According to a FanGraphs rating, the White Sox broadcast team rates dead last among the major leagues. It was a crowd sourcing project so the results come from those who chose to respond with evaluations of announcing teams that they are familiar with. There are 31 results in all, as Vin Scully (who would have to be #1 or the whole thing is a sham) does not travel outside of California, I believe, and the east travelling Dodger broadcast team is considered separate. Unfortunately in these ratings, I think that Steve Stone is an afterthought. The man most to blame for the #31 finish is Ken “Hawk Harrelson”.
Judging mostly by Twitter reaction, Sox fans seem to be having a hard time with this verdict, but it can’t be surprising. Non White Sox fans have been complaining of Hawk Harrelson for a long time, as long as I can remember. “He’s such a homer.” “What the f*@k is a duck snort?” Worse yet for Sox fans, the media market is shared, and that’s a whole extra contingent of fans that have regular access to Hawk’s dementia and thus more and more motivation to sound off. But ask yourself as a Sox fan: How do I feel about Hawk Harrelson?
Personally, I’m conflicted. I grew up with Hawk. Terms he’s coined are now a natural part of the Sox fan lexicon. They fall into my speech automatically. He’s spun some of the greatest nicknames in the game. Where would we be in life if Frank Thomas wasn’t known as The Big Hurt? Would Big Hurt Beer by any other name taste as sweet? The One Dog? The Deacon? Some nicknames of serious gold, there. When an opposing player strikes out, “He gone!” is in fact the appropriate response. And is there anything better than sitting on your couch and hearing, “You can put it on the booooard, yes!” You know what that means when you hear it and it’s a good thing. We’ve been conditioned to respond to that positively. He’s made his mark.
On the other hand, Hawk annoys me like few have the ability to. For a hard core fan that watches pretty close to, if not all of the games, it’s hard these days to listen to him ramble on about the same subjects game in and game out. Yes, it’s the battle of the bullpen now. Yes, Carl Yastrzemski was an incredible ballplayer. Hawk terms that we know and love, they get abused. When he’s yelling “stretch!” at a ball that ends up in short right field, that’s frustrating. He’s developed this odd knack for referencing one’s “stones” and even “sphincter” for old and young alike to hear. And for some reason he’s felt the need in the last couple of years to add new phrases. Most notably and also most regrettably, “Don’t stop now, boys.” I want it to stop. I need it to stop. I regularly request with varying levels of politeness through my television that it stop. Of course, it doesn’t.
One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m much more patient with misused and overused Hawkisms when we’re winning. When the Sox have one in the bag and he’s going on about how much these maple bats cost when they break I don’t really mind. When we’re down and the words “In my fifty some odd years in baseball” preface any statement it makes me want to leave the room. So our announcer is like our drunken uncle, fun at times and embarrassing at others. So what? He may not be the best guy out there, and he certainly isn’t the worst. He’s just the one that elicits the most emotion and gets people talking the most. I do believe that’s a large part of his job.