White Sox play-by-play man Hawk Harrelson was recently named baseball's most biased announcer. SB Nation Chicago's Ricky O'Donnell thinks this is also what makes him of a civic treasure.
Rule No. 1 of sports journalism is "no cheering in the press box", a guideline that dictates your work is only as 'good' as it is clean and impartial. This is a valuable, time-tested rule for actual reporting, for documenting something with intrinsic worth. By this standard, White Sox announcer Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson undoubtedly earns failing grades. Earlier this week, Hawk was named baseball's 'most biased announcer', a crown he's held long before the Wall Street Journal decided to bring the scientific method to the pressbox. Hawk is many things -- hyper-passionate, outspoken, borderline maniacal -- but he is certainly not objective.
Hawk Harrelson would be a bad journalist. Fortunately for White Sox fans, that doesn't prevent him from being one of the best announcers in sports.
I ask: does any baseball fan really want a emotionless, detached call? Not this one. I'd rather sit back and strap it down with Hawk all day long. He is your crazy grandpa who loves the White Sox more than everything else in the world combined. He will impart some wisdom along the way, but mostly he is a sideshow. Hawk is more of a jester than a journalist, and I say that in the best way possible.
While the last week of the season will ultimately gauge the true success of these Sox, I'm already prepared to give them passing marks . Yes, blowing a division lead they've held nearly the entire season during the stretch run would be a deadly blow. But after Jay Cutler's broken thumb submarined the 2K11 Bears and Chicago's collective heart tore with Derrick Rose's left ACL, the White Sox's main objective was take our minds off such overwhelming civic sports sorrow. To keep us entertained. No one expected the South Siders to be in position to make the postseason, yet here they are. This team was supposed to struggle to win 80 games. A pleasant surprise is the best kind. And through it all, Hawk has lent his voice, his increasing desperate, occasionally psychotic voice, to a year's worth of mundane baseball proceedings. We couldn't have made it this far without him.
NFL fans like to complain about the announcers, and for good reason. NFL announcers are atrocious, and it only takes a few minutes with Dick Stockton every Sunday to see this as fact. But in the grand scheme of things, announcers in football really aren't that paramount to the overall experience of the viewer. The NFL is action-packed enough, and with things like the Red Zone channel and fantasy leagues to keep our attention, the professional football fan is never at a loss for stimulation.
The same simply cannot be said about baseball, because baseball is objectively boring. There are times when watching a baseball game feels like one long conference between replacement officials: just get on with it already, throw the ball, swing the bat. Because of the downtime, the inaction, a good narrator is critical. As a child, these are the men who teach you about the game. By the time you're an adult, sometimes it's hard to fight the temptation that you're smarter than the guys paid to talk about your favorite team on TV. But with Hawk -- at least when Hawk is taken in appropriately -- this is all a moot point. Hawk is an entertainer, a man some would call (OK, maybe just me) the greatest showman of his generation. You can check your objectivity at the door: I want laughs, zaniness, and maybe even something bordering on the deranged. Hawk Harrelson is all of this and more. He isn't necessarily the voice of the people, but he is 100 percent the voice of the White Sox.
The 2012 Chicago White Sox have stayed relevant all season thanks to a series of particularly inspired efforts from a few individuals. Adam Dunn went from having the worst season for a hitter in about a century to being among the American League's leaders in home runs. Jake Peavy finally stayed healthy and has given the South Siders some much needed stability atop the rotation. The turnaround of Alex Rios has been equally jarring, as the right fielder has worked to raise his OPS over .200 points from last season. But the real MVP of the White Sox hasn't struck out a single batter or accounted for any of Chicago's 202 home runs. No: the real MVP of the White Sox is Hawk, the superstar play-by-play man, brand ambassador and mic'd up mascot of the South Side.
Just as Dunn, Rios and Peavy have each raised their game this season, so has Hawk. He started the year out with a bang by blasting umpire Mark Wegner during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Hawk's rant would soon go viral and draw national headlines, enough to get him to meet with commissioner Bud Selig and force out a half-hearted apology.
From there, it's been continued gold: amid the tales of Yaz and surely exaggerated stories from decades ago, Hawk has been the perfect raconteur for a White Sox season characterized by uneven play. When the Sox are going good, Hawk has never been happier. In term of pure euphoria, not even Gus Johnson can touch the call he made on Jordan Danks' walk-off home run from August:
And when it's going bad? You know it from Hawk's voice. Mostly because he's absent from the proceedings. Hawk is full of signature catchphrases, but his funniest one might be silence. You see, Hawk Harrelson loves the White Sox so much that he can't even stand to speak when they've disappointed him. If the Sox had Hawk's call pumped through the dugout, there's a good chance the South Siders would be a few games better in the standings. There is no motivational tactic quite like the disappointed father, and Hawk fulfills that role better than anyone.
The only real disappointment if the White Sox make the playoffs is that Hawk won't be there. He wasn't there in 2005, and it continues to be the only blemish on an otherwise magical postseason. Hawk deserved that championship as much as any of those players. He deserves another one. Hawk is 71 years old and he won't be around forever. Appreciate him, love him, breath him in. It's a safe bet that there will never be another Hawk Harrelson. The White Sox have a treasure in the booth, and he should be treated as such.
Objectivity? No thanks. I'd much rather ride shotgun with Hawk all summer long.