ESPN Radio easily trumps the NBA on ABC

Break out the hats and hooters, because Sunday was movin' day ‘round these parts.

(OK, it was more like the end of Moving Week. A week that hasn't ended, actually. I still have some lamps and a borrowed dolly to go re-capture from the old place. Good thing my old landlords aren't the most, shall we say, professional lot. They didn't even know our lease was up.)

The side bargain of dashing off to a new place with a proper deck is that I will not have access to NBA League Pass or any TV until sometime Wednesday afternoon, and I couldn't watch any games on Sunday.

Couldn't watch the contests, but I could listen to them. And because I spent a huge chunk of Sunday afternoon going back and forth between former and current residences in the car, I was able to take in both the Pistons win over Boston and Phoenix's remarkable conquest of the Lakers on ESPN Radio.

And ESPN Radio? Pretty darn good! Didn't expect that, huh?

I've been enjoying the Sunday crew for a few years now, but only out of necessity. Only while being driven back into town after a too-long night out in another burgh, with the Tivo rolling at home. With that device purring with me away, I didn't really have to pay much attention. On this Sunday, without that backup help, I had to keep tabs on things. And the radio help was outstanding.

Jim Durham has been my favorite play-by-play guy for decades, so I already knew I was going to appreciate his work during the Suns/Lakers game. But I wasn't aware that Kevin Calabro, the former Seattle SuperSonics voice, was working the radio airwaves for the first game of the doubleheader. I'd seen Calabro work the odd ESPN game on television this season, but had no idea he had taken to the AM dial. He was unsurprisingly brilliant.

Will Perdue, on the other hand, was surprisingly fantastic. Knock me over with a feather. Or one of Will's old botched lay-ups.

Perdue worked the color analyst gig alongside Calabro during the Pistons win, and not only was I shocked that he held his own, he's quickly vaulted to the top tier of color analysts in my eyes (er, ears) after just one game. Surprising, I know, but he used an almost football'ish way of describing each play and why it worked/failed after the possession had passed, without being intrusive or wordy.

(I wonder what it's like to be able to do that.)

This registers as an oddity because of Perdue work as a sometimes-analyst for Chicago-area cable back in 1996, and the few times I'd seen him in the studio working for ESPN. He was dour, not all that interesting, and looked and acted as if he'd rather be somewhere else. That still might be the case, because he seemed right at home behind that mic, telling me why Rajon Rondo did a superb job of drawing the defense with a feigned bit of penetration, or how Tayshaun Prince just broke a play.

It may have been the other way around. I took in some paint fumes along the way, yesterday.

Either way, Perdue was terrific. Not just in relation to my expectations, but in the grand picture of a guy who watches way too much NBA basketball.

His counterpart on the Lakers/Suns broadcast, Dr. Jack Ramsay, was just as superb. You forget how great Dr. Jack is at these Sunday broadcasts, but there he was in Phoenix, nailing it. And, opposite of Perdue, that's not an observation aided by my high expectations heading into the game. It's just an absolute pleasure listening to him call a game.

The saddest part is, ABC's main broadcast trio of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson is, no exaggeration, pretty horrid most of the time.

Now, I would be remiss and wrong and stubborn if I didn't mention I did get to see a good 40 minutes of DVR'd Suns/Lakers at someone's house last night, and Breen/JVG/Jax were about as good as I'd ever heard them. They were actually talking about the game that was being played in their presence, rather than turning the broadcast into one afternoon-long sports talk radio chat show, and I went into that game with this post already in mind, waiting to pounce.

And I've mentioned that Breen (who I've liked for a decade on MSG telecasts, backing Marv Albert up initially), Jackson (paired with Albert on YES telecasts), and Van Gundy (paired with Mike Fratello and, yes, Marv Albert on TNT) have been quite good on other teams. Very good, in fact. Together, for the most part, they nearly ruin a game for me. I've taken to watching ABC's Sunday telecasts on mute, which is a shame.

(You can't try to match up the audio from the radio broadcast with the visuals on the TV anymore, as well. That's not a function of Michael Powell and Janet Jackson's bosom, but a side result of digital transfer and satellite delays. Bummer.)

So what does it say when Disney pairs the two best non-Marv play-by-play guys back-to-back on the radio, but doesn't even consider letting either of them work the televised ABC games? I'll leave that up for you to decide, but Durham and Calabro have long been at the top of the heap when it comes to calling games. Nothing against Breen or Mike Tirico (who calls the first game of ABC's doubleheader, and does a solid job), but they're just not in Calabro or Durham's league. Nobody, save Marv, is.

And as for Perdue and Dr. Jack? If ABC isn't going to put these two on the tube, then you need to at least give this pair a listen as they break games down. I'm not in favor of bumping Hubie Brown off the analyst's chair on the ABC telecast (that would be akin to bumping LeBron James out of the starting small forward slot for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Hubie's the best), but at the very least Jackson and Van Gundy could learn a thing or 192 from this pair.

Like not trying to shove lame catchphrases ("Mama, there goes ...") down our throat. Or acting the hardass even to the point of being completely and utterly wrong, just to make a point that usually doesn't hold up to the light of the facts (every time a veteran ref and a younger ref confer on a call that could go either way, the veteran ref gets his way? How does that explain the half-dozen times this year I've seen Kenny Mauer, alone, cede to the younger referee?).

This isn't the sexiest topic, I submit, but the junkies will understand.

And junkies? Fear not. There's a good reason to be stuck in Sunday traffic.