A letter to NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell:
Dear Jim Bell,
Please fire Tom Hammond.
I’m not expert on broadcasting or television production. Heck, the biggest race I’ve called is a 8:47 high school two mile. But when it comes to bad announcing, I’ve watched enough track on TV to heed the words of the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart – “I know it when I see it.”
Hammond is a veteran announcer known for his work calling Notre Dame football and Kentucky Derby races. He has also been NBC’s man for track and field since the 1991 Tokyo World Championships, but it’s clear he’s picked up little about the sport in over two decades announcing it. Not only does he constantly misidentify runners but Hammond has the knack of missing critical developments during a race and offers little to no accompanying observations to the analysis of his color commentators.
The men’s 100 meter final in London was a prime example of Hammond’s ineptitude. The 100 meters is track and field’s main event, the one race that even the most casual sports fan has their eyes glued on. Usain Bolt ran a brilliant race to retain his title as World’s Fastest Man, but Hammond’s call of the race was flat-out terrible. From the halfway point of the race on, Hammond doesn’t even describe the action in the race but instead fumbles his way through the names of top competitors. It wasn’t until the final 15 meters when Bolt had all but wrapped up the gold medal did Hammond even indicate the sport’s biggest star was in the lead. That’s simply unacceptable. (Watch the 100 meter race video here)
The issue at hand? Specialization. BBC announcers Steve Cram and Brendan Foster follow track and field year-around and thus are able to gather more information to use in their broadcasts. Ato Boldon and Dwight Stones are good as NBC’s color men for the same reason – track and field is their sole focus. Hammond, on the other hand, spends 11 months of the year studying up on 20-year-old defensive backs and three-year-old thoroughbreds.
NBC has an incessant need to feature their big name announcers in their Olympic broadcasts. Sometimes the result is okay, but in other instances it’s disastrous. There are people in television passionate about track and qualified to be primetime play-by-play announcers. Road running guru Toni Reavis and ESPN’s Mark Jones come to mind.
The need for change is critical. Track and field appears in the living rooms of American families once every four years. Rather than presenting a telecast that complements the amazing performances on the track, we set the sport back by featuring the voice of an man incompetent at calling the sport. I certainly hope Tom Hammond is not the voice of NBC track and field come Rio 2016.