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Powers that be deserve some blame for what Hawk Harrelson has become

White Sox play-by-play man Hawk Harrelsanalyst Steve Stone cleared air SoxFest. | Sun-Times

White Sox play-by-play man Hawk Harrelson and analyst Steve Stone cleared the air at SoxFest. | Sun-Times

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Updated: July 7, 2012 8:32AM



That must have been quite a ‘‘talk’’ Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf had with White Sox TV announcer Hawk
Harrelson last week.

To hear Harrelson tell it, he listened while the commissioner and the Sox’ chairman sounded off on the scandal of a certain down-homey broadcaster ripping an umpire on the air. It’s hard to picture the voluble Hawk not getting a word in — not even a ‘‘Mercy!’’ or a “Stretch!’’ — but that’s apparently what happened.

Selig and Reinsdorf didn’t create Harrelson, but they stood along the parade route as he journeyed toward complete homerism. Minus some of the cornball stock phrases (‘‘He got a cookie there’’), he’s exactly what owners and sports leagues want in their announcers. He’s passionate about his team, to the point of . . . well, those fireworks don’t go off by themselves, folks!

So there’s both humor and hypocrisy in Selig’s and Reinsdorf’s stern suggestion that Hawk tone down his act. Where were they five years ago? Ten years ago? They love that he roots, roots, roots for the home team, but he suddenly has crossed a line now that he has gone after an umpire? There is no line when you have an unapologetic fan for a broadcaster.

Let’s face it: The trip is short from ‘‘Come on, Paulie. Right here, buddy’’ to ‘‘Here’s an umpire in the American League that knows nothing about the game of baseball!’’

When Hawk lost it last week while criticizing umpire Mark Wegner for throwing Sox pitcher Jose Quintana out of a game, it was a logical, natural reaction from a guy who thinks the sun rises and sets on the Sox. If it happened to rain on the Sox, Hawk would go after the weatherman. It’s part of the show.

So it’s ridiculous for Selig to be outraged that Harrelson would all but suggest Wegner find himself a guide dog. We’ve been listening to similar statements from Hawk for years, and the only difference this time was that it went viral. He had a similar outburst about umpire Joe West two years ago:

‘‘He’s becoming a joke to the umpiring profession! It’s getting to be that time, Mr. Joe West! . . . Joe West deserves a suspension! He needs a rest! . . . That is a flat-out, absolute disgrace to the umpiring profession!’’

The Hawkeroo is pro-franchise and anti-anyone who isn’t. Impartiality is for judges.

I’m not a big fan of announcers who see no evil when it comes to their teams. It offends my sense of fairness when a broadcaster ignores what’s in front of him and says his team got robbed. A knowledgeable fan understands the other team is talented, too, and there are times when an umpire’s call is the right one, even if it hurts. But I might be in the minority here.

If you listen to the Bulls’ TV broadcast team of Neil Funk and Stacey King, you would think that every call that goes against
Derrick Rose is the wrong one and, further, that a criminal investigation might be in order.

Viewers like King, and that’s probably the final answer to the homer debate. Many fans find it impossible to be objective and prefer that their broadcaster come similarly equipped with pom-pons. King is a knowledgeable broadcaster, but you’ll never mistake him for Bob Costas when it comes to objectivity.

For all the abuse Harrelson rightly takes for being a homer, he will criticize the Sox in his own
way. When he’s at his angriest, he’ll go quiet for an inning. The message in his silence is loud and clear: Death to the guy who just missed the hit-and-run sign.

When he said he couldn’t make any promises about future outbursts, it was a relief. If you take away the threat of an eruption, you’re left with an amazing number of stories about Hawk’s 183 games with the Boston Red Sox. And nobody wants that.

When you have a homer as your broadcaster, there’s a chance he’s going to lose his mind on the air. If the Sox and other teams are honest with themselves, it’s what they want, deep down.

Does it attract the wrong kind of attention? No, a player getting arrested attracts the wrong kind of attention. Hawk going off like a bottle rocket? That’s entertainment.

If the powers that be have a problem with what he has become, they might want to take a look in the mirror. They aided and abetted.



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