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A White Sox Fan Discusses Hawk Harrelson
2006-09-04 07:12
by Scott Long

If you haven't noticed, the Toaster's Catfish Stew has added a new writer, Phillip Michaels. I've really enjoyed his new voice here. Considering how many A's blogs there are it can't be easy to come up with a unique spin on the team, but Ken and Phillip have completely cornered the market on the quirky, intellectual take on the A's. Recently, Phillip discussed how he likes the Red Sox broadcasts and took the standard "White Sox TV broadcast is the worst on the planet" view. As a White Sox fan, I thought I would offer up my thoughts on Hawk Harrelson.

I will be the first to admit that Hawk must seem insufferable to a fan of another team, as he has a style like a college football announcer, with a lot of "we" this and the other team seen as "badguys". I know it lacks the dignity that the generic broadcaster types have and if you like a dry, matter of fact broadcast, it must seem like torture to hear Harrelson. Here's what I actually like about the White Sox telecast.

1.) The best thing that Harrelson does is that he has some passion and attitude in what he says. He's not afraid to rip a player, as he knows that the front office will allow it. So many of these company men who broadcast games are afraid to say anything negative. Just ask Steve Stone about how being an opinionated analyst can be for your broadcasting career.

2.) If you like to hear stories about players from the 60's and 70's, Harrelson is your broadcasting guy, as he tells some great tales about different teammates and opponents he faced during his very colorful career. This is one thing that the ex-jock should bring to the booth, but very few do. When he discusses George Brett, it seems like he gets sexually stimulated, as he is completely enrapture with the former Royal. Did you know that his favorite pitcher of all-time is Catfish Hunter? Yes, Phillip and Ken, the man who inspired your site's name is the former player that Harrelson brings up the most.

3.) One of my favorite things about baseball's past was that so many players had nicknames. This seems to have fallen by the wayside, but if you are an everyday player with the White Sox, there is a decent chance that you might have been dubbed a name by Hawk. No other profession lends itself to nicknames more than baseball and I like anyone who tries to keep this part of the game's lore alive.

4.) I realize that a lot of people think a broadcaster should just stick to telling what is on the field, but I like that Harrelson is willing to use his mic as a bully pulpit. The past few seasons he has had a feud with Jay Mariotti, which has brought some dark energy to the booth. Yeah, I know many think that a broadcasting booth is some kind of holy shrine where only the game on the field should be discussed. I'm not that guy.

5.) I love the "put it on the board, yes." I'm sure it has to do with being a White Sox fan, but this to me is the best homerun call in baseball, as it is unique and has an excitement level that expresses how you feel when it leaves the park when hit by your team.

Now I'm not for a minute going to pretend that Harrelson isn't pompous. He's off-based on many of his thoughts about sabermetrics. Truth be told that if I had a choice between listening to the White Sox TV or radio broadcasts, I would always choose the radio, as Ed Farmer is the best in the biz.

I defend Harrelson in some ways, as I think the new breed of broadcaster has become a stooge for the corporate ownership, sucking the life out of the game. The days of big personalities in the booth I'm afraid has been lost. Hawk Harrelson has many flaws and can be frustrating to listen to, but I choose him over at least half of the snore-inducing broadcasters who have taken over baseball booth.

(INTERNAL DIALOGUE: First you rip Bob Dylan and now you somewhat defend Hawk Harrelson. Jesus Scott, are you trying to kill any credibility you have all in one week?)

2006-09-04 09:07:19
1.   Ravenscar
There's almost no response to this, only because it doesn't address his skill as an announcer at all, only your colloquial and anecdotal affections for his various talking points and style. Which, um, yeah, to my ears (only the few times I've heard him) are unbelievably annoying. He's not really an announcer, more of a mouthpiece

Also, the inferred assumption of "IF you don't like Hawk, you don't like opinionated, story-telling, old-school announcers and prefer to listen to quiet sabermetric milquetoast bores in your booth. I mean, hey, that's ok for SOME people, if you like that kind of thing" is kind of unfair and illogical. I love Ralph Kiner.

Basically, I think more people would like Hawk if he were a better announcer and slightly less of the guy who who was a dick to you until he found out your sister was hot and then tried to impress you but still sounded like a moron.

2006-09-04 09:24:34
2.   scareduck
There are only a small, small number of broadcasters worse than Harrelson in the majors; the Pirates team might be it, though the pre-Chip Caray Braves with their somnambulistic announcers could vie for that title. But the Hawk is simply insufferable; not only is he an unabashed homer, the games he calls has long, uncomfortable silences, and he talks over places where he should keep his mouth shut. My big problem with him, therefore, is that he has absolutely no comprehension of the flow of baseball. As you say, he is a football commentator calling a baseball game, and it absolutely shows.

After Vin Scully, everything else is second-rate, or in Harrelson's case, fifth-rate. I would rather listen to Giants' broadcaster Jon Miller, and this coming from a Dodgers fan!

2006-09-04 10:07:01
3.   Vishal
isn't harrelson the guy who says "he gone"?

that makes me seriously want to smack him upside the head.

2006-09-04 11:31:23
4.   Bob Timmermann
I don't mind the home run call. I don't like him yelling things "Get down!" or "Stretch!" I'd rather have him describe the play instead of rooting. Or perhaps just not say anything.
2006-09-04 12:34:43
5.   Chuck R
I'm a Sox fan who cannot stand Harrelson - I mostly listen to the radio or watch TV with the sound off (or just go to the damn game). But I hasten to add that the Harrelson/Paciorek combo from a few years back wasn't the 'fingernails on chalkboard' experience that the current Darrin Jackson/Harrelson combination is. Everything about DJ's style - intonation, inflection, demeanor - sounds to me like a pale imitation of Harrelson.

The radio side of things, in comparison, was the best in the business in recent years with John Rooney and Ed Farmer. Rooney has headed to the Cardinals and Farmer is now paired with the uninspiring Chris Singleton who isn't horrible but isn't good yet either. Rooney and Farmer during last years' championship run was an immense pleasure.

2006-09-04 20:42:44
6.   Philip Michaels
Well, as the guy whose offhand comment inspired this post...

I don't think I said the White Sox TV broadcast is the worst on the planet -- that honor goes to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim under the complicated "Two Nincompoops Are Worse Than One" equation I favor. However, I cop to not liking Hawk Harrelson. The reasons are not because of the blatant homerism, the cutesy-poo nicknames or any one of the number of other ways Hawk offends my ear. Rather, I can boil it down to two relevant points:

1. Rather than describing the action on field, Harrelson cheers or bemoans it. This would be fine, if he were sitting in the bleachers instead of the press box, but since his job as a play-by-play man is to describe the action, this approach proves to be problematic.

I was watching a White Sox game once -- the details of which have faded with time -- in which a White Sox player clubbed an extra-base hit that plated a runner at a critical point in the game. Harrelson's call, and I'm paraphrasing here, was something along the lines of, "Eeeeeyeeah... run! Run! Run! All right!"

As a man with no dog in that particular hunt, I found that play-by-play description less than illuminating.

2. Instead of putting the game front-and-center, Harrelson behaves as if he's the whole reason people were tuning in. I am watching the game because I am interested in the White Sox and their opponent -- not in whatever thoughts are passing through Hawk's wine-dark mind.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

2006-09-04 21:42:00
7.   Scott Long
First, let me thank you for the inspiration, Phillip.

I guess I took it the way I did because Harrelson is seen by so many as the anti-christ of broadcasters. I think the opinions stated here and at other places cement this point of view. I like to defend people who are often unpopular to the majority. Maybe I should be a death-row attorney?

I'm sorry if I misstated what you were offering up. What more of an official welcome from thejuiceblog than to put you in some kind of hailstorm started by me. You have been initiated. Welcome from me.

2006-09-05 08:16:59
8.   kubsfan
as i cub fan i was spoiled for years with steve stone. the best and on the radio pat hughes. I can't even stomach to watch and listen to a sox game if i wanted to. you can be tuned into the channel and not hear any sound from announcers. Isnt their job to talk? And the one sided brodcast turns the baseball fan off. I think he holds alot of baseball fans back from watching the sox
2006-09-05 13:33:34
9.   Scott Long
Ok, I can buy some of this criticism, but when a cubs fan hits me with it, I have to respond. Ron Santo is the biggest homer I have ever heard in my time on this earth. I actually like listening to him because he cracks me up. I also once met him in the pressbox in wrigley field and he was the same great guy in person. having said all this, he is a total and complete homer. C'mon now.
2006-09-07 15:17:07
10.   Eric R
I'm a Cubs fan as well, but I absolutely disagree about Hawk and DJ not doing enough talking. It's extremely refreshing to watch a game where the broadcasters are actually willing to shut up and let the game speak for itself once in a while. It's not radio, after all. Chip Carray used to drive me absolutely nuts when he was announcing for the Cubs because he felt like it was his job to make sure that someone was talking EVERY SINGLE SECOND of the broadcast. I think all his mindless babbling made Stone sound that much better by comparison.

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