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Pick-Six: Best active sports announcers

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Sure, many sports fans would argue that the game being played on the field, court or ice is what really glues them to their seats while they’re watching the NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL. But, there’s an added element that may be just as important: the announcers.

There’s a reason networks shell out large amounts of cash to put together the best broadcast teams possible to provide a great viewer experience when they’re watching the Chiefs take on the Patriots or the Warriors battle the Clippers. Fans will quickly mute their televisions or change the channel if they’re not satisfied with what they hear while they watch, and a lot of the pressure gets put on the play-by-play teams for each sport.

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Although every sports fan has different tastes when it comes to what they prefer in a broadcaster, there are a few announcers out there that have become mainstays across the sports world. Whether their voices lend something refreshing to the game, or their analysis and opinions give the viewer everything they need to know, their skills on the mic put them in a league of their own.

With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the six best active announcers to hammer down who can really talk the talk in their respective sports.

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Honorable mentions: Jon Miller, Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth

We’ve been doing honorable mentions for a few of these lists recently, but this will, without a doubt, include the most people. With so much talent out there across so many broadcasts, it only felt right to throw in as many names as possible into this section to make sure no one got left out completely.

To give the baseball world some more love, we’re going to open up our “extra innings” with Jon Miller. The former voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts for 20 years, Miller’s transitioned his talents full-time to the Giants’ broadcast booth. Hearing him yell his signature call of “Adios pelota!” for a home run is always a great moment during any game, and deserves some recognition on this list.

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Next up, a man that I really thought I’d put in one of the top six spots on this list when I first had the motivation to write this: Mike Tirico. NBC is positioning him to take over for Al Michaels whenever the time comes, and he was always great in the booth during his ESPN days, but he hasn’t been doing much recently to warrant a spot on this Pick-Six.

Finally, you have to let Cris Collinsworth slide in and get some respect as an honorable mention. Some may hate his voice or not agree with a lot of his analysis, but he’s been a great part of the Sunday Night Football games with Al Michaels, and the duo makes any primetime game much more fun than any other broadcast team.

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6. Tony Romo

As other names retire or step aside on this list, I think Tony Romo will be the first one to really swoop in and take advantage of the opportunity. For now, however, he’ll just open up this Pick-Six in the sixth spot.

Romo had a very hot start to his broadcasting career with CBS, getting thrown into the top tier team alongside Jim Nantz for the network’s biggest games on Sunday’s. He gained immediate notoriety for his ability to call what was going to happen before the ball was even snapped by any team, and fans fell in love with it initially.

However, that same skill that fans fell in love with eventually turned into a downside for some, along with some drawn-out sound effects in moments of uncertainty during some big games. That’ll only get better as Romo starts to log more games in his new career, and there’s a ton of potential there, but he’s got some work to do if he wants to be the next big thing for CBS.

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5. Joe Buck

I’m not going to lie: I originally had Joe Buck in the second spot on this list, but pulled him back a few spots after some additional consideration.

Buck catches a lot of flak for his work on FOX, both for his calls during NFL games or the World Series for the MLB. But, he’s the main man on the network for a reason, and his voice lends itself well to any sport he gets thrown on.

His call of Julian Edelman’s incredible catch in Super Bowl LI showcased real shock and awe, and he delivers serious emotion when the time calls for it. Can he be monotonous at times? Sure, and that’s why he’s just making it into the top five.

But when you can become a pivotal part of an event and your absence is felt, that’s when you know your true worth. When Buck does the World Series and isn’t around for NFL games, there’s a certain sense of emptiness that is felt in Troy Aikman’s broadcasts, and that’s because Buck’s one of the best announcers around.

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4. Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick

Anyone who can use 153 verbs while calling one hockey game is an absolute master at his craft, and you could say that Mike Emrick has earned a ‘Doc’torate in broadcasting for what he’s done for the NHL on NBC.

Doc Emrick’s voice has become synonymous with hockey over the years, between his endless games on the mic during the Stanley Cup Finals, his work during primetime games during the regular season and his days in the booth during the Winter Classic.

He’s a human dictionary and thesaurus, and no call is ever the same when Emrick is in the booth for NBC. It provides an amazing variety, and makes for a fresh viewer experience every time you turn on a game.

He and Eddie Olczyk have become the dynamic duo of hockey, and NBC’s lucked out with the best in the business when it comes to hockey and football.

I would’ve loved to put Emrick farther up on this list, but I think hockey’s spot in the Big Four power rankings ultimately brings him down a notch when it comes to comparisons with anyone else, leading to him getting stuck at number four.

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3. Mike Breen

“BANG!” If you’re trying to add a basketball announcer to the fray, you can’t pick anyone other than Mike Breen, and he deservedly takes the third slot in this Pick-Six.

Breen’s work on ESPN and ABC alongside Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson has made the latter two look like stars over the last few years in the trio’s tenure together, and Breen’s earned the honor of calling 14 NBA Finals throughout his career.

When you think of football, you think of Al Michaels. When you think of golf, you hear Jim Nantz. If you see Steph Curry drain a long three-pointer, you’re going to hear Breen screaming in your ear, even if you’re watching a game on another network. That’s the power he has, and that’s why he takes a high spot in this ranking.

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2. Al Michaels

Like a fine wine, Al Michaels seems to be getting better with age, and the 74-year-old wonder slides into the second spot on this list for his incredible work with Sunday Night Football on NBC.

The chemistry with Cris Collinsworth has developed into something special over the years, and Michaels is responsible for some incredible calls and monumental moments in NFL history.

Whether he’s screaming about Malcolm Butler intercepting a pass at the goal line to win Super Bowl XLIX, getting excited about a long touchdown for the Cowboys against the Giants on a random Sunday Night Football game, or subtly hinting at the over for gamblers across the country, Michaels can do it all when it comes to the NFL, and there’s a reason he’s been a mainstay for the primetime matchups on Sunday nights for years at this point.

Oh, and don’t forget about the Miracle on Ice. If that’s not enough to convince you, I don’t know what will.

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1. Jim Nantz

“Hello, friends.”

Sure, Jim Nantz may not be the best football announcer out of the bunch, and he isn’t the best basketball play-by-play man of the group. But, CBS has themselves a real gem in the sports broadcasting sphere for a litany of reasons, specifically his versatility.

Nantz is an announcer who can call the biggest football game of the week, dominate a Final Four broadcast and handle the big moments at The Masters.

He can bring you the excitement you need when Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady are dueling in the AFC Championship game, or he can lower the volume and masterfully call Tiger Woods taking home the green jacket in Augusta.

I view it like this: would you rather have a party where you have some great burgers for dinner, and just the people that enjoy that meal have fun and want to come back? Or, do you want to have quality burgers, chicken and hot dogs, and you please everyone and get a wider net of people wanting more? I’d take the latter, and that’s why Nantz tops the list for the best active sports announcers.

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