One of the best parts of having a favorite sports team is becoming intimately familiar with the men and women behind the microphones. In basketball, these people literally call the shots, so it seems like a worthwhile idea to get to know them. After watching all 31 games of the Mavericks’ season so far, all but one featuring the local announcing crew, I think I have a pretty good idea what MFFLs are subjected to every night. What follows are my observations on each team member and some biographical facts you were probably too lazy to look up for yourself.
Despite the fact that I somehow just typed his name in as “Mkar Followill,” the Mavs lead broadcaster actually has a much more common first name I’ve since corrected it to, and he has worked as the team’s TV play-by-play man since the 2005-06 season. The 44-year-old Followill is very capable, and he does a nice job mixing in useful statistics with his commentary. Even better, he really seems to love what he does, and considering he’s a Dallas native, it probably isn’t hard for him to root for the home team.
Followill may be just a handful of years from 50, but he could pass for 30 with that baby face of his, even taking into consideration the fact that it’s covered by a beard. I can really appreciate the surprisingly deep voice that somehow emanates from that tiny frame of his, especially when something on the court surprises or excites him. I laughed for the better part of a minute when Dwight Powell launched a rare three-pointer early in the season and Followill’s call reflected just how unusual it was: “Dwight Powell for three!” Mark does fine work as the face of the team’s broadcasts, and he has a perfect name for accruing a large Twitter, ahem, following.
Every long-time Mavericks fan knew all about Derek Harper long before he entered the broadcast booth as the color commentator, a job he’s now held for nearly five seasons. As far as color analysts go, I’ve heard a lot worse, although Harper does tend to get a little repetitive from time to time. I’d like to hear color commentary from a more tactical mind, someone who can break down plays and explain the X’s and O’s in a way former players typically do not, but again, I like Derek, and he works well with Mark Followill.
I’ve been meaning to start a running tally of how many consecutive broadcasts Harper has used the word “over-zealous” to describe a player’s on-court actions (typically when committing a foul), but trust me when I say it happens just about every game. Rather than being annoying, however, it comes across as charming. As a broadcaster, Derek’s pretty average, but he’s a welcome sight to Mavericks fans, and he seems like a good-natured guy. If I came across him on some Dallas street, I wouldn’t hesitate to pump his hand eagerly — and probably try to sneak in a hug.
Jeff “Skin” Wade
Without getting too inflammatory here, let’s just say that I haven’t quite decided if Jeff Wade is a silly guy who would be fun to hang out with or if he’s a complete douche who would be one of those friends whose texts always get ignored. On the one hand, he has a creepy nickname that I don’t know the origin of, he has an outdated chin goatee, and he’s constantly making attempts to appeal to the youthful viewers with edgy comments and risque jokes. On the other hand, sometimes he actually is funny, and it’s obvious he really does have a legitimate background in basketball.
In any case, Wade has been employed as a Mavs broadcaster since the 2008-09 season, so he’s pretty entrenched at this point. He serves more as a roving announcer and seems to only appear on home game telecasts, which is fortunate, because I can only take him in small doses. I did tweet at him that time he shoved a burger in his mouth and got a Mavericks dancer to wipe the sauce off of his face before a broadcast, but he must have been too busy making awkward innuendos and bragging about his pick-up game skills to reply.
A Fox Sports Southwest anchor and reporter, Dana Larson is responsible for hosting the pregame and postgame show from the studio. I don’t actually get Fox Sports Southwest in my region, so that means I mostly only see Dana in short bursts as the station pimps out its after-game broadcasting activities.
From what little I have seen of Ms. Larson, she really likes to play with her pen while speaking, something I presume to be a nervous habit. I keep waiting for Eduardo Najera to take a break from offering his endless, vacant smile and angrily swat it away from her.
A recent addition to the Mavericks broadcast crew, Najera spent parts of five seasons with the team as a player and briefly coached the organization’s D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends, upon retiring. Najera only appears on the pregame and postgame show alongside Dana, and again, since I’m not based in Dallas and can’t really watch much of that, I’m not especially familiar with him. What I can tell you is that he could stand to improve upon everything apart from his friendly smile, which seems very genuine and well-meaning, and perhaps a little desperate, as if his eyes are screaming for someone to please rescue him from this studio job he was forced into at gunpoint.
In one especially telling exchange, Dana Larson asked him what the difference had been in the Mavericks’ improved play, and Najera smiled brightly and answered, “The difference has been amazing.” That’s some fine analysis there, Eddie. She was asking what had made the difference, not for a quantifiable measurement of how different the performance had been.