Sunday, June 03, 2012
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Screeching White Sox broadcaster goes too far

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by ultra-homer announcers: You can put 'em on muuuute. ... YES!

Q: What spurred this train of thought?

A: Why, only the biggest homer announcer of them all: Chicago White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson. The sports media's most buffoonish embarrassment is at it again.

Q: What'd he say this time?

A: Oh, he only went on a lengthy on-air rant on Wednesday against home plate umpire Mark Wegner, who ejected White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana for throwing a pitch behind Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist.

Q: A sample of the diatribe?

A: "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? HE THREW HIM OUT OF THE BALLGAME, YOU'VE GOT TO BE BLEEPIN' ME! WHAT IN THE [HECK] ARE YOU DOING? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WEGNER? YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME? THAT IS SO BAD THAT IS ABSOLUTELY BRUTAL! THAT IS UNBELIEVABLE!

Q: So was it a bad call?

A: That's just it: It probably was an overreaction on Wegner's part. But Harrelson's response was a joke - so bad that the team owner and commissioner Bud Selig both lectured him the next day. And, you guessed it, Harrelson emerged from these admonitions saying he has no plans to change his ridiculous on-air style.

Q: So what? Most of his shtick - "C'mon, Paulie," or "You can put it on the boarrrrd. รข? YES!" or "He gone!" - is pretty harmless, isn't it? I bet his audience loves that stuff. Who are you to talk if you're not a White Sox fan?

A: I wonder how much White Sox fans really dig that unprofessional garbage. I have more faith in them than that.

It's one thing to get a little more excited when the home team does something well; I think most broadcasters do that. It's another to do what Harrelson does - and some college football and college basketball announcers do - and openly cheer for the home team, then whine about every call that doesn't go its way.

Q: Don't fans do that, though? So maybe it's like watching the game with a buddy?

A: Maybe. But to me, it's supposed to be like watching the game with an expert. An insider. A guy who's been in the clubhouse, done the research, and perhaps (such as in cases like Harrelson) has played the game at a high level and can provide first-hand insights to what's happening on the field.

Homer announcers do their audience - fans of that team or not - a disservice. If every call against the home team is a "bad" one, how can we trust the broadcaster to be truthful with us when there's an actual 50-50 call in the game that demands an honest assessment? There's no credibility. It's awful for the game.

Q: Yeah, but aren't all announcers a little homerish?

A: I don't think so. Listen to Bill Roth call a Virginia Tech game sometime. If there's a bad call that goes in the Hokies' favor, he'll point that out. It's what professionals do.

Listen to Vin Scully. Or Jon Miller. Or Jim Palmer.

Shoot, listen to Evan Lepler call a Salem Red Sox game. He's not even half the age of Harrelson but is 100 times more coherent, knowledgeable, professional and enlightening.

But you just keep doing your thing, Hawk. Guess some folks think it's terrific.

Q: Moving on, angry man. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and his SEC colleagues said this week that they'd like to give football and men's basketball players "approximately $3,500 to $4,000" out of pocket each year to cover expenses. Thoughts?

A: They're talking. I don't think anybody with the NCAA is listening, and I bet they know that. It's all but impossible to implement with Title IX and Olympic sports demanding attention. It would NEVER happen in only one conference.

You wonder if SEC coaches simply putting it out there - fully understanding it's going nowhere - is just a subtle recruiting ploy: "Look at us, boys! At least we WANT to treat you right here! Don't blame us if the NCAA disagrees!"

Q: Such a cynic you are today. Can't you say something nice?

A: Congratulations to Johan Santana for throwing the first no-hitter in Mets history Friday. Really cool.

Q: Well, that was better. What was your favorite part about that performance?

A: That Hawk Harrelson wasn't calling it.

Q: Sigh. Should've known you couldn't last. Shall we just wrap this thing up?

A: We gone!

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