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Fox trio of announcers paving way to top spot

By JOHN COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002

With all the attention this offseason focused on John Madden's exodus to Monday Night Football and Pat Summerall's decreased role with Fox, the team of Joe Buck, Cris Collinsworth and Troy Aikman has gone quietly about the business of replacing announcing legends.

Not nearly as folksy and familiar to viewers but so far unquestionably smoother, the trio has assumed the title of the No. 1 team at Fox. Buck, one of television's most promising new stars, and neophyte Aikman have worked well with the outspoken Collinsworth in the preseason. They admit a daunting task awaits -- "I think we as a group are replacing the best tandem to ever do it," Buck said -- but don't be surprised by a seamless transition.

The team will make its debut Sunday on the St. Louis-Denver game, though local viewers won't see it because Tampa Bay-New Orleans is also on at 4:15 p.m., with Kenny Albert and Tim Green calling it.

Buck and Co. will call the biggest NFC games each week. The best thing about Summerall and Madden was their presence -- when the two came on, you knew you were watching the game that week.

The new crew will be better at calling a game but isn't likely to command that same presence. At least not right away.

"Look, I grew up listening to Pat Summerall and John Madden with football on Sundays," Buck said. "When they stepped foot in the booth and you heard those voices, you knew you were listening to a big game. And that's something the three of us have to be around long enough, and work together long enough, to achieve. That doesn't come in the first year or two even. Those guys were together 20 years plus, and it showed."

SCORECARDS: The NFL completes its kickoff Sunday, but you'll need a scorecard to remember exactly who is telling you what from where.

Here's the rundown:

Fox (Ch. 13, Sundays, noon-1 p.m.) -- The most entertaining pregame show in the business, Fox NFL Sunday, is back virtually intact, though former Dallas and Miami coach Jimmy Johnson will step in for Collinsworth at least three times this season.

Fox Sports Net (Sundays, 10:30-noon) -- The NFL This Morning becomes the NFL Show, with Michael Irvin and his fancy pants, Tony Siragusa, D'Marco Farr and former In Living Color star and comedian Tommy Davidson joining host Chris Myers. The show will expand to two hours starting Nov. 24, beginning at 10 a.m.

CBS (Ch. 10, Sundays, noon-1 p.m.) -- The pregame show, the NFL Today, brings in Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Deion Sanders and host Jim Nantz, revamping last year's show. Stealing a page from ESPN's interactive style, CBS will add a 20-yard football field to its outdoor set to demonstrate plays. Marcus Allen, Jill Arrington, Lesley Visser and Mike Ditka will contribute.

HBO (Thursdays, 8 p.m. and midnight; Fridays at 7 p.m.) -- Inside the NFL sent its longtime crew of Nick Buoniconti and Len Dawson packing and replaced them with Bob Costas, former Minnesota receiver Cris Carter and Collinsworth, with Sports Illustrated's Peter King serving as a reporter.

ESPN (Sundays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.) -- The most informative pregame show, Sunday NFL Countdown, and its X's and O's approach adds former coach Bill Parcells to a mix that includes Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Steve Young and Chris Mortensen. Madden also will make appearances via satellite.

Monday Night Countdown host Mike Tirico will be doing NBA play-by-play, and unfortunately has been replaced by Stuart Scott, whose too-cool and fawning-over-athletes act has worn thin.

ABC (Ch. 28, Mondays, 9 p.m.) -- Have you heard? Madden is in; Dennis Miller, Dan Fouts and Eric Dickerson are out.

Radio -- Marv Albert and Esiason will do Monday Night Football for Westwood One/CBS Radio.

GRUDEN INTERVIEW: Channel 13 will air a 30-minute interview by sports director Chip Carter with Bucs coach Jon Gruden at 11 tonight.

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