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I don't have the opportunity to listen to local radio broadcasting teams all over the National Football League.

But I'd guess that the current radio team broadcasting the Phoenix Cardinals games over KTAR-AM comes close to ranking as the league's worst.

First of all, they are an absurd trio of homers. When they begin braying at referees as they did last Sunday during the 49ers game, they come off as a pack of ignorant wowsers.

The play in question was a pass from Cards' quarterback Chris Chandler to wide receiver Anthony Edwards.

Edwards caught the ball while flat on his stomach with his arms outstretched over the sideline.

"Oh, that's a catch," screamed Tom Dillon, the lead play-by-play man.
"I don't believe that call," said John Mistler, the color man and football expert.

"No question about it," piped up Todd Walsh, the third man in the booth.
After the next play, Dillon erupted again.
"This is ridiculous," shouted Dillon. "That's side judge Tom Fincken making still another bad call."
There is no reason for all this. The easiest thing in the world is for an announcer to blame the referees. It would be much more instructive, but might be a little more risky, if they blamed the players for inept performance or the coaches for poor strategy.

Since this team has already lost six games this season, one might assume there is plenty of blame to go around. However, a home announcer who criticizes his team is quickly in danger of losing his job. If you depended on Dillon, Mistler and Walsh and had no other source of information, you might think the Cardinals have lost six games only because of bad calls made against them by the officials.

When the Cardinals were still playing in St. Louis, their games were broadcast by Jack Buck, one of the best in the business. Now it's amateur hour every Sunday in the radio booth. Buck didn't pillory them. No one is asking for that. But in a city this size, we should expect a first-rate broadcasting team.

Walsh is the third man in the booth. I don't know why he's necessary. His role is undefined. He gets in the way. He is a busybody who keeps talking over the other two, filling the air with nonsense. Walsh apparently fancies himself as something of a humorist and world traveler.

I have no knowledge of Walsh's sports background. But here's a sample of what he seems to think is intelligent commentary.

Late in the second half, Walsh said of the 49ers:
"You get the impression they will go back to the Bay Area to evaluate their situation."
What kind of gobbledygook is that?
Another time Walsh actually said: "I was talking to a reporter in California and he told me. . . ."

Are we supposed to be impressed that Walsh made a trip to California? And who is the authority he is attempting to quote?

Mistler is the KTAR football expert. He played wide receiver for Arizona State and the New York Giants. But I wonder how many times it is going to be necessary for Mistler to remind us that he played football?

The thing that makes men who played the game stand out in the booth is the fact that they truly understand the game.

After hearing Mistler's comments for half a season, I'm convinced the only part of the game he understands is the limited area of the wide receiver. A couple of years ago, I was impressed by Dillon's work on the Arizona State games and his color work on the Cardinals' broadcasts.

But he has developed bad habits. Given the lead role in the booth, he may think he has to make the Cardinals look better than they are.

Several times on Sunday he flew into a high state of excitement over tackles made by Cardinal players. He described them as the best and hardest he has ever seen. It was pure exaggeration and hype. In actuality the tackles were quite ordinary.

You can't tell these things merely by listening to the games on the radio. But Sunday I both listened to the game and watched from the press box.

We have a strange situation here. One Cardinal game is being played on the field, but it's a totally different one that this trio is reporting into your living room. Too bad. On this past Sunday, at least, the Cardinals needed no help from their allies in the radio booth to look good.

For once the Cardinals were plenty good enough on their own.

 
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