It's time for a quick quiz. Name the current broadcast network sportscasting duo that has been together the longest.
The answer? Fox's Pat Summerall and John Madden, who have been teamed for 18 years now.
OK, here's a little tougher one. Who's in second?
Time's up, and the answer might surprise you. It's CBS' college basketball team of Jim Nantz and Billy Packer, who will call their ninth Final Four together this weekend from St. Petersburg, Fla.
In Nantz's mind, the secret of their longevity is in the listening.
"If you're sitting at home, you think, `Hey, these are two guys who love the sport, love the game and love each other's company.' It's fun," said Nantz.
Said Packer: "You have to have somebody that you respect for his knowledge of what you're doing, and then you have to have somebody that you enjoy spending time with. Jim's not only a personal friend, but he's someone that I have respect for in terms of his professionalism as a sportscaster and his passion and love for the game."
The two of them are not only walking tournament history books, filled with tons of seemingly useless bracket data, but they are separately pieces of tournament broadcasting history.
Nantz, according to CBS research, has called more Final Four and championship game play-by-play than any other announcer in history, and he hasn't even reached 40 yet.
Packer, meanwhile, will call his 25th Final Four this weekend -- his 18th with CBS alone -- a mark that Nantz likens, in its own context, mind you, to Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak or Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak.
"Nobody will ever touch it. Forget about it," said Nantz. "In the ever-changing environment of network television and its rights, no one's ever going to be able to be at the right network at the right time to extend the streak. And it will keep on going."
Said CBS producer Bob Dekas: "Not only is their chemistry great, but it's important to what we do every year. The Super Bowl rotates, the World Series rotates, but you always see the Final Four on CBS. People are comfortable with them and they're used to it."
CBS' Final Four presentation begins tomorrow at 4 p.m. (Channel 13) with a pre-game show, hosted by Greg Gumbel and Clark Kellogg, with Utah coach Rick Majerus on hand for comic relief. There'll be no Dean Smith because he provided too much unintentional comic relief last year.
The doubleheader begins with Connecticut meeting Ohio State at 5: 40 or so, then top-ranked Duke takes on Michigan State in the nightcap. The winners meet in Monday's title game at 9 p.m.
Local radio coverage will air on WBAL (1090 AM).
For its coverage of the women's Final Four, ESPN went out and grabbed former Stanford All-America guard Jennifer Azzi, who, in rather stark contrast with Nantz and Packer, had only a shampoo commercial on her broadcasting resume.
But while Azzi, who will share sideline reporting duties with former Baltimore sportscaster Pam Ward, is as surprised as anyone to be getting this chance, she says she's having a ball.
"I feel as though I'm right in the game. Even [the other day], I was thinking, `Do I take a nap?' I felt like I was getting ready for a basketball game. It's exciting and it reminds me of when I was in college," said Azzi.
The women's national semifinals undoubtedly lost some of their luster Monday night when three-time champion Tennessee was bounced from the field, but tonight's games, pitting Duke against Georgia in the opener and top-ranked Purdue against Louisiana Tech in the nightcap, should be entertaining.
Mike Patrick and Ann Meyers-Drysdale will call the action beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday's championship game airs at 9 p.m., following a 30-minute pre-game show.
Around the dial
WBAL Radio will send Jim Hunter and Fred Manfra to Havana on Sunday for coverage of the Orioles' meeting with a Cuban all-star team, with pre-game festivities getting under way at 11: 30 a.m. In addition, John Patti, the excellent news-side reporter, will be in Cuba throughout the weekend providing reports. ESPN has announced that it will carry the game, with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on the call.
For the vroom-vroom set, Fox Sports Net will open its coverage of the Indy Racing League circuit with Sunday's airing of the MCI WorldCom 200 from Phoenix. ABC commentator Jack Arute and Dave Calabro will work the race, alongside two-time Indy 500-winner Arie Luyendyk, who makes his debut as an analyst.
Pub Date: 3/26/99