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Monday, April 15, 2013

Jeff Polman: I Like Hawk Harrelson. So Sue Me

And I like Ken Nordine’s “Bathtub”. So sue me.

What Hawk and his dryly funny and smart color man Steve Stone thankfully never do is turn their booth into a nightly, headache-inducing talk show. In my mind, there is no worse trend in the last 40-odd years of sports broadcasting than this. I believe ABC gave rise to the disease with Monday Night Football and spread it into Monday Night Baseball featuring the insufferable Howard Cosell. Now, it’s almost everywhere; stuff three people into the booth, and fill the “empty spaces” between the action—when viewers might otherwise be thinking for themselves and feeling suspense—with endless topical lectures and debates. ESPN broadcasters are the worst, often missing events on the field because they’re so busy pontificating.

I don’t always agree with Hawk. I believe these newfangled sabermetrics improve our knowledge and understanding of the game, and I like when a baseball broadcaster or analyst can refer to WHIP, OPS or VORP without making fun of them. But it’s far from the reason I tune in to a baseball telecast. I have all the Joe Sheehan, Jonah Keri, Rany Jazayerli, and Fangraphs I need daily on the Internet, and can read them between innings if I need to.

I want something different from a TV broadcaster. I want a good tour guide to entertain and educate me while I sit back and relax and enjoy the action.

When he goes nuts, I forgive him, because I go nuts sometimes, too. The important thing is that he’s focused on every crumb of action and lets a ball game breathe, and I wish more announcers would remember to do that.

Repoz Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:21 PM | 43 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: white sox

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   1. JJ1986 Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:42 PM (#4414611)
I want something different from a TV broadcaster. I want a good tour guide to entertain and educate me while I sit back and relax and enjoy the action.


Unless the other team scores a run, in which case the tour guide takes a break from doing his job to sit silently and pout.
   2. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:42 PM (#4414612)
Jeff Polman: Prepare to be served!
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:45 PM (#4414615)
When on earth does Harrelson educate? I mean, there are old school types who can I think, teach some of the nuances of the game. Joe Morgan when he is good, is good at this - explaining the dynamics of a clubhouse, how a hitter approaches a certain type of htiter. Even Harold Reynolds does a good job of this - explaining how a secondbaseman turns a DP, etc.

I don't listen to a lot of White Sox games admittely, but I have never had Harrelson educate me on anything baseball-related.
   4. Stevis Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:45 PM (#4414617)
And gods forbid the umps make a call that Hawk's little stegosaurus proto-brain can't understand. Then there will be a three-minute rant, in something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike English before sitting silently and pouting.
   5. Styles P. Deadball Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:49 PM (#4414628)
I don't listen to a lot of White Sox games admittely, but I have never had Harrelson educate me on anything baseball-related.


"I'll tell ya, the best dadgum fastball I ever saw was Sudden Sam McDowell when we were together in Cleveland.... Used to rub his throat with gin before every start."
   6. Drexl Spivey Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:50 PM (#4414631)
Repoz hung up a pinata. Let's bash it!
   7. Lassus Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:52 PM (#4414634)
I'm not a ChiSox fan, so it's pretty easy for me not to mind Harrelson, even while I know he's a dope as an announcer.
   8. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:52 PM (#4414635)
I like Hawk fine, because...I just do. It's irrational, it's indefensible, and I will have to answer for my fondness for Hawk on some future day of reckoning. What I find funniest about the Hawk's peccadilloes, even as a fan, is his unabashed fanboyism for the White Sox. Given that he never played a game for them, it comes from him working for the team (I assume...I wasn't around when he first signed on). And yeah, he GM'd for a year, but that should hardly endear him to the team or vice versa given how that all worked out for all parties involved. So basically, he's the ultimate fanboy homer in the broadcast booth because...he's paid to be. Which should make Hawk distastefully unsavory as a shill, and it does. But at the same time, I like Hawk Harrelson. I mean, it could be worse. I could be listening to a game called by Joe Buck
   9. Crosseyed and Painless Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:52 PM (#4414636)
If a "I like Hawk!" column isn't the height of baseball contrarianism, I'm not sure I want to know what is.
   10. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:53 PM (#4414637)
Also: I wonder if Hawk still keeps--as he called it--a "Filipino houseboy"
   11. chemdoc Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:54 PM (#4414645)
The lawsuit would be pointless, as Polman could easily offer the defense that his condition is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
   12. Benji Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:59 PM (#4414657)
I like "He Gone", but otherwise Hawk is very annoying. But when you are subjected to NY team broadcasts you get tortured too. Keith Hernandez, who I loved as a player, is coming close to mute button territory. Not just his pet phrases "rib eye steaks" and "poor fundies" but his constant carping and admonisments for "you kids out there" to play the way he says to play. Cohen and Darling seem to think his every word is gold, but I'm happy when he doesn't do the games.
   13. Gaylord Perry the Platypus (oi!) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:03 PM (#4414667)
I think I'd be willing to trade Chip Caray straight up for Hawk.

If nothing else, Hawk is unlikely to last as long as Chip.
   14. The Kentucky Gentleman, Mark Edward Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:57 PM (#4414772)
I don't love Hawk, but I like him better than most here (probably because I'm a Sox fan); he's basically been the TV voice of the Sox for my entire life, and not many baseball fans can say that. I would've loved to hear him call the last out of the 2005 World Series, just as I would've loved to hear Pat Foley call the final goal of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.

Actually, Rooney's radio call in '05 & Weideman's '10 radio call were pretty great too.
   15. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:31 PM (#4414810)
I like Hawk fine, because...I just do. It's irrational, it's indefensible, and I will have to answer for my fondness for Hawk on some future day of reckoning. What I find funniest about the Hawk's peccadilloes, even as a fan, is his unabashed fanboyism for the White Sox. Given that he never played a game for them, it comes from him working for the team (I assume...I wasn't around when he first signed on). And yeah, he GM'd for a year, but that should hardly endear him to the team or vice versa given how that all worked out for all parties involved. So basically, he's the ultimate fanboy homer in the broadcast booth because...he's paid to be. Which should make Hawk distastefully unsavory as a shill, and it does. But at the same time, I like Hawk Harrelson. I mean, it could be worse. I could be listening to a game called by Joe Buck

I don't agree with this point of view, but I understand it. I got similar responses from Cub-fan friends regarding Santo. I would say, "But why? He doesn't add anything; he doesn't tell you anything. Sometimes he's not even intelligible. So...why?" "Because he's a fan. He bleeds Cubbie blue, and he lives and dies with the team." That's not my thing; if I want to feel like I'm watching the game with a few Cub-fan friends, well, I'll watch it with my Cub-fan friends. I want the analyst to...analyze.

But I get it, and I presume this is why there are Sox fans that like Hawk. It's either that, or they're all sniffing glue.
   16. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:36 PM (#4414818)
Announcers are like whores and old buildings I guess.

Man, I miss Bill King. Looking back, I can't believe how spoiled I was being able to listen to King, Hank Greenwald and Lon Simmons every day.
   17. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: April 15, 2013 at 04:40 PM (#4414896)
Well, I don't like my team's announcers. Remy was good at one point but recent years have devolved into shtick with alarming frequency. And not just during blowouts.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: April 15, 2013 at 05:11 PM (#4414944)
I believe Hawk gave us "Big Hurt" for which we should be thankful.

Otherwise ... yeah. There was a classic in a Cubs-Sox game. A play with a lot of odd baserunning resulting with a Cub (Angel Pagan I think, he was definitely in the play somewhere) being clearly tagged out at second but being called safe. Hawk goes into this crazy rant about how the umpires clearly hate the Sox and are giving the game to the Cubs. And not a "we never get no breaks" kinda rant a "the umps are cheating to give the game to the Cubs" kinda rant. I had to switch over to Cubs radio to find out what was going on -- an interference call. I go back to the TV and the broadcast is only now getting to the interference and showing the fielder obstructing the runner. Pagan was the only one who seemed to know what was going on and acted accordingly.

This sets Hawk off onto a rant about how everybody knows that the ball is dead when interference is called and in his million years in baseball he's never seen a play where the ball was live after an interference call.

On Santo ... for me Hughes (who I think is very good) saved Santo. There seemed to be genuine camaraderie there and Hughes had a good mix of keeping Santo on point or finding the humor in him wandering off-point. There were those times when Santo got depressed that the Cubs were blowing another one and those were always downers.
   19. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: April 15, 2013 at 05:18 PM (#4414951)

Could not agree more. I am 29 years old and have grown up on Hawk. Most of what I know about baseball is somehow guided by his opinions.


First comment in TFA. Poor guy, hope he can sue for damages or something.
   20. Pingu Posted: April 15, 2013 at 05:50 PM (#4414987)
I was a transplant living in Chicago for some time, and count me with the folks in support of Hawk. I dont really care to have an announcer be be newfangled either, just enjoy the game and make it enjoyable to watch/listen to. I think Hawk does that. I wouldnt consider him one of the best by any means, but I liked him all the same. I guess I understand why there is such hatred towards Hawk, but it seems like something not worth getting worked up about.
   21. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 15, 2013 at 05:54 PM (#4414991)
Announcers are like whores and old buildings I guess.


Everybody's got one? Naw, that can't be it....
   22. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: April 15, 2013 at 06:11 PM (#4415007)
For the life of me I thought this was a Jeff Pearlman piece. I was surprised this was such a pleasant thread.
   23. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: April 15, 2013 at 06:38 PM (#4415024)
When on earth does Harrelson educate?

Every time the White Sox hit a home run, he helpfully reminds his listeners that the run or runs resulting from said home run will be posted upon the scoreboard.
   24. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: April 15, 2013 at 06:41 PM (#4415027)

Unless the other team scores a run, in which case the tour guide takes a break from doing his job to sit silently and pout.


Exactly! Chip Caray is a homer too but at least he gives you a little, "oh, the humanity!" when something goes wrong for his club. I'd much rather have Chip.
   25. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:01 PM (#4415043)
Every time the White Sox hit a home run, he helpfully reminds his listeners that the run or runs resulting from said home run will be posted upon the scoreboard.

He does? You gotta be bleepin' me!
   26. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:04 PM (#4415050)

It's either that, or they're all sniffing glue.


Not gonna lie, that doesn't hurt
   27. The elusive Robert Denby Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:08 PM (#4415056)
I can't stand the Hawkeroo, but I'd happily trade him for Rex Hudler.
   28. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:23 PM (#4415068)
Hawk: he could be worse.
When I list most of the things I look for in an announcer, he falls woefully short. But he does want to be there and that enthusiasm, coupled with non-incompetency is better than some alternatives.
   29. SouthSideRyan Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:50 PM (#4415093)
[18] Harrelson only settled down after Brenly went next door and explained to him what the call was. I was watching the Cub broadcast, and after I saw the call I had to switch over to see the tantrum. It was epic.
   30. SouthSideRyan Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:55 PM (#4415101)
   31. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:58 PM (#4415106)
I'll just say this: I am watching tonight's game with the Blue Jays via the White Sox feed.
   32. Bruce Markusen Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:58 PM (#4415197)
I have to confess that I like Harrelson, dating back to his days as a Yankee broadcaster in the 1980s. I don't hear him that often today, but he was nowhere near the homer back then that he has become with the White Sox.

I'm also a little biased because I had a chance to meet Hawk a few years back at the Hall. Could not have been nicer or friendlier. He was also fun to talk baseball with, chock full of great stories from the sixties.
   33. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: April 15, 2013 at 10:07 PM (#4415283)
Exactly! Chip Caray is a homer too but at least he gives you a little, "oh, the humanity!" when something goes wrong for his club. I'd much rather have Chip.

Oh please. I wish Chip would just silently pout the whole game. Every word he says is one too many.

I think I'd be willing to trade Chip Caray straight up for Hawk.

Seems like a good swap to me as well. It's not that Chip makes you not like baseball or even TV, he makes you envy the deaf.

   34. Walt Davis Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:30 PM (#4415346)
I'd rather not have to choose between Chip and Hawk. I don't dislike Hawk because of his homerism -- this is always annoying when it's not your home team but it's just par for the course. I happen to think he's a really bad play-by-play guy and comes across as quite arrogant. Again, to comp to Santo, Santo was humble as hell and rarely pontificated on any subject. Hawk's a blowhard. Caray's just a bad announcer but not a blowhard. So I suppose I'd choose Chip if I had to.

And Hawk and DJ ... I still have nightmares.**

Note, Hawk would probably be a lot more tolerable as the color guy.

** Gross exaggeration. Never listened to them unless they were the only/best game on or Extra Innings/MLBTV forced me to.
   35. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: April 16, 2013 at 12:13 AM (#4415371)
Listen, I've learned more about Rico Petrocelli and Yaz from the Hawk than anywhere else.
   36. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:48 AM (#4415547)
Oh please. I wish Chip would just silently pout the whole game. Every word he says is one too many.

My favorite Chip Caray-ism: "Adam Dunn is the kind of hitter that, when he doesn't make contact, he struggles."
   37. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:51 AM (#4415551)
On Santo ... for me Hughes (who I think is very good) saved Santo. There seemed to be genuine camaraderie there and Hughes had a good mix of keeping Santo on point or finding the humor in him wandering off-point. There were those times when Santo got depressed that the Cubs were blowing another one and those were always downers.

I agree 100% about Hughes. He makes sure you always know what's going on, he has a clear, pleasant speaking voice, and he's quick on his feet, verbally speaking. There were times when Santo would dissolve into something nonsensical and Hughes would always come back with either a clarification, an explanation, or a funny quip.

And you're right about the camaraderie; that's why my dad loved listening to those two.
   38. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: April 16, 2013 at 12:47 PM (#4415674)
And you're right about the camaraderie; that's why my dad loved listening to those two.

This is a major mark against Hawk, who seems to hate all his broadcasting partners. Rumors that he had Paciorek ousted, never got along with Darrin, and it was news this preseason when word got out that he & Stone now liked each other - after years of clearly frosty relations in the booth.
   39. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: April 16, 2013 at 01:07 PM (#4415705)
Was Chip Caray the guy who almost caused the entire state of Minnesota to have a stroke with "line drive base hit...caught out there!"

I'm conflicted on Hawk. On the one hand, well he sucks. Walt in #34 covers it pretty well that it's not the homerism it's the schtick. On the other hand I have very fond memories of him when I was a kid and he and Dick Stockton did the Red Sox games on channel 38. I don't remember any specifics but I remember it was baseball, he was announcing it and he said nice things about Fred Lynn. When I was 8 you pretty much had me right there.
   40. Comic Strip Person Posted: April 16, 2013 at 03:01 PM (#4415893)
Chip Carey. Oy. I still have nightmares in which all I can remember are the words "SWUNG ON...BELTED!" And yes, Chip was the guy who botched that call. It's a work of art.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RHcGWHuThE
   41. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: April 17, 2013 at 08:22 PM (#4417357)
On the other hand I have very fond memories of him when I was a kid and he and Dick Stockton did the Red Sox games on channel 38. I don't remember any specifics but I remember it was baseball, he was announcing it and he said nice things about Fred Lynn. When I was 8 you pretty much had me right there.


Ditto. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Stockton. I don't recall folks badmouthing Harrelson when I was a kid. The only sportscaster that got that treatment was Cosell.
   42. Benji Posted: April 18, 2013 at 12:20 AM (#4417586)
Cosell doing baseball. I would rather listen to Dick Vitale, John Sterling, Bill Walton, Michael Kay and the goof that does TB Lightning radio than him. "As I said earlier!" 50 times a game. He really ruined a game.
   43. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: April 18, 2013 at 04:29 AM (#4417662)
Homerism as such isn't a problem for me. It only becomes an issue, when it seemingly causes a complete abandonment of any sort of objectivity, which Hawk apparently has none. Combine that with the worst schtick in the history of announcing, and an arrogance about his own knowledge of the game of baseball, which is in fact only surpassed by his ignorance thereof, and he his easily the worst announcer I have ever heard.

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