There are many deserving candidates for our first annual sports media awards; here are the 2017 winners.
Game Analyst of the Year: Troy Aikman (FOX)
This shouldn’t be a big surprise to those who watch the NFL every Sunday, but Troy Aikman is as good as it gets in any sport. Unlike many of his peers, the three-time Super Bowl champion is straightforward in his analysis because he’s unafraid to criticize players, coaches, or officials when it’s warranted. At the same time, Aikman gives credit when it’s due, and his knowledge of the game is second to none.
Other nominees: Jay Bilas (ESPN), Charles Davis (FOX), Jon Gruden (ESPN), Kirk Herbstreit (ABC/ESPN)
Best Play-by-Play Announcer: Joe Buck (FOX)
It doesn’t get much better than first-rate NFL football and the World Series, and it definitely doesn’t get any bigger than the Super Bowl, all of which Joe Buck called in 2017. He’s had his share of fan bases that dislike him, but the long-time play-by-play man has undoubtedly turned into the best voice in professional football, while also helping John Smoltz quickly get comfortable calling the World Series over the past two years. Buck has also anchored the golf coverage for FOX, but his work in the NFL stands out above the rest.
Other nominees: Mike Breen (ABC/ESPN), Ian Eagle (CBS), Kevin Harlan (CBS/TNT), Jim Nantz (CBS)
Studio Analyst of the Year: Kirk Herbstreit (ESPN)
Kirk Herbstreit brings it whether he’s in the broadcast booth, on College GameDay, or breaking down the college football landscape in the studio for CFB Playoff ranking/selection shows. If you didn’t know it, you would never be able to tell that Herbstreit is a former Ohio State quarterback when he discusses the Buckeyes or any other team, and that’s the way it should be, especially for those who want to be considered the best in the business. Herbstreit is just that.
Other nominees: Matt Hasselbeck (ESPN), Louis Riddick (ESPN), Jimmy Rollins (TBS), Kurt Warner (NFL Network)
Studio Host of the Year: Ernie Johnson (TNT)
Inside the NBA is a tremendous show because of the dynamic between Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal, but Ernie Johnson is at the center of it all. The host knows when to let Charles, Kenny and Shaq go at it and when to play peacemaker if it’s needed, while also providing a strong voice of reason when it comes to sports or life in general.
Other nominees: Kevin Burkhardt (FOX), Rece Davis (ESPN), Rich Eisen (NFL Network), Suzy Kolber (ESPN)
Sideline Reporter of the Year: Allie LaForce (CBS)
They obviously aren’t involved on a play-by-by basis like those in the broadcast booth, but sideline reporters have a big impact on the overall quality of a game. Allie LaForce is on the court for some March Madness matchups, but she is mostly known for her role as the third member of the SEC on CBS team everySaturday afternoon in the fall. LaForce is always very prepared with thoughtful questions and is able to think on her feet better than anyone.
Other nominees: Jamie Erdahl (CBS), Tom Rinaldi (ESPN), Holly Rowe (ESPN), Tracy Wolfson (CBS)
Best Broadcast Team: Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden (ESPN)
This could have easily been Joe Buck and Troy Aikman after they won our first two awards, but Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden make every Monday Night Football game worth a watch and listen for a variety of reasons. While Gruden is usually hilarious without trying to be and McDonough sometimes cracks jokes for laughs, both can also be very blunt about the game, each other, and themselves—which is a breath of fresh air in the current PC culture, particularly on ESPN.
Other nominees: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (FOX), Joe Buck and John Smoltz (FOX), Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis (FOX), Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge (ESPN)
Best Studio Show: Inside the NBA (TNT)
Not much needs to be said about Inside the NBA, as it’s simply the most entertaining sports show perhaps ever. You could probably watch hilarious moments for hours from the course of the show’s run, whether that’s Shaq and Charles fighting, everyone making fun of Kenny running, or Charles questioning Ernie for saying J.J. Redick is “white hot.”
Other nominees: College GameDay (ESPN), Good Morning Football (NFL Network), MLB Postseason Show (FOX), FOX NFL Sunday (FOX)
Best Morning Show: Good Morning Football (NFL Network)
Hosted by Kay Adams alongside former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson, NFL insider/reporter Peter Schrager, and media personality/actor Kyle Brandt, Good Morning Football is a great watch on any weekday morning for football fans. It’s all football, all the time, but the four stars have more fun than seems possible with various conversations, games, and skits. Just be careful if you’ve never watched Game of Thrones, as Brandt has no problem making references that contain major spoilers.
Other nominees: College GameDay (ESPN), FOX NFL Sunday (FOX), Mike and Mike (ESPN), NFL GameDay Morning (NFL Network)
“Rookie” of the Year: Chip Kelly (ESPN)
He’s not longer a member of the media after being hired as the head football coach at UCLA, but it didn’t take long at all for Chip Kelly to become one of the top studio analysts in sports. Kelly is one of the brightest minds in football, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that his intelligence along with his energy made him a big part of ESPN’s halftime shows for college football games. Unfortunately, ESPN failed to utilize him much to talk about the NFL, but Kelly seamlessly transitioned into television when he was with the company.
Other nominees: Sam Ponder (ESPN), Tony Romo (CBS), Steve Smith Sr. (NFL Network), Michael Vick (FOX)
TV Personality of the Year: Kyle Brandt (NFL Network)
The other three members of the Good Morning Football crew are great, but Kyle Brandt really carries things as a one-man show at times. The former Days of Our Lives actor came out of no where in 2016 to be the centerpiece of GMFB, and he steals the show in almost every segment that allows everyone to get creative—so much so that the other hosts sometimes know they are playing for second place. Brandt even co-hosted the Today Show in August, and he will hopefully remain a fixture on NFL Network for years to come.
Other nominees: Terry Bradshaw (FOX), Jon Gruden (ESPN), Kirk Herbstreit (ESPN), Jason Whitlock (FS1)