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Bryant Gumbel: David Stern Is Eager to be Viewed as a ‘Plantation Overseer’

Bryant Gumbel received attention five years ago when he suggested NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had players association leader Gene Upshaw on a leash. Now he’s going after another leader in a sports labor debate: NBA commissioner David Stern.

In his closing monologue on HBO Real Sports Tuesday, Gumbel charged Stern with holding up progress in NBA labor talks. He also said Stern views himself as a plantation owner who presides over the players like they’re hired help.

Here is his entire monologue, as transcribed by Ben Golliver at Eye on Basketball (with video below).

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How to Improve Sports Broadcasts

It’s so simple, so basic, so easy, I can’t believe it’s never come up before. I can’t believe I never before thought of this. I can’t believe no companies have actually done it! How many times have you had to press the mute button on your TV because a play-by-play guy or analyst was ruining the game for you? How many times did you wish a mild case of food poisoning would send one of the broadcasters into the bathroom for the duration of the event? I know it’s happened with me, I know it’s happened with many friends, and I certainly know there’s an entire website based on this dream, and one based on their blunders. So check it: how awesome would it be if networks allowed you the option to choose your audio feed for a game, giving you the ability to mute the play-by-play guy, the analyst, the crowd noise, whatever you want.

Imagine a world in which ESPN gave you the ability as a viewer to mute Joe Morgan on Sunday nights and just let the soothing sounds of Jon Miller tell the story. How happy would you be to hear him say, “and what do you think about that, Joe?” only to hear silence. I know that would put a smile on my face. Can’t stand homer calls by guys like Rex Hudler? Select just the Steve Physioc audio. Had enough of Bryant Gumbel botching names? Cut him out. Sick of Billy Packer pronouncing games over before halftime? No more! I might not be an audio engineer, but I know all the different audio sources are fed into the same audio mixer — the broadcasters, the crowd sound, etc. Now if they separated each of them and then allowed the viewer to choose his/her own feed of choice, how money would that be?

I know it can be done — and networks are always looking for new ways to get their audience to be interactive, so this would be perfect. They could even market a new gadget or something and get people buying special sound systems that allow this option. Whatever. I just know that sports fans across the country would be clamoring for the opportunity to hit the mute on Morgan or Madden or even Gumbel. How awesome would that be?

Finally a Reason to Switch to Directv

Bryant Gumbel NFL NetworkI could have come up with something really solid, you know, something about Directv offering top-notch sports programming or a wider variety of HD channels. Sure, that would be true and all, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough of a reason to switch to Directv from your typical cable company. Alas, for all of you who have resisted the movement, myself included, you now have an outstanding reason to switch to the dish: Bryant Gumbel is out from NFL Network. From the press release:

Bryant Gumbel has decided to give up his duties as the play-by-play voice for the NFL Network’s eight-game package of NFL games, NFL Network announced today. Gumbel served as the play-by-play announcer for NFL Network’s Thursday and Saturday Night Football games for the past two seasons.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to call NFL Network games the past two years, which was a new experience for me,” said Gumbel. “But we’ve agreed that we’d all be better served going in different directions. There are a lot of talented people at NFL Network. I thank them, I wish them well, and I have no doubt that they will be very successful going forward.”

I just want to ask what took so long. Man, I really thought that you had to put in actual effort to be that bad at play-by-play. I mean Gumball was awful, AWFUL, horrible. He single-handedly ruined games — or made them must-listen TV, depending on your viewpoint. The guy butchered names, got strategy wrong — he was just utterly clueless in the booth. Your typical fan could have done better — and that’s not even a stretch. So like I said, for all you contemplating making the switch, add this news to the “pro” section when you’re weighing your decision.