Jan. 13—For years, Tom McCarthy has been alerting Phillies fans to bullpen calls.
Last Sunday, he responded to one.
McCarthy, the Phillies’ main television play-by-play announcer since 2009, was tasked with calling a college basketball game in San Diego last weekend. But when Jim Nantz went into COVID-19 protocol and couldn’t travel, the CBS honchos called up McCarthy to join their NFL’s No. 1 team and work the Carolina Panthers-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game at the alongside analyst Tony Romo.
Even for a veteran of a few thousand MLB, NFL, and college basketball broadcasts on TV and radio, it was a pinch moment to gain national exposure and be seen and heard by an audience. wider than ever.
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“I’m touched by any opportunity I have to have this kind of platform,” McCarthy said by phone this week. “But I really tried to get into this thinking, ‘How can I make Tony comfortable? How do I make the people leading this team, who are incredibly talented, feel comfortable? My biggest goal was just to fit in and not disrupt what they did for all the weeks they made those games.”
After keeping Nantz’s seat warm, McCarthy will return to Tampa on Sunday and team up with Ron Jaworski for the first time in his career for the national Westwood One radio call of the Eagles-Bucs playoff game. (Philadelphia Market fans will hear from Eagles announcers Merrill Reese and Mike Quick, as usual.)
“Any time you get Tom Brady but you pair that with a game against the Eagles, that’s a really cool opportunity for all of us,” McCarthy said. “I’m excited to work with Jaws because he’s so good at what he does. It’s going to be awesome.”
First, though, everyone wants to know how to share a booth with Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback whose laid-back style, raw exuberance and uncanny knack for predicting plays before the snap has led to a rapid rise to analyst stardom in 2017 — and a sports-broadcasting-record $180 million 10-year contract with CBS in 2020.
McCarthy said he had met Romo before, but Romo had not worked with a player other than Nantz, except for a few pre-CBS practice sessions with Cowboys radio announcer Brad Sham. McCarthy has a handful of broadcast partners in a typical Phillies season, so four days notice was enough for him to get to grips (mostly via Zoom calls due to COVID-19 restrictions) with Romo, whom he hailed as ” extremely prepared”.
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“It’s really easy [to work with] because he’s a normal dude who loves the game,” said McCarthy, who worked with the No. 7 team in the CBS football pecking order this season. “His knowledge of the game is phenomenal. His recall is a bit like [John] Kruk’s recall, where he just remembers things that I could never remember.”
After watching Tampa Bay shake off a slow start to claim a 41-17 win in the Week 18 Finals, McCarthy believes the underdog Eagles have a chance to send Brady home early. But he also doubts the Bucs will lose until they at least face the top-seeded Packers, a game that would happen in an NFC Championship game in Green Bay.
“It’s a game of adjustments, and I just think Tom Brady has adapted to life during a football game better than anyone,” McCarthy said. “For me, that’s a huge plus for the Buccaneers.”
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Either way, McCarthy won’t take the opportunity to call another game for a national audience for granted. And after a solid relief appearance last week, he might even get another shot at the No. 1 pit one day.
“I’ve been really lucky on a million different fronts,” McCarthy said. “Even at 53, I was able to get a lot of [broadcasting] things I’ve never had before, and I’m extremely grateful for that. Everything that comes in the future comes in the future. If it’s not, it’s not. I totally agree with that.”
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