Kentucky Derby caller fails to keep his eye on longshot Bird

May 4th, 2009 by admin


NBC’s three-hour coverage of a two-minute race Saturday mostly went according to script.

But there were surprises. The biggest: NBC race caller Tom Durkin, who has called more than 60,000 races, seemed to be caught flatfooted by 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird’s stretch run.

Durkin didn’t call the eventual winner’s inside charge — which, on replays, showed the value of NBC’s overhead cameras — and made only his second mention of the horse when Mine That Bird had a three-length lead. He always mentions each horse early in the race.

NBC’s early coverage was predictably fluffy and generally served a promotional role for various NBC corporate cousins, like the TV chefs from NBC-owned Bravo kissing each other after their cooking contest. Nancy O’Dell, from NBC-owned AccessHollywood, found red-carpet interviews with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning a chance to mention the Giants — on NBC! — playing the first game at the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium before she looked at Manning’s leg to do some on-site reporting: “I’m going to see if your pants are as tight as they usually are.”

But an NBC interview with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, also to plug the game, turned newsy. It came soon after the team’s practice facility had been hit by a tornado.

Because many Derby viewers don’t otherwise follow the sport, NBC offered the usual up-close-and-personals featuring unusual stories, such as a retired high school principal who owned a Derby entrant, or the sport’s higher-profile personalities, such as trainer Bob Baffert. Baffert recounted how he’d explained the Derby to Michael Phelps: “Imagine if you took the dividers out, and took the best 20 swimmers — down and back.”

And while viewers got the annual close-ups of odd and giant Derby hats on female fans, NBC touched on some down-to-earth issues. NBC’s Tom Hammond noted Derby horses get drugs that “enable them to run when they shouldn’t be running” when “the rest of the world basically runs on hay, oats and water and nothing else.”

Another surprise was the absence of NBC analyst Bob Neumeier. He collapsed Friday during Bravo’s coverage of the Kentucky Oaks, and was hospitalized overnight before being released Saturday with tests finding he’d been dehydrated. NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, says the Daily Racing Form, noted to Neumeier on Saturday that it was 70 years ago to the day that Lou Gehrig took himself out of the New York Yankees lineup. But Neumeier is expected back for NBC’s Preakness coverage May 16.

Pulled from: USA Today

One Response

  1. Dale

    If you want to listen to the best announcer ever you should go to you tube and check out the little brown jug. Roger Houston announces in Pa. all year. Then he announces the ohio state fair races for a week. He announces so many races in a week that he has to take some races off. He can make a 2 harse race sound like there is 6 in it. I would love if you would play one, because he is ten times better than any thourobred anouncer ever thought of being. Thanks Dale

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