I’ve heard colleagues refer to the sports department as the toy department. Anyone who would take offense to that would be taking themselves too seriously. Sports are fun and games. They provide an escape from real-world issues and the heartbreaking stories produced by other departments.
But sometimes those stories cross into sports. Those in Chicago sports media have been reeling after the deaths of ESPN 1000’s Jeff Dickerson on Dec. 28 and 670 The Score’s Les Grobstein on Sunday. Both surely would’ve had much to report and opine on during the Bears’ search for a new general manager and coach. But they’re missed for much more than anything they would say on the radio.
While mourning their loss, we’ve turned to their colleagues for consolation and eulogies. Both their stations devoted more than a full day of programming to them, and listeners kept the phone lines busy, wanting — and perhaps needing — to join the conversation.
It wasn’t about sports, but it was the essence of sports radio and sports media.
In that spirit, I present the Sun-Times’ second annual Chicago sports broadcast media power rankings. With the help of a crack support staff — cue ‘‘The Simpsons’’ scene with the monkey who typed, ‘‘It was the blurst of times’’ — these rankings are even more precise than last year’s.
The criteria for consideration are the same: appeal, quality, longevity and personal preference, though some weigh more heavily depending on the individual. For instance, Jon ‘‘Boog’’ Sciambi has called the Cubs for only a year, but he has been in the business for so long that he’s granted longevity.
Roughly 100 names were considered. The top 20 are below, with last year’s rank in parentheses.
1. Jason Benetti (5): Listen to Benetti call any game, whether it’s his regular White Sox TV gig or a Mid-American Conference football game on ESPNU, and you would think he had been calling those teams forever. He has gained national appeal with ESPN for his work on college football and basketball and MLB Statcasts. He added the Olympics to his résumé when he called baseball in the Tokyo Games. And NBC Sports Chicago can’t do any better than him as a fill-in on Bulls games.
2. Adam Amin (NR): Amin wasn’t ranked last year because he had just started calling Bulls games. But he has skyrocketed on the strength of his work for NBCSCH and Fox, for whom he calls the NFL and MLB. The Bears’ preseason TV voice finally called a regular-season game, metaphorically earning him ‘‘The Brick’’ (in honor of Jack Brickhouse) for calling the Bears, Bulls, Cubs and Sox in the same year. Kevin Burkhardt might be in line for Joe Buck’s seat as the voice of Fox, but Amin isn’t far behind.
3. Pat Hughes (3): The Cubs radio voice will be in the Hall of Fame; it’s only a matter of when. One of the best days of the year is when he makes his spring-training debut on The Score. His voice is a sound of summer, and it makes that March day feel warmer.
4. Jon Sciambi (NR): ‘‘Boog’’ had the unfortunate timing of arriving at the Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network during a pandemic. But he and analyst Jim Deshaies hit it off from the start and made for a wonderful broadcast. Sciambi maintains a national profile with ESPN, calling MLB on the radio and college hoops on TV.
5. Jason Goff (12): Don’t call it a comeback because Goff has been here for years. He has just branched out as the host for Bulls pregame and postgame shows and the podcast ‘‘The Full Go with Jason Goff’’ on Bill Simmons’ platform, The Ringer. Not a bad guy to have in your corner.
6. Danny Parkins (18): It’s no coincidence that Hub Arkush’s comments about Aaron Rodgers and Olin Kreutz’s blasting of George McCaskey happened on Parkins’ show on The Score, which he co-hosts with Matt Spiegel. Stuff happens on that show, and that’s what programmers want in afternoon drive.
7. Laurence Holmes (8): If you’re looking for someone to break down a news event and give it depth and context, Holmes is your guy. Fortunately, his musings are available beyond his two-hour show on The Score, on his network of podcasts and social-media platforms.
8. Marc Silverman (10): No one is more real than Silvy, whose emotions come through the microphone as clearly as his voice. He and ESPN 1000 co-host Tom Waddle form the longest-tenured radio duo in town, and their banter hasn’t grown old in the least.
9. David Kaplan (1): Dropping eight spots doesn’t look good, but when people move up, others have to move down. Kap is still one of the few in town on radio (ESPN 1000 morning show) and TV (NBCSCH). He also serves as an analyst on college basketball broadcasts.
10. Leila Rahimi (15): It was quite a year for Rahimi, who became the first woman to co-host a regular weekday show at The Score and returned to TV as a sports anchor at NBC 5.
11. Dan Bernstein (11): He’s different in many ways from his time with Terry Boers — and they’re all for the better.
12. Stacey King (20): He’s a great analyst, but I love his enthusiasm and his catchphrases. All of them.
13. Tom Waddle (NR): It’s enjoyable to listen to him talk football and share stories from his personal life.
14. Pat Foley (7): Foley’s visibility has been significantly limited in his last season behind the mic. This isn’t how I thought this would go down.
15. Eddie Olczyk (4): Edzo is still the best hockey analyst on TV. I’d just like to hear more from him.
16. Steve Stone (6): Stoney is still one of the best baseball analysts around. I can’t imagine Chicago baseball without him.
17. Len Kasper (2): He’s an excellent broadcaster, but it’s hard to follow up leaving Cubs TV for Sox radio.
18. Ozzie Guillen (13): The Sox pregame/postgame analyst also has a show with his sons, ‘‘Being Guillen.’’
19. Olin Kreutz (19): He talks about the Bears with such authority and passion that it’s a wonder they don’t employ him. Oh, wait, George doesn’t like him.
20. Dionne Miller (NR): She added ESPN 1000’s Bears pregame show with Jeff Meller to her fine anchoring and reporting at ABC 7.