Few sports broadcasters can make themselves bigger than the game. There are the greats like Howard Cosell, Al Michaels, John Madden, and Marv Albert that seem to transcend sports and are just as much a part of the games they broadcast as the players on the field. They can draw you in with their knowledge, ratchet up the tension in a close game and seem to have the perfect word or phrase to describe a game at its most pivotal point. From Al Michaels' "do you believe in miracles?" to an emphatic "YES!" from Marv Albert when a big shot is made, the audience at home can feel the same emotion as the broadcaster on the television. However, the same broadcasters can have the opposite effect on the same audience if he or she is seen as trying to make themselves bigger than the game that is being played, being overly critical, or seem to be oblivious to the game and say things that don't necessarily make sense. There are plenty of broadcasters that rub people the wrong way, but one in particular has seemed to not only be a regular culprit, but an unapologetic one at that. I'm talking about White Sox play by play broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson.
Now I will say this up front, I have never cared for Hawk Harrelson. He's always come off as pompous to me, never seeming to compliment the opponent's players if they have a good game, acting as if he knows more about the game than anybody, never letting analysts like Steve Stone actually analyze anything without talking over them, ripping umpires (we'll get into that shortly) and finding the need to have every single White Sox broadcast filled with every single catchphrase he can come up with. It has nothing to do with me being a Cubs fan either. If he was the Cubs announcer then I would listen to every Cubs game on either mute or listen to Pat Hughes on the radio. Harrelson just irritates me beyond belief when he decides to make himself a bigger part of the game than just the broadcaster, and unfortunately, that is more common then when he just sticks to play by play.
We all know Hawk is the biggest homer in sports. That's his niche. Hawk has been the White Sox broadcaster for 22 years and he wears the black and white like no one else. He seems to live or die by every pitch and while at first that can be good because it shows his passion, it gets old quick as he lets his emotions get the better of him. Whether it's a bad call by an umpire or a play that doesn't go the Sox way Hawk will be sure to drop a "daggumit" or "I'm so mad I wish I could cuss". If he's really mad, which he was during Saturday night's game against the Mariners, then the real fireworks come out and Hawk becomes uncontrollable and irritable like a 14 year old girl who just found out the Justin Bieber concert got sold out when she was next in line.
During the third inning of the game both A.J. Pierzynski and Sox manager Robin Ventura were ejected by umpire Lance Barrett when they argued ball and strikes. This sent Hawk into a whirlwind of a tirade saying everything like "This is absolutely ridiculous." to calling out Barrett by name and calling him "terrible" and ripping his umpiring. "This is one of those games where the film is going back to the American League office to show how bad he is," "Barrett has stunk the joint up is all he's done."
Now I understand that announcers can be critical of umpires, but Hawk has a tendency to go over the line and be relentless if a call goes against the Sox. He has a history of not being able to let go with what he views as "bad umpiring". He instead will go on rants, yell at the officials or worse, and accuse them of having it out for the White Sox. I don't know if you've heard but baseball has had a problem with keeping the game clean lately. Whether it's PEDs or HGH or whatever the hell happened in Milwaukee with Ryan Braun, the game of baseball all ready has a black eye from players playing the game in an unfair way, the last thing they need are suspicions that the umpires are favoring one team over the other. That is where Hawk needs to learn to draw the line and not let his emotions get the best of him, but time and again he loses that battle.
He's all ready been called into the league office after criticizing umpire Mark Wegner earlier this summer and was spoken to by Commissioner Bud Selig. Hawk stated after the sit down that he understood he can't let himself get out of control and that "it will never happen again". Hawk's definition of "never" seems to mean two and a half months later. He is a repeat offender and now could face a stiffer penalty then a talking to from the commissioner. He hasn't learned his lesson and probably never will.
Hawk is 70 years old. He will remind you every game that he has been around the game along time and go as far as referencing players that your grandpa would have a hard time remembering. He is paired with a brilliant analyst in Steve Stone, yet you would be hard pressed to find a time when Hawk has ever asked "Stone Pony"(I despise that nickname) to offer his insight or opinion on a player or event on the field. Instead, Stone will get to drop in some nuggets of info when Harrelson isn't too busy turning red in the face while yelling "YES! HELL YES!" or "You gotta be beepin' me!" or one of his other endless catchphrases. He has been ripe for ridicule not just by Cubs fans, but a growing number of White Sox fans lately. His act is getting old and when an act gets old it either needs to be re-tooled or gotten rid all together before it starts turning people off to the product. Hawk has nothing to do with the Sox attendance issues (that is a whole different story that I'll dive into another day) but he seems to be the reason more people are finding it a chore to sit through Sox broadcasts. I've had multiple Sox fans who are friends of mine say they are quickly getting fed up with Hawk and saying he is turning into a sideshow with everyone waiting for the next blow up to be heard around the country on Sportscenter.
Hawk has stated publicly that he will never retire and "wants to die" in the broadcast booth (he may get that wish if he continues to not be able to control his emotions). Which means it may take the Sox or even Bud Selig to give the Hawk his walking papers. Some in the Sox organization see Hawk as a spokesman for the White Sox and an institution during Sox broadcasts. Lately though his rants make it seem as if he belongs in an institution more than he is one. Harrelson as a person seems to be pretty down to earth. On radio interviews that I've heard him on he is funny, engaging and entertaining. Why that doesn't seem to translate into his broadcasts is beyond me. It will be interesting to see if this latest incident has any affect on Hawk's stance in the broadcast booth but one thing is for sure, he is walking on thin ice and needs to tone it down and if he doesn't he may be able to use his "HE GONE!" catchphrase on himself. And that's not B.S.
What do you think? Is Hawk going over the line? Is he annoying? Does he disrupt your enjoyment of White Sox broadcasts? Let me know in the comments section below.
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