ON THE ROAD IN THE UPPER MIDWEST -- At OMW, we've been thinking about this for a while, and have been trying to word this as gently as possible.
It's almost a sport for This Space to take shots at Raycom Cleveland CBS affiliate WOIO/19 and its "19 Action News". It's what it would look like if the folks at "The Star" tabloid in Florida decided to do local TV news in Northeast Ohio. And we've already taken WOIO to task for, among other things, its "domination" of the Browns training camp and its inability to update the news ticker to reflect breaking news.
But, we like Bob Golic, the former Browns star who eventually landed in Los Angeles with the Raiders, who then did local sports radio and TV (and "Saved by the Bell: The College Years"), then came back to town to do an impossible task, replacing radio legend and 20-year WNIR/100.1 veteran afternoon drive talk show host Joe Finan in the Akron market.
Golic is no Joe. Not only is he not a liberal, he's not as "deep" as Joe when it comes to weighty topics. He has broadcast training, but his voice sometimes throws a slight "jock" feeling into issues discussion...though he IS a graduate of Notre Dame, and presumably learned much more than where to find Touchdown Jesus.
But on the whole, WNIR did much better than it could have expected in replacing a station fixture. And the personable Golic has an easy, comfortable feel that fits the homespun Portage County-based station, and the Akron market in general.
That's why it pains OMW to write this. Dear Bob: That was the worst major market local TV sports broadcast we ever saw on Saturday, and it pained us to watch you struggle through it.
The Cleveland Browns opened up their home exhibition season by trying to play the New York Giants, and the WNIR afternoon host and ex-Brown did play-by-play for WOIO/19, with ex-Brown and sometimes WTAM weekend sports talk voice Brian Brennan in the booth, with another Brown as guest analyst - Reggie Rucker. Even before the game was interrupted by fierce thunderstorms, it wasn't going well for Golic, especially. He sounded like he was rushed into the booth. (For that matter, maybe he was, since we heard him do his regular Saturday afternoon show on WNIR until 4 PM, presumably live via phone from Cleveland Browns Stadium!)
Vamping without a game for over an hour is not easy, and that's not even the biggest part of our complaint about Golic, Brennan and Rucker. The rest of the actual game was very uneven, and many times, it sounded like Golic didn't realize that he was the main play-by-play voice. He'd wait, watch a play go off, and start commentary.
It was all the more noticeable for those who had the NFL Network - as we do at OMW World HQ in suburban Akron - and saw much more polished efforts by pretty much every other team they carried, both in games and in highlights.
We're not ready to write off Golic as a play-by-play man, yet. Later in the game, as he got more of his footing, he was more confident. But the effort clearly needs some work, and we expect (and hope for) a better showing by the last pre-season game. And since we like Bob, we're pulling for it to happen.
We have a feeling Golic knows what happened Saturday, and he's the last person who wants to see a repeat of it...even without the lightning.