There’s an obvious difference between a national PxP sports broadcaster working for a big-time network and a local television or radio announcer. The difference, of course, is the fact that the national broadcaster (think Joe Buck, Al Michaels, Marv Albert) is supposed to stay neutral, giving equal time and excitement to both teams during a game.
The local broadcaster, on the other hand, does not hide behind a cloud of objectivity; rather, they make no secret of their hope for their team to win, and, for obvious reasons, devote more time and attention to that team. There are clear reasons behind this. For one, the broadcasters are often employees of the team, so if they are too harsh on their employer, they probably won’t last very long. The broadcasters are also playing to their audience, who is overwhelmingly going to be fans of that team.
For instance, Pat Hughes, radio PxP man for the Chicago Cubs, is going to yell louder when a Cubs player hits a home run as opposed to a Cardinals player because most people listening to the game on WGN are Cub fans.
But there is a line between pulling for a team and being an outright, obnoxious homer. Below are a couple examples of calls from announcers, both national and local. I want to know whether you feel any of them are too over the top in their excitement for the team, and whether the national broadcasters are being too objective (not showing any sort of passion).
John Sterling, Yankees’ Radio PxP Man:
Pat Hughes and Ron Santo during the ’98 season:
Marv Albert’s radio call of David Tyree’s great Super Bowl catch:
Hawk Harrelson’s call of a Mark Buerhle homerun:
A collection of NBA announcer Kevin Harlan’s best calls:
I actually don’t have a problem with a broadcaster favoring the team he announces; in fact, I prefer it when I am watching my local sports teams. As a fan, I want my announcer to share my passion for the team, without taking it too far. But if my team hits a three at the buzzer to win a game or a grand slam in the 11th inning to win, I want the announcer to go crazy just as I am.
But I don’t want the announcer saying “We are winning,” as Harrelson does. The announcer, even if he used to play, is not a member of the team, and thus has no business saying “We need some runs” or “The bad guys are winning.” That’s just plain amateurish.
My favorite broadcast team, though, might be what the New York Observer aptly named “The Anti Homers” crew of New York Mets’ television broadcasters. I have listened to these three a lot this summer, and find myself laughing out loud throughout the entire game. I highly recommend this article, which highlights all the reasons Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling make such a great team (hat tip: Whitehead).
The problem I have with some local announcers, such as Hawk Harrelson of the White Sox and John Sterling of the Yankees, is not their fanaticism for the team they broadcast; instead, it’s their gimmicks. I can’t stand “You can put it on the boaaarrrddd….YES!” I cringe when John Sterling goes into his “It is high, it is far” routine, only for the ball to land on the warning track. And, like everyone else, I can’t stand Chris Berman’s “Back, back, back.”
Genuine excitement is one thing. Gimmicks are another. Something simple like Marv Albert’s “Yes!” is fine with me, because it’s simple and pure and doesn’t sound forced.
Announcers don’t have to reinvent the wheel or spend their nights coming up with a catchphrase. I just want them to show some passion and let their calls come to them. Is that too much to ask?