the audition.

        “After the first touchdown,” Gottfried said, “the producer says into my earpiece, "Tell the country why that play worked.' I said, "OK.' He said: "You just said "OK' to 6 million people. You can't do that.' I said, "All right.'”

        After the double-glitch start, Gottfried has gotten better and better. The job has gotten so good Gottfried never did go back to coaching.

        That was unimaginable in 1990, because coaching was all he had done. He had been a head coach for 12 years, including the 1981 and '82 seasons at Cincinnati, before Pittsburgh fired him. He did a Mike Gottfried Show during his three years in Pittsburgh, but that was about the extent of his preparation for the ESPN job.

        “I did read a chapter of John Madden's book,” Gottfried said. “He said he never watched tape of himself. His message was he didn't want to get stereotyped. I don't like the sound of my voice or the way I look, so I never watched tape either.”

        Gottfried, 55, has benefitted from good partners. He worked with Mike Patrick and Sean McDonough before Ron Franklin.

        “It's helpful working with good people,” Gottfried said. “I think Mike Patrick, in my opinion, is the best NFL guy working, and Sean's done the World Series, the Final Four ... He's one of the best, too.”

        It helped also that Gottfried ended up at ESPN, where the production teams are top-flight and the network is equipped to develop talent. But Gottfried gives major credit to a consultant for helping get him to the top.

        “They flew Gary Danielson and me to New York to meet with this woman, Andrea Kirby,” Gottfried said. “I think it was 1994. Both of us were dreading it. But as soon as she started talking, I knew she could help me. She showed me how to hold the mic, how to headline the points I was making. It helped me more than anything. It was like when I talked to Bill Walsh about the pasing game. That's how it was talking to her about TV.”

        The polish helped. But Gottfried is so good because he's himself. He's not flashy, just informative with the ability to explain fine points of the game in a way Joe Fan can understand.

        5 FAILS: Channel 5 may be able to justify its decision to show the presidential debate over baseball Tuesday night. But why not pick up the game after the debate? Cincinnati native David Justice was just about to hit his big homer when the debate ended. Instead of airing the game, Channel 5 ran the news, then Jay Leno. Bad decision.

        MILLER HELPER: Baffled by Dennis Miller's arcane references? There's help. The folks at break down Miller's dialogue from each Monday Night Football broadcast and annotate his references. It's fun and educational.

        UC PLAY-BY-PLAY: Andy Treiner will call play-by-play of the UC-Miami football game Saturday on Channel 19. WXIX-TV hopes to have the basketball play-by-play person picked by next week.

        John Fay covers radio/TV sports for The Enquirer. He can be reached at 768-8445.

        Five Questions with Mike Gottfried

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