Bally Sports North Making Huge Mistake on Dave Benz

Photo: Dave Benz - via Pioneer Press

On Thursday morning, Dave Benz sent out a tweet that made it official. He will not be returning next season as the play-by-play announcer for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Bally Sports North.

Bally Sports Pulls Plug on Benz

This is some of the most shocking broadcasting news I could have run into this morning. Was it Dave’s decision to step down? What else could cause such a move by an already hated local sports broadcasting network? Nope. Bally Sports North, according to an interview that Benz did with The Athletic, did not contact him to negotiate a new contract.

Bally Sports North has decided not to pick up the option for television play-by-play announcer Dave Benz, ending a 10-year relationship in which Benz and color analyst Jim Petersen formed a television tandem that was widely respected among fans, media and league observers. The decision by Bally, which came with the support of the Timberwolves, came as a stunner to Benz, who told The Athletic that he was “heartbroken” when informed of the news on Wednesday morning.

Benz was notified by BSN officials early Wednesday morning. He said he had started to wonder about his situation when the company delayed discussions about picking up his contract as the Timberwolves season came down the stretch. It was customary for Benz to receive notice that he was returning in the early spring. But when that word didn’t come this season, he chalked it up to the hectic atmosphere created by a playoff run for the team and figured it would be addressed as soon as the season ended.

Jon Krawczynski – The Athletic

This Makes No Sense

Not renewing a contract, in this case, is no different than a termination. Firing Dave Benz doesn’t make any sense. Local broadcasts in every major sport often search decades trying to find the type of entertainment that Benz and Jim Peterson offered to Minnesota Timberwolves fans on a night-in, night out basis.

The only time you see great local talent taken away or broken up is when they get national offers they can’t turn down. See Kevin Harlan and Gus Johnson, who both called Wolves play-by-play in the 1990’s, before hitting the national scene and becoming widely-known playcalling treasures.

The more I think about this decision by BSN, the less sense it makes. The network never went to Benz to discuss a new contract so we don’t know if this was a money decision, or not. But if looking to cut costs, your talented and well-liked play-by-play announcer isn’t the place to turn.

Cut Costs Elsewhere

Think about it, ABC/ESPN, CBS and FOX all pay $10’s of millions per year for their broadcast talent. ABC/ESPN, who has been laying employees off for the last 5 years and cutting costs in all possible areas, just ripped Joe Buck away from FOX for $75 million over 5 years. That’s because they know that keeping viewers happy is what makes money.

Benz has been calling Wolves games for ten years, suffering through all of the horrible basketball we’ve been forced to watch during that time. Now, right after they become a playoff team with a bright future, they send him packing. If the first excerpt from The Athletic’s piece on the divorce didn’t make it obvious enough, this was not something Dave Benz wanted or expected. Clearly, this was Bally Sports North cutting ties.

“It’s very disheartening and very sad because I’ve grown to love my time with the team and the players and the coaches, the people in the front office, the people on the Bally side,” Benz said in a telephone conversation. “Everybody’s been fantastic. Today has really been a gut-wrenching day for me to say the least. It definitely was not something I saw coming.”

Jon Krawczynski – The Athletic

Replacement for Benz?

So if Bally Sports North is letting someone like Dave Benz go, they must have an even better headliner coming in to replace him, right? Are the aforementioned Kevin Harlan or Gus Johnson returning? No. According to The Athletic, Bally Sports is expected to start a nationwide search to replace Benz and it’s expected to be a long and drawn out process.

At some point, between their issues with getting Minnesota sports teams into homes across the state, and firing their best broadcast talent, you have to ask yourself who in the fuck is making decisions for Bally Sports, when it comes to their local broadcasts?

I’m not in the minority on my appreciation for Dave Benz. Timberwolves fans and media are hurting all over the internet this morning. A petition to bring him back has even been started. Find it HERE, if interested.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan