Column: A great announcer makes bad basketball worth watching

Trust me, there are very few things to like about being a Brooklyn Nets fan. We have fresh uniforms, a cool court design and a really popular new arena. The list of pros doesn’t go far past that, although the franchise appears to be trending in the right direction under new general manager Sean Marks.

Should you choose to watch a Nets game on the YES Network, you will be treated to one of the very best broadcasters in the business. Play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle has done excellent work for years, and it’s been a joy watching him climb the ranks recently.

Eagle was promoted, along with color commentator Dan Fouts, to the No. 2 broadcast team for CBS’ NFL coverage this past season. He has also moved into a larger role covering the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

These are great developments. As a sports fan, I can’t get enough of Ian Eagle. He has become one of the best play-by-play commentators on the strengths of his boundless energy and delightful catchphrases, and he deserves any additional opportunities he gets. Eagle could make my trips to the dentist exciting.

Eagle brings a certain personality to the broadcast booth that can conjure excitement out of nearly any game. Remember at the start of this decade when the Nets went 12-70, and Jay-Z’s line about them going “0 for 82”, it didn’t seem too far out of the realm of possibility? Those games were unwatchable, but Eagle never wavered in his commitment. He still broadcasted as if those nights in the New Jersey swamps were actually playoff games. When Eagle broadcasts real playoff games, he raises the stakes appropriately.

This sheer excitement has helped Eagle deliver a host of memorable calls for moments that deserve it. Consider out former Nets guard Joe Johnson’s step back game winner against the Detroit Pistons in 2012, where Eagle delivers an emphatic “He buries it!” before quoting “Seinfeld” with the show’s titular star in attendance at the Barclays Center. I’d re-watch these highlights on a consistent basis, because I’m a Nets fan and this is all that I have, but Eagle’s call helps amplify the moment.

Don’t call him biased, though. Eagle makes sure to keep his excitement consistent for both teams playing, which has helped him move up the ranks as a national broadcaster. If the Nets are playing the hated Knicks, and Carmelo Anthony hits a game winner, Eagle will deliver an equally ecstatic call. In an NBA local broadcast landscape where Celtics color commentator Tommy Heinsohn once compared Avery Bradley to Michael Jordan, Eagle’s impartial demeanor stands out.

He also has a formidable suite of catchphrases at his disposal. When someone dunks on another player, Eagle may refer to the dunk as a “man’s jam” or a “foreign facial” if delivered by a foreign player. A strong drive to the basket is a “rack attack,” and a basketball that gets stuck is a “wedgie.” Fear not, he doesn’t overuse these phrases to the point it becomes tiring.

Last but not least in this lengthy love letter, Eagle has an excellent sense of humor. He often spices up lackluster regular season games by bantering with his broadcast partners, especially when he’s paired with color commentator Jim Spanarkel. Eagle and Spanarkel have worked together covering both Nets games and the NCAA tournament for years, and their joint chemistry has been fine tuned to perfection.

Eagle is as good a basketball play-by-play guy as anyone else working today, and that includes superstars like Mike Breen and Kevin Harlan. He’s also great as an NFL guy for CBS, although I wish he was covering my New York Giants and the rest of the NFC for FOX. I need more Eagle. Everyone needs more Eagle.


Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.