From: The Boston Globe
By: Chad Finn
Dave O’Brien holds high-profile broadcasting gigs nationally (ESPN baseball and college basketball) and regionally (Red Sox play-by-play for NESN). But even by his usual busy standards, especially this time of year, the last week has been a whirlwind, one he says he will savor for a long time.
Last Friday, along with stalwart analyst Doris Burke and sideline reporter Kara Lawson, O’Brien called the Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s staggering overtime upset of UConn, winner of its previous 111 games, in the national semifinals. Two days later, the same trio had the call of South Carolina’s victory over Mississippi State in the somewhat anticlimactic national title game.
Then, without a day’s break, came baseball. O’Brien was co-master of ceremonies with Joe Castiglione for Monday’s Opening Day festivities at Fenway, the start of his second season with NESN and 11th overall on Red Sox broadcasts.
Mix in Game 2 Wednesday — Chris Sale’s highly anticipated Red Sox debut, which ended on a walkoff three-run homer by Sandy Leon in the 12th inning — and he’s had more memorable broadcasting moments in a week than many of his peers will have in months, if not longer.
“It’s been crazy, hectic, and an incredible amount of fun,’’ said O’Brien. “When you get to call games and moments that really matter to people, it’s incredibly fulfilling. I’m not going to forget this stretch any time soon.”
Mississippi State’s victory in the national semifinals over UConn, which came on guard Morgan William’s buzzer-beater in overtime, is a game no one, even the most casual of women’s college basketball fans, will forget any time soon.
“When you put it in perspective, [UConn’s winning streak of] 111 straight games, and then the finality of it ending on a buzzer-beater in overtime in the Final Four, from a broadcaster’s standpoint, you feel privileged to be there,’’ said O’Brien.
“And I’ll tell you, sometimes you get lucky. Everything on William’s shot lined up right in our line of vision. We could see her shot and the shot clock at the same time, and it was very evident that when it left her fingers that if it wasn’t blocked it was going to go down. I wasn’t looking for an official. I wasn’t looking for a review of the play. I knew it was good when it came off her fingers. It doesn’t always work out that way, where it’s all there in front of you.”
In the aftermath of the game, a video clip of an animated O’Brien calling the winning shot — he nearly bounded out of his seat as the shot went through — while Burke looked on with utter stoicism made the rounds on social media. It was a superb call nonetheless.
“We were all in lockstep with the call and how to handle an ending like that,’’ said O’Brien. “Call it, get out of the way, cap it, let history preserve it the way it is, and let people enjoy the moment. It’s a kind of a once-in-a-generation shot. When you’re working with Doris Burke and Kara Lawson, they don’t need to be told that that moment needs to be preserved. I think we were all very pleased with how it came out. But at the end of the day, a great player hit a great shot, and that’s what I’ll always remember.”
After Sunday night’s championship game, O’Brien immediately began pondering the change in seasons.
“The moment South Carolina clinched, and we left the air on Sunday night, I was only thinking about Opening Day,’’ he said. “I was thinking about green grass and sunshine — and it turned out to be true, at least for the opener — and I couldn’t wait. I could not wait. I had already switched off basketball mode and switched to baseball. I had done a couple of spring games with Jerry [Remy], but there’s nothing like the real thing back at Fenway.”
CBS Sports’s decision to make broadcasting novice Tony Romo the color analyst on its No. 1 NFL team is a fascinating risk. The former Cowboys quarterback is charismatic and articulate, but he’s going to be learning on the fly how difficult it is to condense attempts at insight to 10-15-second snippets between the play-by-play. Former players who make the transition to the booth to a man acknowledge how surprised they initially are by how quickly the game moves during a broadcast.
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said he recognizes that such a high-profile starting point for Romo is unusual but has faith in his learning curve and work ethic.
“People have said to us, ‘Boy, you’re taking a guy that’s coming right from the field into a position as a lead analyst, isn’t that a risk?’ ” McManus said. “Well, I think it’s a very manageable risk, to be honest with you. I think Tony will be having all sorts of work this summer, whether it’s doing practice games, whether it’s doing preseason games, whether it’s sitting down and looking at film and tape of other analysts and the kind of job that they do. It’s going to be a full-time job for Tony . . . But I think when he goes to the booth he’ll be ready . . . If we didn’t have the faith in Tony, if we didn’t have the faith that he could be an outstanding analyst, we wouldn’t be taking this risk.”
Romo replaces Phil Simms, who has been with CBS since 1998 and whose status remains uncertain. Simms’s in-game analysis had clearly slipped in recent years, and he became something of an Internet punch line, with certain social-media accounts dedicated to his bouts with incoherence. It shouldn’t be forgotten that he was a terrific analyst once. And I must admit that even within the duties and obligations of the role of media columnist I’ve grown reluctant in recent years to criticize aging ex-football players when their faculties aren’t as sharp as they were in their youth. I hope CBS finds a satisfying role for him.