His enthusiasm and uncanny predictions have brought criticism from old-school fans.
There was little doubt that former Dallas Cowboys quarterback would be a congenial and charming presence in the broadcasting booth for CBS, but few would have predicted the phenomenon and controversy that he’s brought with his enthusiastic style and amazing ability to predict plays as they’re developing before the snap.
Just a month into his new gig as an NFL announcer, Romo has impressed fans with his ability to read defenses and offenses, calling out the action before it happens based on formations, situational analyses, and player movement with disarming frequency.
When asked by his booth partner Jim Nantz about his talents during their first regular season game together, Romo simply explained, “I’ve seen football in the NFL for 14 years.”
However, his willingness to jump in with analysis and prognostications hasn’t endeared everyone to his game-calling style, especially those in the old guard of broadcasting who believe that the color commentator (Romo’s role in the booth) shouldn’t “step” on the work of his play-by-play partner Nantz. Veteran broadcaster Brent Musburger who thinks Romo’s schtick detracts from the overall experience for viewers at home.
Musburger, unimpressed by Romo’s ability to “predict the future,” chastised the young commentator, stating:
“Tony, get off it. First of all, you’re intruding on your play-by-play man Jim Nantz, who’s just trying to give us the scene … and the more years you spend away from the league, you’re going to know less and less about the personnel that’s out on the field. So I’m blowing a ‘stop the hype’ right now.”
Another veteran TV personality, studio host Shannon Sharpe, thinks that while Romo’s skills may be impressive, pulling back the curtain on plays before they happen will ultimately spoil the action for fans.
Speaking to USA Today’s FTW, Max Negin, an associate professor of broadcasting at Eton University, thinks that, while impressive, Romo’s unorthodox approach ruins the traditional conversation between a color commentator and play-by-play man. “My first reaction is he’s kind of doing it wrong,” he said. “He’s talking over his play-by-play guy; he’s shouting out things during the broadcast. Someone who looks at traditional sports broadcasting would look at that and shake his head like, ‘What is he doing?’”
Just four games into the NFL’s regular season (and four “trial” preseason games that were called by the duo but not broadcast), Romo’s personal style and rapport with booth partner Jim Nantz is far from set in stone. Despite his Nostradamus-like approach to calling out plays, it’s possible that Romo’s unbridled excitement could get him in trouble with a controversial or questionable utterance at any moment. Further, time will tell if the novelty of this departure in style will prove durable for fans who have for so long relied on a more traditional back and forth that relies on the broadcasting duo taking turns.
To that end, it seems as though Nantz is adapting his style of playcalling to accommodate Tony’s insights prior to the play, prompting the young broadcaster to speak up as the snap nears:
It may not be familiar, but most fans appear to be enjoying a fresh approach to the well-worn broadcasting formula. With over a dozen games per week, fans will always have the option to fall back into old habits with other announcers. But if they’ve been looking for something new from an NFL broadcast, it appears they’ve found it with Tony Romo.