Chances are, you may have heard the dulcet announcing tones of Ian Eagle (whose first name is pronounced akin to the word “iron” – and yes, that is his real name). Whether you heard him calling NFL games on CBS, or college basketball contests – particularly during the “March Madness” period – Eagle certainly has an announcing style that helps him, pardon the pun, fly high with the best of them.
But did you know that, to supplement his broadcasting career, Eagle has been calling New Jersey Nets games? Yes, as far back as 1994 on the radio, and exclusively on television starting in 1995, Eagle has been calling Nets games since the end of the Brendan Byrne Arena era, and throughout the entire dozen years that the team played at its later incarnation as Continental Airlines Arena. Currently, the Nets are biding time at Newark’s Prudential Center until construction of their new Brooklyn arena is completed.
With years of calling professional sports events under his belt, it is hard to fathom seasons upon seasons of games involving the underachieving Nets getting to Ian Eagle.
But working alongside Mike Fratello might be.
Saturday night on YES Network, Eagle sounded as if he was ready for “the Czar” to be overthrown. In the closing moments of a 94-82 loss in Newark against the division-clinching Boston Celtics, as guard Sundiata Gaines was shooting a pair of free throws, Eagle voiced his displeasure against Hackensack native Fratello, who sports a 667-548 record as a head coach for three different NBA teams, over his description of a “slip screen” earlier in the broadcast.
“Earlier, you had a very patronizing tone towards me,” Eagle told Fratello. “I fully understand what a slip screen is. I’ve been doing the NBA for eighteen years. But the way you presented it, initially, was gobbledygook. So, like the audience, I wanted you to come back and explain yourself. And you, then, just took a firing line on me, and it was uncalled for.”
“I don’t think so at all,” Fratello replied, trying to hold back laughter.
“That’s exactly what happened,” Eagle contends.
“You’re overly sensitive tonight,” said Fratello, to which a visibly angry Eagle shot back, “I am not.”
“Did you have a bad day today,” inquired Fratello. Eagle joked that it may have been because they’ve been working the “second game of a back-to-back” with the 76ers, a road game which the Nets actually won.
“The ride back from Philly,” Fratello asked Eagle, “did it disturb you last night?” Said Eagle of the ride: “That was two hours with you, which is probably the reason why I’ve had enough tonight.”
Eagle was not necessarily in a joking mood during that last statement. In fact, he sounded serious. It’s one thing if you’re working games for a team that did not qualify for the postseason since 2007. It’s another when you’re calling a majority of games in that stretch with the same color commentator. And as Deadspin’s Timothy Burke points out, Fratello, who also calls NBA games nationally on TNT, is “in his final season doing games for the Nets.” Like Burke, we’re expecting a good explanation from Eagle on what could be the most unprofessional moment of his broadcasting tenure.
Until then, we can only guess that Eagle really, really misses Mark Jackson.
Or the YES Network really, really misses Marv Albert. One of the two.